Family & Education

The badge that brings out the best in people

A 'Baby on Board' badge from London Transport announces to the world that you're pregnant - and the response is very positive


 I’m currently 7 months pregnant and, ever since the third month of my pregnancy, I’ve been wearing Transport for London’s now almost ubiquitous “Baby on Board!” badge on my coat each day for my daily commute. I first placed the badge on my coat when my bump was barely noticeable (this was also a time when my morning sickness was at its peak).

Announcing to strangers my status as pregnant through the wearing of the badge felt strange initially as there were still some friends we hadn’t had a chance to tell the good news to yet. But there I was, revealing my status to the world through a badge — one with an exclamation mark on it, at that.

I chose to wear the badge for a few reasons. A fellow commuter could not have guessed from looking at me that I was pregnant — however, for my morning sickness filled first trimester, sitting down helped me to feel less nauseous. And the fatigue associated with pregnancy is real; there was not much of a bump at that stage, but the tiredness I felt then was intense. Often when I did have a seat I would fall asleep in it. My body clearly wanted the rest.

Wearing the badge has felt a bit like a social experiment and I’m pleased to report that it has shown me, daily, a more human side of commuting. On the bus and tube as I have traversed the largely Jewish neighborhoods of Golders Green, Temple Fortune and Hampstead Garden Suburb, I have encountered several characterful elderly Jewish women who, sitting next to me on the priority seats, have wished me “b’sha-ah tova!” and initiated conversation.

A few months ago, I met a Holocaust survivor on the bus in Golder’s Green. We were sitting next to each other but probably never would have struck up conversation if it weren’t for the badge. She shared with me her belief that “every day of life is a gift” and told me that being pregnant, for her, so many decades ago, was “one of the best things that ever happened” in her life. It was an interaction that made an impression on me and is one that I won’t forget in a hurry. I always look out for her when I pass by her residence on the bus. I haven’t seen her again but I hope I will, perhaps one day next year when I board the bus with my baby in a pram.

The badge, I’ve noticed, seems to break through any kind of British reserve. I’ve had more conversations with strangers on public transport since I’ve been wearing the badge than I ever had before I was pregnant. Women of childbearing age and men in their 20s, 30s and 40s have typically been the first to offer me a seat. Men have shared their hopes with me that a stranger would give up a seat for their own pregnant wife. Women have spontaneously turned to me and smiled, wished me luck in my pregnancy and shared their own memories of commuting when pregnant.

On about five separate occasions, a man or woman standing up near me in the middle of a packed tube carriage noticed me standing there with my badge on and took it upon him/herself to request to someone in a priority seat that they should give the seat up and give it to me instead. I could have asked for a seat myself, of course but these people didn’t even give me a chance — they beat me to it, on my behalf, which I felt quite amazed by every time it happened.

There have been a few times when there have been several pregnant women wearing a badge on the same bus or tube, each of us wanting a seat. It’s been fun to see the camaraderie and generosity with which each of us has prioritised each other, recognizing that another pregnant woman may well need a seat more than the rest of us, whether because of the size of the bump, because of early stage nausea and fatigue, or because she’s just had a really long day. Sitting together with these women has brought about conversations about everything from the religious to the mundane. We’ve talked about a range of topics, from brises to brands of pram.

Wearing the badge has made me more aware of the need to prioritise the people who may have either visible or invisible difficulties. TFL has recently launched badges which simply state ‘Please offer me a seat’ and I’ve seen members of the public behave in similar ways towards these badge wearers as they have towards me. Watching humanity in action during a rainy, cold commute has been a perk of traveling across the city during pregnancy.

Perhaps I’ll even miss the badge a little bit when I’m not pregnant anymore. However, my new little arrival will, I’m sure, spark plenty of his/her own conversations on public transport. I look forward to that very much.


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