As I mentioned briefly toward the end of my 27-week pregnancy update post, we spent this past weekend in California with some close friends. The trip was amazing. We had a lot planned, and we got to do almost all of it: we braved the ridiculously steep hills of San Francisco, hiked along the beautifully scenic Pacific coast, and toured one of the biggest, best aquariums in the country.
One other item on our agenda was to go on a whale watching boat tour. Doesn’t that sound awesome? The chance to see actual whales in the actual ocean.
Promotional photo of a whale watching boat.
Image credit here.
I was really excited about this, and I made sure to bring my zoom lens that day so as to get the best possible shots of any whales we saw, no matter the distance. Not being the type to lug around any sort of camera bag, it was the only lens I brought along, and it was admittedly less than ideal for taking pictures inside the aquarium that morning. But with each shot that didn’t turn out, I kept thinking, who cares? This will be perfect for the whales later.
We got to the pier at around lunchtime, and proceeded to the kiosk to buy our tickets for the boat ride. Right outside the door, they had a dry-erase board listing the types of whales they’d seen from the boat on each of the past seven days. “Look, they’ve already seen humpback whales this morning,” we read eagerly as we walked in.
And at this point, we were greeted by a big bold sign over the counter declaring that pregnant women weren’t allowed.
Looking back, I should have seen it coming, but at the time I kind of just wanted to cry. The ticket sales guy didn’t help. “Just leave baby with the grandparents and come back in a few years,” he said, no doubt completely oblivious to how callous and patronizing he sounded.
The frustrating thing was that there seemed to be no clear reason for this rule. “Pregnant women are more likely to get seasick,” was the first justification we heard. (Which seems like a pretty unfair generalization, given that I haven’t thrown up once this entire pregnancy, and I’ve never gotten so much as queasy on a boat ride.) Later on, we were fed a bizarre story about how whales spew horrible contagions that are dangerous to pregnant women but nobody else — I haven’t been able to find any support for this explanation despite numerous internet searches, and I suspect it’s nonsense.
The worst part is that when I started looking at the websites of the various whale watching boat tours in the area — too late to salvage anything on our own trip, unfortunately — I realized that there were some pretty big variations in their policies. The following companies’ rules are listed in increasing order of hostility toward pregnant women:
- Sanctuary Cruises – “No age limits and pregnant women are welcome.”
- Blue Ocean Whale Watching – “Pregnant women are advised not to participate in whale watching trips due to the inherent motion of the boat. We recommend consulting with a doctor beforehand.”
- Princess Monterey Whale Watching – “For safety reasons due to the inherent motion of the boat, children under the age of 3 and expecting mothers are not allowed on the cruise.”
- Monterey Bay Whale Watch – “Note: Pregnant women are not allowed on these trips.”
So what’s the deal here? Is there any good reason pregnant women shouldn’t be on these boats? Unable to find a clear consistent answer on the internet, I decided to ask my doctor at my appointment today. And frankly, she seemed confused that it was even a question.
“It’s probably just a liability issue,” she said. Assuming we’re not talking about some kind of super-bumpy speedboat ride — and that doesn’t appear to be the case for any of the above listed tours — there’s no medical reason a pregnant woman shouldn’t be fine on one of these boats. But think of the liability: if for any reason a pregnant woman should lose her balance and fall, there comes the threat of a lawsuit. Better and safer to just exclude them all entirely.
So I guess we can thank our overly-litigious society, and the glut of newly-graduated lawyers with nothing better to do, for ruining everything for everybody. (But that’s a rant for another blog post.)
I just wish I had done more research beforehand, since it appears there’s at least one whale-watching boat tour in the area that would have been happy to take my money and give me a ride. So I’ll just be filing this post away in my “Hard-Earned Lessons” category, in the hopes that maybe it’ll help out other pregnant women Googling around for information while planning a similar trip.