Tag Archives: male pregnancy

How to impress a prospective employer during a job interview – Part One

Pregnancy For Two: Pose in an Empathy Belly once and the pictures will keep resurfacing forever…

Just found out from a friend on Facebook that a 2007 picture of me and my wife Stacy has been dubbed the #2 “Weirdest Maternity Photo Ever” by Parenting Magazine. I suspect that the “weirdest” label has been applied to the guy in the pregnancy suit and not the real pregnant person.

However, if you click through Parenting Magazine’s slideshow, I would argue that we are the most “normal” people there — even without any explanation whatsoever.

The real backstory: I wore an Empathy Belly for 24 hours a few weeks before the birth of our daughter — and chronicled the experience for The Boston Herald (and subsequent pregnancy diaries). I was told by the Empathy Belly inventor that I beat out Regis Philbin for the longevity record, but this claim could not be confirmed.

I wonder how these photos might be used if I ever run for political office.

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24-Hour Diary of a Pregnant Guy — (Postscript with competing bellies)


(Originally published in July 2007)

The Empathy Belly is still by far the most dominant pregnancy simulator on the market, but a dramatic recent price cut indicates that the Pregnancy Profile (the Pepsi or Avis to the Empathy Coke and Empathy Hertz) is making up ground.

I wore the Profile for an hour — I wasn’t going for another 24! –, more than ample time to understand how it feels in comparison to the Belly. Students in teen pregnancy prevention classes usually go no longer than 30 minutes.

Although the suit is eight pounds lighter, the Profile rib belt pulled around tighter, so I felt many of the same side effects such as increased heart rate and body temperature. Personally, I felt that the Velcro straps made the Empathy Belly seem more like “a part of me” than the plastic buckles and backpack straps did for the Profile.

The Profile’s buckles made me feel like I was putting on one of those Baby Bjorn infant carriers. Which isn’t a bad thing, just an observation.

If you are from an educational institution considering the purchase of a pregnancy simulator, check out both companies’ comparison charts for all the trash talk.

Why The Empathy Belly makes you feel more pregnant.
Why The Pregnancy Profile makes you feel more pregnant. (Page 23 of PDF catalog)

On another note, the Web is saturated with intriguing stories about how these suits are used in the most unexpected ways. And there is also an abundance of material speculating about the possibility of male pregnancy.

Some recommended reading:

1. MALE PREGNANCY HOAX? Check out installation artist Virgil Wong’s 1999 exhibit on the first male pregnancy. The imagery and scientific jargon convinced many people the event was real.

2. EMPATHY FOR A MONTHPublic relations guru Kevin Burke, who owns a marketing company tailored toward women, wore The Empathy Belly for a month (no more than 16 hours at a time) to celebrate Mother’s Day. Burke strapped on the suit at home and the office, but never in public because he did not want his efforts to be misconstrued as “trivializing motherhood.”

3. MALE PREGNANCY HYPNOSIS Entertainer Joshua Seth performs a popular hypnotism routine in which he makes guys think they are pregnant.

4. INSENSITIVE BELLIES? — The Chicago Tribune’s Julie Deardorff discovered that some women are turned off by guys who wear The Empathy Belly and talk about how sensitive they are. Hope she doesn’t mean me.

5. ENGINEERING EMPATHY — Learn more about the belly-wearing engineers at the Ford Motor Company.

6. THE BEVERAGE BELLY — Want the belly without the side effects of pregnancy and a buzz to boot? You might prefer The Beerbelly, a refillable bladder meant to be smuggled into ballgames.

7. PASS THE SALT WATER — Read what one British moron did to experience the sensation of morning sickness! Yum-yum!

8. THE BRITISH BUMP “The Bump” is a British-designed pregnancy simulator that differs from The Empathy Belly and Pregnancy Profile in two ways. Most notably, it allows users to add or subtract weight with removable four-pound bean bags. It also has silicone-filled breasts for a more realistic weight distribution and a better logo than either the Belly or the Profile.




Darren’s 24-Hour Empathy Belly Diary:
(Part 1 of 3)
(Part 2 of 3)
(Part 3 of 3)
(Postscript with Competing Bellies)

LABOR OF LOVE — My original Boston Herald feature on the Belly.

EMPATHY BUZZ – Inspirational responses to my Belly exercise.

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Filed under empathy belly, Family, Fashion, Health, male pregnancy, Parenting

24-Hour Diary of a Pregnant Guy — (Part 3 of 3)

(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.



Darren’s 24-Hour Empathy Belly Diary:
(Part 1 of 3)
(Part 2 of 3)
(Part 3 of 3)
(Postscript with Competing Bellies)

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.

