Pregnant for an Hour: Inside the Ford Empathy Suit

A Girls Guide To Cars | Pregnant For An Hour: Inside The Ford Empathy Suit - Sbcpaulpregnancysuitfeature

I was not really pregnant, nor is this really a car review.

But I was pregnant for an hour or so, thanks to the Ford Motor Company, who during the annual Traveling Mom Conference in Orlando gave me the opportunity to wear their Empathy Suit – aka empathy belly, pregnancy suit or 30-pound vest with weights and uncomfortably tight straps – so that I could experience “the effects of pregnancy” while climbing in and out a Ford vehicle. For more on how the Empathy Suit is designed and what its components were meant to simulate, watch this video:

Why does Ford make guys like me wear this suit?

After men and women wear the suit and experience the challenges of both navigating around a car and driving it while “pregnant,” Ford engineers use feedback from Empathy Suit wearers to better understand the needs of mothers-to-be when designing cars.

So what was it like being pregnant in a Ford?

While I found it uncomfortable, due to my pregnancy, to reach for and shut the driver door of the Ford Edge I sat in, I was able to fit comfortably behind the steering wheel and reach the dashboard controls, underscoring a statement from the kind Ford representative who helped me put on the suit that the company tries “to put their vehicle controls and adjustability within reach of a broad range of people.”

Physically, what did it feel like to be pregnant?

I’ve been running 25 miles or more a week for the last two years, which is not a brag per se, but because I’ve lost 15 pounds in the last year and am relatively slim, suddenly “gaining” 30 pounds and having to carry it around was a shock. After I put on the suit and walked around for a minute, I felt resentful of the extra weight, thinking, “It’s unfair that I got into good shape and now have to feel this extra weight with every step!” Wearing my Empathy Suit, I was feeling my first moment of empathy.

Ford Pregnancy Suit

Paul’s pregnancy woes. Photo: Meagan Shamy for AGirlsGuidetoCars

And how did your pregnancy feel mentally?

Again, I encourage you to watch the video, during which my colleagues from A Girls Guide to Cars and Traveling Mom made sure I got a dose of the stereotypical and otherwise obnoxious comments they no doubt endured: “Feeling a little hormonal, Paul? You’re looking a little queasy. Do you have some snacks?” When I made a big show of how difficult it was to bend over and pick up a ball, one of the moms suggested that I should imagine what it was like, while pregnant, to pick up a non-stationary object, like an unruly, squirming toddler. Good point, I thought, empathizing some more.

What was the take-away from a vehicle safety perspective?

Ford has put some effort into outlining the do’s and don’ts of how a mom-to-be should buckle up, and I experienced first-hand how easy it was to incorrectly buckle myself in as soon as I fastened my seat belt in the Edge. Ford recommends that the lap portion of the belt “be positioned low across the hips, below the belly” and the shoulder portion should lie “between the breasts and to the side of the belly.” I recap these points and more in the video which, if I may say it once more, is worth watching.

What else should expectant mothers keep in mind while being the wheel?

I’m glad you asked. Check out the infographic below:

Sbcford_Driving While Pregnant Infographic

Paul-Einsenberg-150X150Paul Eisenberg is the editor of Traveling Dad. His other jobs include writer in residence at Micato Safaris and family travel writer for Barclaycard Travel. He originated the weekly “Away Game” column for Fox News Travel and appeared weekly as an on-air commentator for Live, which his eldest daughter was always quick to remind him was “Web TV and not real TV.” For almost 10 years Paul worked at Fodor’s Travel, where he was editorial director for U.S. guidebooks. He also updated the most recent edition of Fodor’s Around New York City with Kids. In 2010, he received a Lowell Thomas Award for an article about medical tourism. Paul and his wife live in New York City with their three children