Pregnancy — everyone should try it once: the weak bladder, the few extra pounds that make standing on a bus or train (and in even the most polite societies, you will) that much more precarious, the inability to sleep on your back for months on end...
Okay — this last scenario's a stretch, and quite unnecessary, no matter how keen you are to experience the "joys" of pregnancy.
Regardless, Japanese researchers have come up with the next best thing — the Mommy Tummy 8.0 — designed chiefly to help "men to understand the difficulties associated with having a baby."
CNET points out that the device could also help "a lady who has yet to experience the joys of pregnancy better empathize with pregnant women."
The Mommy Tummy, according to ABC News, is "as real as a fake pregnancy can get."
A water pump slowly injects warm fluid into a plastic bag that is attached to the suit. The “womb” expands with every second, and uses a vibrator that acts as the fetus’s heartbeat.
Nearly 50 different sized balloons inflate and deflate to mimic the kicking or movements of a fetus. Each are attached to a sensor, so the unborn baby reacts to belly rubs and uncomfortable movements, like jumping.
And yes – the breasts do get larger with balloons too.
For those still confused, the researchers provide a handy illustration of how the device works on their Mommy Tummy website.
Sadly, for misunderstood pregnant women everywhere, the experience only lasts two minutes. Enough, said "test driver" Yasuhiro Itagaki, to feel heavier than expected and to give him the impression of life inside.
"I thought it would hurt when the baby kicks, but it was really ticklish," he reportedly said.
As any woman whose experienced will tell you, it doesn't always tickle, and pregnancy is a marathon of issues, not a giggly sprint.
In fact, it was the problems pregnant women faced on a day to day that reportedly inspired Takayuki Kosaka, from the Kanagawa Institute of Technology, to come up with the Mommy Tummy.
ABC News quoted the researcher as saying:
"The product was inspired by insensitive Japanese men who refused to give up their seats to pregnant women on trains and buses. After witnessing that, I decided it was time for men to understand the difficulties associated with having a baby."
Kosaka hopes to eventually sell the pregnancy simulator comercially, believing it will be a helpful tool in reversing Japan’s rapidly declining population.
For now, however, it remains a work in progress, as "small issues with maintenance, like having to exchange a balloon that bursts during simulation, must first be resolved."