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Filed under empathy belly, Family, Fashion, male pregnancy, Parenting

24-Hour Diary of a Pregnant Guy — (Part 2 of 3)

The Empathy Belly

The Empathy Belly

(Second 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 in July 2007. Photos by Ilya Mirman)

10:45 a.m. — On The Road

I’m in the passenger seat of photographer Ilya’s SUV and I’m feeling the baby kicking. Actually, it’s a suspended weight floating inside the water bladder. The minor bumps in the road seem to inspire activity. I’m not naive enough to believe it’s identical to the real thing, but the Empathy Belly attaches so snugly that it almost feels like an extension of my body.


One glance down at the arm straps peeking through my shirt, and I remember who I really am. But the pretend gestation period continues.

11:30 a.m. — Relaxing Time

We arrive at Ilya’s house and are warmly greeted by his wife, Barrie. She thinks the Empathy Belly is hilarious. She peppers me with questions as I help myself to a bowl of cherries on the counter. For reasons that are still unclear to me, Lionel Richie music is playing in the background.

“Want me to put on some Mozart?” she asks, adding a dramatic pause. “For the baby? I’d be totally happy to do it!”

1 p.m. — Surprising Stacy

Barrie, Ilya and I arrive at the Flatbread pizza restaurant in Bedford with the intention of surprising Stacy. This would be like one of those reality TV shows when everyone gets ready for “the reveal.”

The three of us march into the dining room and see that Stacy is smiling. She’s definitely amused, but I can tell right away that she isn’t totally surprised. Maybe she noticed the return address on some of my correspondence with the Empathy Belly people. There’ll be time for a full investigation later.

While we’re glancing at our menus, Stacy looks me over and declares, “Your breasts look like they are too close together. It looks like you are wearing the wrong size bra!”

Now, there’s a quote for the baby book.


1:30 p.m. — Table Banter

I notice that the suit makes it tougher to move my arms with their usual full range of motion. It’s more difficult to reach things across the table. Barrie recognizes this phenomenon, too, comparing it to the wee little arms on a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

The table conversation moves on to what The Empathy Belly can and cannot replicate. Stacy thinks the suit accurately transforms the upper body (minus the heartburn), but notes that wearers will never understand the water-retention problem. We speculate if there is a way for a pregnancy simulator to inject liquid into your legs, ankles and feet but conclude that the idea is too commercially risky.

I usually gulp down pitchers of water and iced tea at restaurants, but I’m rationing liquids today (the exact opposite of what pregnant women are supposed to do). I want to minimize my bathroom trips, because the bladder sandbag has been performing better than advertised.

Sticking to that theme, a woman standing near the reservation desk scoffed at my appearance as I headed to the rest room. “Male pregnancy?” she huffed. “Pffffff! After you’ve peed in your pants a few times, then come back and talk to me about male pregnancy!”


1:45 p.m. — Settling The Check

During the entire meal — I highly recommend the Community Flatbread with caramelized onions — our waiter, Mark, did not say one word about the pregnancy suit.

Management would be pleased with this young lad. He treats even the kooky customers with dignity and respect. But his silence was driving me nuts.

After we tipped him, I asked Mark if guys wearing Empathy Bellies and question mark maternity shirts dine at Flatbreads often. Apparently, I represent a rare demographic.

Mark tells us he would never question a customer even if there were a chimpanzee on his head. I’m paraphrasing. And the Board of Health might object to monkeys near the open kitchen or their “primitive, wood-fired earthen oven.”

But the bottom line is: Pregnant guys are totally welcome at Flatbreads.


3:30 p.m. — Showcase Cinemas, Lowell

Walking around with Stacy by my side is much more fun than scampering around with a photographer. For starters, I made a major contribution to her pregnancy. I’m a big fan. Plus, her real womb gives my fake one instant credibility. Next to her, I either come across as a goofball or a sensitive guy. Not a creep with foam boobs.

I’d much rather be seen as the sensitive goofball.

Stacy wants to see “Knocked Up,” the irreverent pregnancy-themed comedy. We both love everything Judd Apatow has made since his short-lived TV series “Freaks & Geeks.” But I push hard for the new Michael Moore health care documentary, “Sicko.”

Hey, health care matters to two pregnant people, doesn’t it?

The theater is half empty, but Stacy predicts that some straggling couple will walk past the vacant rows and make us stand up.

She’s right.

“Can we squeeze by?” an elderly woman asks.

“Not really,” Stacy says. “We have to get up, which might take some time because we’re both pregnant!”

“Oh, sorry, I didn’t even notice,” the woman replies.

Now I’m intrigued. The lights are on. Does this woman actually not notice that one of us is a guy? Or is she just in another zone?

After the movie, I experience what has to be The Most Awkward Moment of My Life.

I’m leaning against the wall across from the Women’s Room, waiting for Stacy to come out. Five other guys are standing around with me, waiting for the women in their lives, too.

