Family Matters

Dubious Invention: The ‘Mommy Tummy’ Simulates Pregnancy for Men

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Being pregnant is at once the best and worst feeling in the world. You’re giddy with the idea that your body is growing another human being, but your ankles are swollen and your waistline is erupting like Mt. Vesuvius. “If you only knew how tough this is,” you might find yourself saying to your partner. And now, he can.

Researchers from the Kanagawa Institute of Technology (KAIT) in Japan have fashioned the “Mommy Tummy,” an inflatable vest that they claim is the most realistic facsimile yet of what it feels like to be pregnant.

In 120 seconds, the vest fills with increasing amounts of water to correspond to what a burgeoning belly would weigh; a mechanical device incorporated into the design also recreates what it feels like to be kicked by your baby-to-be. Men can rub the watery abdomen to activate sensors, thereby soothing the agitated child (a future soccer player perhaps?) within. The Mommy Tummy, which resembles a flak jacket, also uses water-filled sacs to mimic the way a woman’s breasts swell when pregnant.

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According to the Daily Mail:

During tests in the laboratory lead researcher Takayuki Kosaka found that 80% of mothers said it was a fair approximation of being pregnant, right down to the weight distribution.

And although only at the prototype stage, he hopes to deploy it at hospitals to encourage men to have more sympathy for their partners. “It’s hard to tell in two minutes if someone becomes more empathetic,” said Robert Songer, one of the researchers on the project. “But we have gotten a lot of comments about how users are glad that they’re dudes.”

Well, guess what? We women are glad we’re not dudes. Because despite pregnancy’s myriad indignities and discomforts, feeling your baby — and not an acuator — tumble beneath your belly, marveling as an elbow or knee pokes out, is the real deal. Since growing a baby is, hands down, the coolest thing that a woman’s body can do, it stands to reason we might feel a bit possessive about this biological feat. Personally, I see no need to conjure up ridiculous costumes that will never be able to approximate the extreme highs and lows of pregnancy. It makes a farce out of a beautiful thing.

Or, as Woman’s Day, put it, “Why when there are so many problems in the world (wars! debt crisis!) and diseases to be cured, why are people wasting energy engineering an idiotic suit that won’t show men even a millionth of what it’s like to be pregnant?”

Put it this way: men will never know what it really feels like to carry a child, just as women will never be able to do the stand-up-and-pee thing. As far as we’ve come in the battle of the sexes, some things just aren’t engineered for change.

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