Just what you've always dreamed of -- the chance to feel pregnant when you're not.
At the Children's Fair tomorrow in Arnold, visitors can experience 22 symptoms of pregnancy, including breathing difficulty, weight gain and the awkwardness of a protruding stomach.
Last year, the annual fair drew 4,500 people interested in products and services relating to prenatal care, children and parenting. This year's fair is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Magothy Middle School on Peninsula Farm Road, across from Anne Arundel Community College.
The pregnancy simulator is just one of the attractions, which range from a derby for crawling babies to gymnastics lessons for children with learning disabilities. At least 100 displays from organizations and businesses geared toward families with children will be featured.
The Empathy Belly Pregnancy Simulator is definitely one of the fair's more unusual offerings, says Cheryl Carnwath, a nurse and coordinator of the sixth annual fair, sponsored by Chesapeake Bay Area Lamaze. The Lamaze group conducts small childbirth classes in homes or private offices.
The simulator allows men to benefit from the chance to see what it feels like to be a pregnant woman, but Carnwath hopes teen-age girls also will pay attention to the "empathy belly".
"We're trying to promote the concept that pregnancy isn't always so much fun. Young people need to realize the possible consequences of sex," she says.
Linda Ware, who invented the internationally known simulator, will present a program of relaxation and massage for the "pregnant male." Two of the simulators, one on loan from Mercy lTC Hospital, will be available all day for visitors to try on.
"The person who tries this on gets 22 symptoms of being pregnant," says Carnwath. "They put on 33 pounds of material and go through a routine of trying to sit, to pick up the laundry, to go through the daily routine that a mother does for nine months."
Earlier this week, Carnwath's husband, John, tried on the simulator, an underbody cast draped with a pregnancy smock to give the total image of the real thing.
Waddling around in the simulator, Carnwath called it "fun, though kind of embarrassing."
He said more males should put it on to feel empathy for their wives.
"I do have empathy for my wife, after four children," he added.
His wife has watched many males try on the simulator, and the typical response has been: " 'I cannot believe it,' " says Carnwath. "They say, 'Are you sure this is what it feels like?' They get a pained expression when they try to sit down."
Often, people who try on the simulator actually break out in a sweat because the weight increases their blood pressure, the nurse says. They have difficulty breathing because a tight abdominal wrap simulates the chest constriction a pregnant mother feels from the pressure on her diaphragm.
The simulation is not just of the pain of pregnancy, however, John Carnwath said.
"What is amazing is the feeling that there is this floating weight inside the liquid. Things hit you inside. That sense of movement is amazing."
Besides the pregnancy simulator, the fair highlights healthful foods, with a presentation by Stuart Nunnery, an entertainer who wrote Disney theme songs before he became ill with an undiagnosed sickness. After curing himself through diet, Nunnery dedicated his life to promoting health through nutrition.
Washington Redskins offensive tackle Joe Jacoby will attend from 9 to 11 a.m. to promote the fair's theme of Healthy Beginnings.
John Elkin, a humorous magician who has performed at the White House, will provide entertainment, along with a specialist in pre-Olympic training.
The fair is free, but a Family Fund-raiser Table will raise money for handicapped children in Anne Arundel. Every year the fair has selected one family to help with medical bills and special needs. Last year, the fund-raiser brought in several thousand dollars.
This year, Carnwath hopes to raise $2,600 for six children referred to Chesapeake Bay Area Lamaze by pediatricians and special education schools in the county. The money will go for specific needs of the children, such as special seats and tables.
All parents need help dealing with the stresses of being a parent in today's society, says Carnwath.
The fair will try to offer that help. Hospitals, rehabilitation centers, parents groups and pregnancy centers will be represented with information for parents, along with hands-on activities for children.
"From diapers to fried dough, there is something for every member of your family," Carnwath says.