These are all guys in their 20s with baggy jeans and backwards baseball caps — the kind who don’t take their girlfriends to see documentaries. I’m standing there strapped inside the pregnant belly and wondering what these guys are thinking. Well, I have a good idea of what they’re thinking.

They definitely see me. The white question mark on my shirt is taking on the properties of neon. But no one says a word to me. I just scribble things down in my notebook and act as if I do this all the time.

I’m happy to get back to my car.

Despite roaming around my hometown turf in the Merrimack Valley, I have astoundingly yet to bump into anybody I know. Murphy’s Law dictates that this would be the time I’d reunite with my old algebra teacher or prom date.

6:30 p.m. — The Endurance Challenge

Stacy and I pop by to see our friends, Marty and Dina, who had invited us to a barbeque earlier that day. Over a plate of brownies, I declare that my pregnancy experiment will end in a few hours. I already have enough for an article. My center of gravity has been out-of-whack all day and I feel some soreness in my back. I get it. I’ve learned my lesson.

No way, Stacy says. I must sleep in it to get the “full experience.” Dina, of course, agrees.

I say that I’ll consider it — even though I know that I’m gonna do it. The alternative is having my wife think I’m a wimp. She already saw me bail out of the alligator suit. So this has become a defining moment.

Am I man enough to be pregnant for 24 hours?

(Continue on to Part 3 of the Pregnant Guy Diary)



Darren’s 24-Hour Empathy Belly Diary:
(Part 1 of 3)
(Part 2 of 3)
(Part 3 of 3)
(Postscript with Competing Bellies)

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.

Bookmark and Share

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Filed under empathy belly, Fashion, male pregnancy, Most Awkward Moment of My Life, Parenting

24-Hour Diary of a Pregnant Guy — (Part 1 of 3)

The Empathy Belly

The Empathy Belly

(This is the first 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 in July 2007. Photos by Ilya Mirman)

7:30 a.m. — Massachusetts General Hospital

I’ve been told to arrive at the Yawkey Building early, so that we can fill the Empathy Belly with hot water to simulate the warmth of a real womb. My photographer, Ilya, and I are the first ones to show up to a Sunday morning childbirth education class. Lugging the 25-pound Empathy Belly gym bag down the hall convinces me that today’s activity will be no joke.

This luggage will soon be strapped to my stomach at least until dinner time — along with the shifting weight of 11 pounds of water.

“All ready to get pregnant?” asked Maryann Corea-Carroll, a chipper MGH nurse who oversees the hospital’s childbirth classes. It’s too bad you’re not doing this when it’s 90 degrees out. Then you’d really know what it’s like!”


My wife Stacy is at home sleeping. She has no idea I’m here. But she’s not one of those sadistic women who want their husbands to be uncomfortable just because they are. I’m happy to report that the MGH nurses I’ve met aren’t sadistic either.

But there’s definitely an element of good-natured hazing involved here. For all the talk about empathy and education, the entertainment value of a male pregnancy girdle jumps front and center.

In addition to making husbands and boyfriends look absolutely ridiculous, The Empathy Belly temporarily induces serious physiological changes in just a few minutes. Consequently, most users take it off within 30 minutes, and I had to sign a five-page health waiver promising not to sue if my fake pregnancy ruins my back or knees forever.

The maternity suit’s promised changes include:

1. Total weight gain of 33 pounds.
2. Continuous pressure on the abdomen and internal organs.
3. Postural changes of the back with an increase in lordosis or a “pelvic tilt.”
4. “Fetal kicking” created by a suspended internal weight.
5. Shortness of breath, increased body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure.
6. Increased perspiration and fatigue. Pressure on the bladder, with increased sense of urgency and frequency of urination.
7. Changes in sexual self-image and abilities.

Fun stuff!


8 a.m. — Childbirth Education Class

Instructors Penelope Herman and Courtney Jones, both labor and delivery nurses at MGH, welcome 11 expecting couples to class. As they’re going over a few slides of the pregnant female anatomy, my heart starts racing. Do I really wanna do this? Do I really wanna get pregnant?

I look over to my right and see Maryann, the head educator, leaning back in a swivel chair and drinking a Snapple. She’s very relaxed. The class, meanwhile, is busy flipping through their souvenir Pampers Childbirth Education Guides, developed by the experts at the “Pampers Parenting Institute.”

I wasn’t thinking ahead. Maybe Pampers would have been interested in sponsoring my pregnancy.

8:30 a.m. — Show Time

My heart is still racing and I haven’t even put the suit on yet. That happens to me anytime I have a public speaking engagement. But right now, I just have to stand there and listen.

As one of the husbands in the class is fitted into another Empathy Belly, I’m asked to take a deep breath and exhale as much as I can. With most of the air out of my lungs, Penelope stretches a rib-constricting elastic band around my chest and fastens it tight with Velcro. Oxygen depletion proves to be an excellent educational tool, the ideal way to understand how pregnant women breathe.

