Many a consolation is made for the uber pregnant woman, and I understand why. Her feet are swollen, her back hurts and she won’t get a good night’s sleep for another 30 years. But as a result, the woman in her first trimester is really getting the shaft when it comes to sympathy. She too is tired, nauseous and scared to death… and almost no one knows or knows why.
I was barely into my first trimester when I boarded a plane at JFK bound for LAX, a route I’ve flown more times than American Airlines has delayed it. I took my window seat in a row built for two, nervously awaiting the arrival of a neighbor I hoped had properly bathed within the last several hours.
I was pleasantly surprised as she took her seat. She was mid-twenties, in a cute outfit, sans bag of pungent food and very unlikely to need extra waist space. Granted we were still on the tarmac, but we were off to a good start.
Had it not been for the unrecognizable bump in my belly I’d have partaken in my travel ritual of a glass of wine (or sleep aid) and 3 pages of a good book before conking out, but with the gift of life comes the death of certain liberties. Instead, I'd lay awake for the next 6 hours listening to her make the most vile sound I’ve ever heard. No, she wasn’t burping, farting, snoring or even chewing loudly. She was plucking split ends of hair.
Now, before you get all judge-y with me, let me explain the process. She would twist her long hair around her fingertip, looking for a split end. Upon finding one, she would put the single damaged hair into her mouth and bite off the tip. Then using her thumb and pointer finger she would remove the fragment from her tongue and spit it (yes, spit it) onto the floor. Had she done this once, twice, even ten times I could have handled it. Make no mistake. She did it for 6 hours straight.
I was already nauseous, but this put me over the edge. I put on headphones to tune her out but because she was in my eyeline, it was as though I could hear the “pop” of the hair right through the music. So I did what any secretly pregnant and puke-tastic woman would do. (Pop, pop, pop.) I wrote her a note.
I am not typically a passive aggressive person, but this instance was anything but typical. I didn’t want a confrontation, nor did I want to embarrass her in front of the co-workers she was clearly traveling with. At the same time, I thought she needed to know how inappropriate her behavior was, if only to protect the passengers on her return flight.
On the back of my boarding pass I wrote “next time, keep your bathroom habits to the bathroom”, folded it up like an elementary school love note, and dropped it into her purse while she was distracted (of course, by her hair). Remorse kicked in only when the note hit an obstacle before falling too deeply into the bag, where it remained until the infamous ding that means you can grab your cell phone.
“That’s from me”, I mumbled as she reached into her bag and came up with the note in hand. I followed up with an incredibly lame excuse as to how I was newly pregnant, sick, hormonal and attempting to avoid confrontation for the very first time in my life. She apologized, suggesting that I should have just asked her to stop. And she was right.
I have told this story for years, always with a disclaimer that my pregnancy was an excuse for my poor judgement. But was it?
There are many reasons why some women hide the early stages of their pregnancies… fear of miscarriage, fear of changes in employment, just flat out fear. Privacy is an interesting thing. Sometimes we want it, and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes it can be a relief to have our challenges or weaknesses exposed, and other times we will do anything to keep them close to the hearth. I am unsure of which I prefer.