George was seven years old when he realized he wanted to carry another man’s baby. He looked on with jealousy at women waddling onto buses with ankles puffy and pink from the excessive weight. He dreamt that one day it would be his husband driving to McDonald’s to pick him up three cheeseburgers to end the cravings and his lungs heaving on a yoga mat as he practiced breathing exercises in preparation for contractions.
George is an adult now, working as a cook in a retirement home in Sacramento, where he bakes meatloaf, tequila chicken and lasagna for other people’s grandparents. Yet he still finds the time to imagine a little fetus growing inside of him. “I love the idea of having a life within me to nurture and protect,” he tells me over Skype. “To get pregnant, the fetus would have to be from a man who really mattered to me, someone who I would feel blessed to carry their baby.”
“Mpreg,” a term denoting desires relating to male pregnancy, has a dedicated following of gay men like George, many of whom communicate on the forum Mpreg Central. (Some straight men and women are into men getting pregnant, but they’re very rare.) There are “carriers” (men who want to become pregnant); “seeders” (men who want to impregnate another man); and “neutral observers” (men who want to help the pregnant male in the manner of a doula).
It continues to run the gamut from there. Some guys want to experience a typical pregnancy of stomach cramps and sweet-and-sour chicken binges, while others are into hyper-pregnancies where the carrier has anything from three to more than 20 babies growing inside of them. “I certainly do love the idea of a person pinned down by a massive belly so heavy and cumbersome that they can’t move. Sometimes I just want to be a big, helpless baby factory myself!” writes BigBellyBoy, reminiscent of a moment in the Stephen King film adaptation of The Mist where a guy’s rib cage fills with spider eggs that hatch as their legs slice their way out of him, leaving him to bleed out.
Yet more like masculine pregnant bodies with protein-shake-fuelled arms clutching baby bumps the way they would a large kettlebell. Then there are the guys who dream of huge breasts wobbling with milk, and specifically, the idea of sporadic lactating: filling in spreadsheets at work only to be surprised by dampened nipple patches. “If I could, I would love to try to induce. The idea of a baby suckling at my breast is wonderful to me,” writes Pregger22. (One forum thread recommends eating spicy food, taking fenugreek and blessed thistle herbs and pumping the chest every four hours to encourage milk.)
All of them, though, debate topics varying from what the ideal carrier penis size is (“Smaller. Like 2.5, I would prefer mine to shrink it a sort of emasculating way. But if a pregnant man wanted to seed me, I would love for the pregnancy to enhance his masculinity”), to how to dress while pregnant (“I hate looking like a slob, so would definitely buy some hot paternity clothes. Jeans, tees, plaid shirts and sweaters. Prolly get more slip-on shoes cause bending may be difficult”). The details are mapped out with the maniacal precision of a yoga mom, a blueprint for how male pregnancy should happen in the future.
For his part, until the day comes when doctors can physically work George’s fantasy into existence, he draws cartoons of pregnant men. “I like duality and contrast so I often have characters of different races, ages, backgrounds,” he explains. “I mix them with sub-creatures: orcs from World of Warcraft, big green humanoids with tusks. I like Thanos from Infinity War and other thick-jawed ugly guys.”
Midway through an explanation of interspecies sex, George goes silent as a retiree walks past the retirement home kitchen. “Morning Eric, I’d take that as it’s the last couple of donuts,” George says while gesturing toward the oozing custard dough, gritty with sugar sitting next to him. It might seem risky to discuss mpreg at work, but the walls of the retirement home are no stranger to George’s dreams of rubbing almond oil into his stretch marks. In the empty cafe he often scribbles out his stories: servants forced to become pregnant by amphibian kings who need an heir to the throne; a man named Quinn carrying two different men’s babies at the same time after forgetting to take his contraceptive pill; a brutish ex-Marine becoming kinder when he finds out he’s going to become a father.