Originally, I had envisioned wearing the suit for 24 hours, but Empathy Belly inventor Linda Ware strongly discouraged me from trying to sleep in it. She predicted I would be more than eager to take it off after a long day. Based on those health forms I signed, I figured I should follow her advice.

I had to last until at least dinnertime, though. Only a week earlier, I had put on a baseball mascot suit for a Herald story, with the intention of doing the job for nine innings. I tore off the alligator costume after only 30 minutes of greeting fans. I couldn’t see or breathe through the snout. With the pregnancy suit, I’d have no excuse. MGH had no instructions to blindfold me.

Penelope asks me to hold the water-filled belly close to my own, as she adjusts the arm and back straps. It feels like I’m wearing a bullet-proof vest with a medicine ball sewn into the abdomen.


But we’re not done.

A six-pound sandbag is attached by Velcro underneath the belly so it rests on my bladder. This is probably the one component of the pregnancy simulator that has the most impact on me. I immediately understand how it works.

Still not done.


Two 7-pound metal balls need to be inserted in pockets that extend into my water-filled abdomen. They will flop around to replicate the sensation of the baby’s arms and legs smacking around a mother’s womb. Before I insert my weights, I pass them around the room to the expecting couples. They feel like shot puts!

8:45 a.m. — Pregnancy Tricks


The childbirth educators toss some paper on the floor and ask me and the other pregnant guy to see if we can pick it up. I flunk the test, failing to bend my knees. There’s a reason why hospitals have you sign health waivers.

8:50 a.m. — Wardrobe Change

The Empathy Belly fits over your clothes, but the new layer of simulated nudity might be embarrassing in some social situations. Maryann offers to bring me the official Empathy Belly maternity smock, but there is no way I’m putting it on. Way too girly-girl for me.


The other guy decides to wear the smock. Maryann says that when I’m walking around the hospital, it will be better if people see the name “Empathy Belly,” so they’ll understand what I’m up to. Talking about my emotions is exactly what I do NOT want to do. I brought my own shirts. The one I want to wear outside has a giant question mark on the stomach that can be seen from blocks away.

The real reason why I avoid the smock is that it obscures the pregnant form. People should instantly recognize the shape. The question mark will encourage guessing — and maybe infer there is some intellectual purpose, some greater meaning to the bulging belly bobbing down the sidewalk.


9:05 a.m. — Pregnancy Debriefing

I interview Penelope in a conference room to learn more about how different people respond to the Empathy Belly. She says that in two years of classes, no one has refused to try it on. Of course, there is a self-selected empathetic group of husbands who go to these classes in the first place.

Penelope says the belly usually proves to be the most memorable part of class, sparking lots of pictures with cell phone cameras. Before buying the Empathy Belly, educators at MGH relied on socks filled with beans and rice to teach about the weight gain from pregnancy (One stuffed sock represented the fetus, another the placenta, etc.)

I’m listening to Penelope, but two things are at the forefront of my mind.

1. Pregnant stomachs make a fantastic resting place for notebooks; and
2. I have to be careful when I lean back in a reclining swivel chair.

I’m physically comfortable throughout the interview, but when I stand up, it feels like I am squatting with weights at the gym.

9:30 a.m. — Waddling down Cambridge Street

My maiden journey as a make-believe pregnant guy has begun. Roaming around the hospital with an official escort, I get only one friendly stare from a doctor. Everyone else ignores me. Anybody at the hospital that early on a Sunday obviously had other things to worry about.

Outside, I break away from my escort and walk a few blocks. It seems relatively easy to walk “like I’m lugging around bundles of groceries” but I’ve only had the suit on for less than an hour. Looking at pictures later, it looks like I wasn’t as comfortable as I seemed. All of the photos show me grimacing.


Sauntering a few blocks down Cambridge Street toward Government Center, I notice people react the same way they did at the hospital. Almost everyone avoids eye contact, which is my normal experience in the city. The stomach bulge is just way too enormous to be confused with a beer gut. Or is it?

Then again, what kind of reaction am I looking for, exactly? “Congratulations, sir, on your pregnancy! Do you know if it is a boy or a girl? Have you picked out names yet?”

10:30 a.m. Leaving the Hospital

In two weeks or so, I will be going into the hospital with my extremely pregnant wife and will be leaving when she is unpregnant (with our second child — woo hoo!).

This morning, I walked into the hospital when I was unpregnant and am leaving pregnant.
Pretty freaky, huh?

And yup, I do know that “unpregnant” is not a real word.

But it should be.

(Continue to Part 2 of the Pregnant Guy Diary)



Darren’s 24-Hour Empathy Belly Diary:
(Part 1 of 3)
(Part 2 of 3)
(Part 3 of 3)
(Postscript with Competing Bellies)

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.

Bookmark and Share


Filed under empathy belly, male pregnancy, Parenting