It started with a badge.
When I hadn’t even told my parents yet about the impending arrival, I filled in a Transport for London online form to request the little pin which would grant me a seat on public transport over the coming months.
When it finally arrived (the badge, not the baby), I excitedly adorned myself with it and hopped on the packed commuter train to work feeling like the whole world was looking at me.
One lovely man did catch my eye and kindly asked a man near to him to move his bag off a seat and he helped me to squish through the crowd to sit down.
But I would soon find out that such kind behaviour was sadly not the norm. In a city like London, where eye contact and impromptu conversation with strangers is more than a little frowned upon, getting a seat – or even enough space for me and my rapidly bulging belly – often proved tricky.
There is also debate about whether it is only pregnant people who should get these sacred badges. Many people trapped in someone’s armpit on a train or a tube could be suffering in silence with unseen or even ailments which are just slightly less visible than a baby bump. Knowing this, I didn’t expect a seat every day and I didn’t always accept one if I was feeling fine when it was offered.
Over the six months prior to the arrival of my son, I saw the best and the worst of humanity on the daily grind. I will start with the good, end with the bad and leave out the ugly.
• The women, often mums themselves, who jumped up as soon as they spotted the badge.
• The gentleman who asked me if I was OK as I melted at a bus stop on the hottest day of the year. He got me a seat on the bus before I had even boarded and for that I am eternally grateful.
• The woman who persistently waved at me to offer her seat as I stared blankly in her direction whilst daydreaming.
• The man who looked at me awkwardly as I stood up on the train, sporting a five-months-gone bump but no badge and didn’t know whether offering me a seat would be an insult or a lifesaver.
• My husband, who cleared a path for me on the rare occasions we braved the tube together on a weekend.
• The sea of people who diverted their glance as soon as they spotted the badge. It happened more times than I can count and it made me sad each time.
• The woman who was sitting in a priority seat yet tutted and moaned on her phone to her friend when I asked if I could sit down and she was forced to stand.
• The woman who muttered under her breath that I was barely even pregnant as I sat down next to her and let out a massive sigh of relief.
I am pleased that the good outweighed the bad. That’s really London in a nutshell, too.
Bringing up a baby in the UK’s Capital isn’t easy. There are times when I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but in one of the busiest cities in the world. We’re on the doorstep of some of the most amazing family-friendly attractions and days out you could ever imagine (London Aquarium I am looking at you).
But, London and babies don’t always mix.
Throwing a baby, pram and assorted paraphernalia into the hustle and bustle of an over-populated city takes some stamina – both mentally and physically.
Here, on The Baby Spot, I will be sharing my insights into the London life with a little person. I’ll tell all about life as a working mum, managing my relationships, making me-time and the madness and mess which come along with it all. I hope you enjoy.