Like thousands of people around the country, I waited eagerly for news of the royal arrival this week. There is no denying that Kate’s pregnancy has been the most celebrated bump in the UK, much scrutinised over the past nine months. And yet not so long ago, a bump of an altogether different kind was examined, and many an unwelcome eyebrow was raised.
I made, shall we say, an experimental stumble into the world of pregnancy, by strapping on a fake belly for a few days at university to see what would happen.
I wonder if anything did? Let’s find out:
… in my three years at university pregnancy simply wasn’t spoken about, except in worried whispers. But why is society uncomfortable with the image of a pregnant student, when a mother outside of education would not warrant a glance? I wanted to find out.
My bump did not belong in the library, or anywhere else on campus for that matter; I came up against a wall of stereotyping.
Oooh, do tell! Did they burn you in effigy? Make you wear a scarlet letter?
As I returned some books, a gaggle of girls stared at me from their revision corner, nudging each other and pretending to study. Indeed it was girls who looked at my bump as if it might explode any minute, avoiding all contact with me. Another, impeccably groomed with an armful full of files, raised her eyebrows before neatly sidestepping me on the stairs.
Walking round campus was no better. My cheeks burnt as a group of lads walked past, dribbling a football. They gave me sidelong glances, and stopped their conversation entirely as I walked past.
Wait, that’s it? People looked at you and whispered? No stoning, no name-calling?
Many universities do have some form of support in order. Under the Equality Act of 2010, they have a legal responsibility to prevent those who are pregnant from discrimination. This includes not penalising students who may miss exams or coursework due to pregnancy. This all sounds fine, but there are plenty of universities who would rather remain tight-lipped about pregnancy, only becoming involved if they absolutely have too (sic).
I expect they remain ‘tight lipped’ about venereal disease too. So what? Are they supposed to encourage it?
Amazingly, once removed from the small bubble of academe, she found she wasn’t anything special.
The bus driver barely glanced at me, nor did my fellow shoppers. Students clearly viewed my bump as an encroachment upon everything university stood for, independence, academia, and a hedonistic lifestyle. The locals of Lancaster on the other hand, did not see anything unusual about a young mother to be, and so I was awarded a brief hour of normality.
So as Kate settles into motherhood, I was more than happy to unstrap my bump and return to normality. But what has my brief fling with pregnancy revealed, other than a confusing relationship between sex, academia, and reality? While students are happy to reveal pillow talk, pregnancy is taboo despite the fact that the student lifestyle can ultimately lead to it. Kate and William fulfil our image of baby bliss, whereas the pregnant student faces Tumble Tots alone. You know what else? When speaking with friends, family and lecturers, the role of the student father was repeatedly avoided. Therein lies a whole other pregnant truth.
Yes, well, they are pretty hard to pick out of a crowd, aren’t they?