Pregnancy is an all-access pass to the easy life in director Jacob Tierney's new movie, Preggoland, which screens Friday and Monday at the Toronto International Film Festival. When a 35-year-old party girl is mistaken for being with child, she receives all kinds of preferential treatment – from a seat on the bus to a boss who will let her get away with pretty much anything. So she decides to keep up the ruse. But does the portrait of the pampered, pregnant life ring true?
I sat down with three women – Claire Sibonney, a journalist who gave birth to her first child six months ago; Shae-Lynn Rydberg, director of projects and communications for Solid Design and Build, a Toronto-based company that designs and builds commercial and residential spaces, who is due in November; and Siri Agrell, vice-president at Pilot PMR (and my wife, who I know from experience has exploited pregnancy for her own gain) – to discuss the perks for moms-to-be, and how to take advantage of them.
Have you ever faked being pregnant?
Sibonney: I think I faked being pregnant once in a TIFF lineup to get into a movie, but I didn't really go far with it. I just kind of stuck my stomach out and wondered if there was any way I was going to get ahead in line.
Agrell: I was in a cab going to work really, really late. I was super hungover because I had gone out the night before. I made the cab pull over so I could throw up. I told him I was pregnant to make it seem less gross … It was definitely more acceptable that I had thrown up because I was pregnant.
When you were pregnant, do you remember the first time you got preferential treatment?
Rydberg: When I was in New York in May, we were at The Book of Mormon and I really had to pee. There were huge lineups in the theatre. Ushers saw the baby bump and escorted me to the wheelchair-accessible washroom at the front.
Agrell: I remember you could go into a store and ask to use the bathroom and at first you could tell they wanted to say it was only for customers, and then they see you're pregnant and let you in.
What about transit? Did people give up a seat to you more often than not?
Agrell: I remember people not standing up for me on the streetcar.
Sibonney: I don't think people noticed I was pregnant until I was six or seven months pregnant, and that was really frustrating.
Agrell: Toward the end I definitely had moments were I was putting it in people's faces and they were studiously avoiding me. But some people did stand up.
Rydberg: We were at a concert on Sunday, and everyone moved away from me to give me space. I was like, this is amazing, I have my own dance space.
Sibonney: Whenever someone did offer me a seat on the subway it was usually someone who looked like they were a mom or they had gone through the same thing.
What about interactions with people in your day-to-day life? Did you notice a general vibe that was different?
Agrell: I remember people being generally nicer.
Rydberg: People will hold the door open for you.
What about the flip side? Were you ever treated like a pariah because you were pregnant?
Sibonney: During a trip to Jamaica, they wouldn't let me swim with the dolphins because the dolphins are so sensitive to pregnant women they would have spent the whole time paying attention to me and not any one else.
Agrell: That would have been so cool.
Sibonney: They wouldn't even give me five minutes alone with the dolphins.
Have any of you used pregnancy to get out of social engagements?
Unified chorus: Oh, yeah!
Rydberg: That's the best thing in the world.
Agrell: Oh, I'm so tired! You can also leave work whenever you want. People just think you have a doctor's appointment. Not that I ever did that.
Sibonney: I was really active and had a good social life right up until I delivered, but I would definitely use the pregnancy card if I was tired, or to get someone to meet me closer to my neighbourhood.
Any other things you took advantage of because you were pregnant?
Agrell: I'm going to cop to one more thing. As soon I was pregnant I started parking in those mom parking spots. And I still do. Prove I'm not pregnant.
Rydberg: Oh, those are my favourite. And also getting away with being bitchy at home.
This interview has been condensed and edited.