(Third of three parts chronicling my 24-hour pregnancy simulator field test, launched in honor of my wife Stacy’s second trip to the maternity ward — Originally published in the Boston Herald — July 2007).
8:30 p.m. — Chili’s Restaurant
Stacy tells the hostess that we are both pregnant and need a table instead of a booth. She’s clearly having fun with this, which is my primary goal above and beyond learning about empathy. Nothing wrong with empathy. I highly recommend that everybody get some. I just think I already had it.
The hostess comes over later with a waitress who says she recently wore the Empathy Belly for a class (we assume college). She seems genuinely thrilled that Stacy is expecting in a few weeks and wishes us the best. She also says that all the waitresses back in the kitchen are fascinated by the idea of the Empathy Belly.
Who knew? Our waiter isn’t the least bit curious about the suit. But he’s a fantastic waiter. I make about a dozen alterations to my fajita order, none of which he writes down, and it comes out perfect.
Bottom Line: Pregnant guys are totally welcome at Chili’s, too.
10 p.m. — Bedtime
Back home with my real belly filled with chicken and steak, I was ready for some mattress diving. “It’s been a long day for both of us,” Stacy says. “I was up at six, too, but I can’t take my suit off.”
Clever line? Sure, but I wasn’t taking the Empathy Belly off just yet.
I was accepting Stacy’s challenge. There must be a damn good reason why the suit’s creator pre-emptively urged me not to go 24 hours. But I’m a daring adventurer. As long as the smoke alarm doesn’t go off tonight, things will be fine.
I’ve watched Stacy sleep over the past nine months and I know her techniques — even how to rest one arm under a pillow to minimize soreness. I grabbed a couch cushion as a body pillow and trudged upstairs.
Lying down for the first time was a total body shock. Usually, the childbirth educators ask you to do this in class, and I think the other Empathy Belly guy actually did hit the rug. But I must have been fetching my notebook at the time.
Anyhow, I felt the weight of the world on my stomach, like I was a Pop Warner quarterback tackled by an NFL lineman. (Just a testosterone-filled simile to balance out all the maternal metaphors).
Each time I rolled over to change positions, it meant feeling this immense pressure on my stomach again. And I rolled over often. Even with the secret insider knowledge about the body pillow, I just could not get comfortable.
1:46 a.m. — Still Awake
My notebook sits next to my clock radio so I can record my sleeplessness. We’re now approaching the four-hour mark. I don’t normally have any trouble falling asleep.
Maybe it’s time to stop playing dress-up. Stacy will never know if I take the suit off. The sound of Velcro isn’t that noisy. Not wanting my legacy to be “The Rosie Ruiz of Pregnant Guys,” I roll over and believe that sleep will finally kick in.
3:37 a.m. — Climate Control
Still awake, but at least I’m not sweating. The air conditioner is cranked. Oddly, this is a mild night when I ordinarily would just leave the windows open. Must be the belly. Its claim to raise body temperature must be valid.
6 a.m. — Fatigue Redefined
I’ve pulled rare all-nighters in my post-college years, but usually in front of a computer for work. Never staring at the ceiling. But last night wasn’t a wasted night. It probably was the most vivid lesson the Empathy Belly could ever teach me.
I now really understand why my wife is tired all the time. Or do I?
Stacy would later tell me that not getting sleep is really only part of the equation. When she was pregnant with our five-year-old son, Ari, she sometimes would sleep up to 17 hours a day and still be tired. Pregnancy simply drains you of energy. All of the body’s resources are rechanneled toward the growing baby.
For the next few hours, I answer e-mails, check baseball box scores, and begin typing my pregnancy simulator article for the Herald. Like at the restaurant, my arms feel extremely short again. The Empathy Belly is also blocking the keyboard tray from fully sliding out.
9 a.m. — Freedom Time
Resting the water-filled belly on the bed, I slowly detach the straps to avoid having 33 pounds of weight yank my neck around. It was a great tip from Penelope, my pregnancy guru at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Overall, wearing the suit was fun, so I’m hesitant to say I felt a huge wave of relief that my ordeal was over. However, 24 hours is enough. It’s time to get back to the fatherhood stuff.
Baby Number Two is showing up in two weeks, and his/her bedroom still needs to be cleaned out. And, oh yeah, Stacy first has to take her suit off.
Hopefully, that doesn’t happen at the movies or a pizza restaurant!
Check out my exclusive Empathy Belly Diary Postscript including links to other researchers in the groundbreaking field of fake male pregnancy.
EMPATHY BELLY AND PREGNANCY-RELATED LINKS
FOR A SHORTER VERSION of this story, check out “Labor of Love,” my original Boston Herald feature on the Belly.
EMPATHY BUZZ – Inspirational responses to my Belly exercise.