A Disappearing Future

Don’t it always seem to go. That you don’t know what you’ve got ’til its gone…

“Puo”.  The elderly woman stands up from her seat as I enter the crowded bus.  “No. No. Ecco.” A younger woman gets up from next to her and allows the elderly woman to remain seated.  I am 7 months pregnant, and accept the offer of the seat.  Keeping one’s balance on a crowded Italian bus is tough on any given day, even more so when you are great with child.  The old woman briefly places her hand on my stomach and smiles.  I smile back.  I’m not one to be bothered by strangers touching my belly and I’ve become accustom to this sort of treatment by the Italians.  It was the attention I craved and never received while pregnant with my first child here in the States.  I would show up at a crowded Mass only to stand on my feet for an hour.  My pregnant belly was rarely acknowledged.   I was not looking for hand outs and I’m not pulling an entitlement card here, but it seems like common courtesy to let a pregnant woman have your seat.
Public transportation is the norm in Europe, so it just might be the unwritten rule that one gives up their seat to an elderly or handicapped person or a pregnant woman.  But it wasn’t just the bus where I received preferential treatment.  I constantly had strangers patting my stomach.  I was offered seats in restaurants, to cut in line at the grocery store, brought right to the front of security at the airport.   It wasn’t 100 percent of the time, but enough to notice.  Is it just that Americans have no manners, or is something else going on here?
Seeing a pregnant woman in Italy was a rare occurrence.  Living there for a year, I can count the number of them that I saw, on one hand.  Being pregnant seems to raise you to celebrity status.  A sighting causes excitement.
Despite it’s deep Roman Catholic roots, the use of contraceptives in Italy is great, making it one of the most infertile countries in the industrialized world.  Women choose not to be wives and mothers; choosing instead to pursue only a career.  Many couples have moved to the city, where children are seen as an inconvenience rather than a blessing.  But treating the random pregnant women with the respect they do, makes me wonder if deep down they actually crave the presence of children.
Maybe, it’s not because we Americans are as ill mannered as I thought.  Perhaps, we are spoiled (for now) by the pregnant women that we do have. The birthrate in America is dropping below the “replacement rate” and I wonder if in the not too distant future, we too will be craving the presence of children and pregnant women.  Let’s open our eyes and see our children as blessings.  Because in so many ways, we cannot have a future without having children.
Katie Murry

Katie Murry

2 thoughts on “A Disappearing Future”

  1. In the U.S., I have been treated *very* kindly when great with child! Including two cars going opposite directions that stopped 45-mile-an-hour traffic in both directions to let me cross the street. 🙂 I’m sorry your experience was different!

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