When you need to go, you NEED to go – and when you are pregnant, that need is even greater. So why are some shops and businesses so reluctant to let non-paying customers use their facilities?
This question has been raised this week after a heavily-pregnant mum was banned from using the loo in a cafe in her home town of Melton, Suffolk.
Hannah Sperry, 22, who is 30-weeks pregnant with her second child, was walking past the Chalkboard cafe with her fiance, Jonny Lawrence, and their one-year-old daughter, Luna when she realised she urgently needed to have a wee.
Speaking to her local newspaper, the Melton Times, Hannah said she went into the cafe because she assumed they would have a toilet, and because she was desperate and could not hold on.
“I was absolutely gobsmacked when the person behind the counter said ‘for paying customers only’”, the outraged mum said. “I had to go next door to a lovely man, Neil Rockett, in the Melton Health Store who offered to help me. I really want to say a big thank you to him. I dread to think what would have happened if he hadn’t helped me. I probably would have been humiliated publicly which doesn’t bear thinking about.”
Her fiance added that he was ‘really angry’ at the disregard shown to Hannah, and challenged the cafe worker over their ‘patrons only’ toilet rule.
“I asked ‘did you refuse my pregnant fiance to use your toilet?’ The guy said ‘yep’. I said ‘that is absolutely disgraceful’. The man just said ‘for paying customers only’. When I asked him if he realised she was heavily pregnant he just replied ‘yep’,” Jonny told reporters.
The Chalkboard cafe owners later posted a message on their website saying the incident had ‘spiralled out of control’ but their rules were in place because of past experiences: “We made this decision after we had allowed a non-patron use the facility and, after the person had left, it took my wife nearly an hour to clean the toilet, floor, and yes even the walls. So we are afraid it was a case of once bitten twice shy,” they wrote, adding that they hope Hannah would accept their ‘sincere apologies’.
Hannah’s local council confirmed that the cafe had not broken the law, and were under no obligation to offer their facilities.
But the whole story has brought pregnant women’s need for access to toilet facilities to the fore. Elizabeth Duff, a senior policy adviser at the NCT told the Melton Times that the Trust urges businesses to be ‘considerate and understanding’ towards pregnant women.
Writing on her Facebook page Hannah said that ‘awareness’ needed to be raised on the issue, and that she was not looking for special treatment, just a bit more understanding towards pregnant women.
‘I’ve been called a pregasorous that feels the need to roll out a red carpet just because I “chose to get pregnant”. Losing faith in humanity! Think it’s time to spread awareness for us bumpies!’ she wrote.
She also told the Melton Times that the Facebook post had ‘gone much further’ than they expected but that they were not ‘trying to ruin someone’s life’ and did not condone a ‘witch hunt’ or ‘bullying’ from ‘people who have never been in Chalkboard’ – when Jonny had posted about the experience on a local community Facebook page, it was shared 36,000 times and garnered more than 4,000 comments.
We agree – what do you think? Have you been denied use of a loo when pregnant?
Pictures: Hannah Sperry Facebook & Shutterstock