It FINALLY happened: Somebody stood up on a crowded BTS train* and offered me their seat because I was pregnant!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂 This is a really big deal to me as I have been hovering for quite some time in that vast, shadowy region wherein people are constantly mystified as to whether I am truly pregnant or just fat.
Birth of the girth
I found out I was pregnant after 3 months of being in the United States (read: pigging out. My sister cooked dinner and provided different, nearly unlimited amounts of dessert almost every night. She gets me, she really does. 🙂 ) and was a good 12 pounds heavier when I returned to Bangkok. Nearly everyone I knew commented on the weight gain (hey, it’s Asia) and then asked if I was pregnant. Though I was, I didn’t know it, and would reply with a cheerful, “Just with a food baby!”
When I did find out I was pregnant and told my brothers and sister, the news was greeted with delight, shock and the general consensus that I already looked “like a Pregosaurus.” Since then, my obsession with my belly has only intensified.
This pregnancy definitely has its ups and down, but one of the things I love most about it is seeing the development of a baby bump. Not a day goes by where I don’t spend some time standing sideways in front of a mirror to look at the shape of my belly. It’s a very serious business, and must be viewed from many diverse angles.
To be honest, I have always had something of a pooch, so those early days of trying to discern whether it was a bump or not were a bit trying. Then there were the days when I would despair that it looked like it had shrunk. When I was having trouble gaining weight, I would drive Bjorn to distraction by constantly asking him, “Does it look like it’s getting bigger to you?”
There are many reasons why I want to look really pregnant: legitimizing weight gain is nice, and oh hey, a ballooning belly usually means the baby is growing and developing healthily. But another reason I want so badly to look pregnant is the way people in Thailand treat pregnant women.
When you are obviously pregnant, Thais are super nice to you. They go out of their way to smile at you and greet you. Most likely you’ll get some extra fruit from the fruit-stand lady “for the baby.” I have even seen that rollicking, death-trap-on-wheels Bus 71 come to a complete stop for pregnant women: a. COMPLETE. stop.
And of course, they will jump up and offer you their seat, be it on a crowded train, bus or park bench. I have seen it happen many times — to other women, naturally. For the first 5 months of this pregnancy, I grudgingly accepted that I would just have to tough it out standing, as even I had to admit that I was uncomfortably more on the side of chubby than pregnant.
But after the 21st week of pregnancy, I became convinced that it was indeed looking like a pregnancy bump and not a food pooch. I became indignant when I had to stand on the train. I would stare balefully at the other seated passengers while pushing out my belly, but still none would get up and they steadfastly avoided my gaze. (Although in hindsight I can see how a huffing, possibly overweight stranger staring heavily at you could be a bit discomfiting.)
I fantasized about making a T-shirt for myself that said, “Get up. I’m pregnant” in both English and Thai. Eventually, however, I decided to adopt the highly scientific, socio-theo-philosophical theory that people are jerks and that I would not be sitting down any time soon.
A ride to remember
So on that wonderful, fateful day at the start of my 24th week of pregnancy, I managed to buffalo my way to the middle of a BTS train car. It was early evening, which is rush hour in Bangkok. Every seat was taken. Even the standing areas were getting dangerously close to face-in-stranger’s-armpit squishiness levels. I sighed resignedly and grabbed an overhanging strap.
Suddenly, a musical voice rang out: “Would you like a seat?” The woman who spoke wasn’t even Thai; I had heard her speaking animatedly with her companion in Spanish. But no matter. Someone had given me a seat because they thought I looked pregnant! The feeling of a thousand happy bubbles floated through me and I gratefully and elatedly accepted.
As I settled in, I caught snatches of her companion’s conversation, who was seated next to me.
She said, with a laugh: “(Something something in Spanish) ella (something something) gordo?”
Now I haven’t lived most of my life in Los Angeles and spent 3 months in Buenos Aires, Argentina, without picking up enough Spanish to know that “ella” means “she,” and “gordo” means fat (even if she did use the incorrect masculine ending). Putting the two together, It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that she had probably been asking her friend that maybe I wasn’t pregnant, but just fat?
Eh, no matter. At the end of the day, I still had my seat. And that was enough to enable me to take it sitting down.
*(The BTS is Bangkok’s version of a subway except it’s above-ground. Did that make sense??)