George shows me his favorite piece. In the middle of some sun-soaked cliffs and a twinkling blue river stands a skinny teenager. Under his squared, Jake Gyllenhaal-style pecs, a belly swells outwards, one tight with the placenta and excess of babies. “It’s inspired by a dream I had,” George explains. “A sailor named Calvin is stationed in Pakistan. He’s walking through the city when someone shoots at him — just as he thinks his life is about to end, a 19-year-old boy saves him. They fall in love, and he impregnates the boy, until eventually Calvin has to go back to America to see his daughter. It’s bittersweet, because although he misses her, these two will never see each other again.”
While for George male pregnancy is a source of deep seated yearning, for Max, a hospitality worker in Chicago, it’s definitely a fetish. “The physical strain of a big stomach is hot. I’d love to have sex while heavily pregnant, especially if the guy was really hung. The act of carrying a baby for your partner is a form of bondage to them — you’re making a sacrifice for their benefit.” Also unlike George, Max explores mpreg beyond the pixelated screen. “I use a foam belly,” he says. “Some people use a silicone Moonbump but they’re expensive — I don’t have $430 to spend. I know one guy who has a medical fetish that ties in neatly into mpreg; he incorporates surgical equipment like stirrups, forceps, fake drips and stethoscopes. He must spend thousands.”
“Oddly enough, I actually don’t like kids,” Max admits. “But recently I’ve been getting daddy fever. I love babies. They’re so cute. I don’t mind when they cry; it’s just when they become a toddler they turn into evil demons.”
Justin, a delivery man from Sacramento, is now the chairman of Mpreg Central. He realized he was into mpreg at age nine when his friend shoved a teddy bear under his T-shirt. Ever since, Justin’s craving for incubation has persisted. As such, Justin has thought a lot about his perfect labor. “I want a water birth through a canal similar to a vagina,” he says. “Often guys want their baby to come out the anus or the penis. Some prefer a C-section; others like the idea of giving birth to eggs.”
Would he accept pain relief like an epidural? “That’s something I’ve wrestled with,” he says. “I was talking to a woman who got one, and it messed up her back. Now she’s very sore. I don’t want that. If it’s just several hours of pain, I could work through it.”
Male pregnancy isn’t as far away as you might think. Scientists, in fact, predict it will be a reality in under 10 years. There are a number of ways it could happen. The first is through an ectopic pregnancy, where due to the man’s lack of a uterus, the embryo is surgically attached to an internal organ such as the bowels or the intestinal walls. With this procedure, however, there’s a big risk of internal bleeding, which could result in death for both the father and the baby. The second method involves harvesting a uterus from a woman donor, but as with other transplanted organs, there’s the potential for it to be rejected. Lastly, doctors could craft an entirely new uterus using the man’s own stem cells, a process that would eliminate the risk of rejection. “That’s the pregnancy I pine for,” Justin tells me.
As of yet, the closest we’ve gotten to mreg is when trans men have carried babies. If you undergo female-to-male gender reassignment surgery, you can choose to keep your uterus, retaining the ability for pregnancy if you pause testosterone pills for a sufficient amount of time. On the Instagram account of Trystan Reese, a trans man from Portland who gave birth to baby boy named Leo, he clutches his son as his smooth face yawns like a little seal pup. The image is captioned “#gayswithkids #seahorsebaby #wildandfree.” “I greatly admire them for coming out as themselves in such a state,” Justin says. “Seeing pregnant trans men gives me hope that very soon pregnant cis men will be able to join them.”
Still, society is far away from mpreg acceptance. Case in point: As a teenager, George’s parents discovered his sketches: “They thought I had a troubled mind. My dad kept silent, but my mum said, ‘It’s not right. I would suggest burning them.’ I stopped drawing, but after two years, I started again. There’s this quote I like: ‘When you change for society, at some point you’re going to change back.’ You can’t ignore who you are.”
Without anyone IRL to talk about mpreg, George is internet friends with a soldier in the navy he met over the forum who is stationed in Japan. I ask whether it’s difficult for his friend to be into mpreg while pursuing such a typically masculine profession. “He doesn’t get into trouble because of the whole, ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ rule,” George responds. “It’s a sensitive subject, he’d rather just keep private.”
George, too, stays underground, at least until he feels his mpreg fantasies won’t leave him ostracized. Until then, he passes the time by dreaming of baby names. “I like Edward, Walker or Hunter for boys. And for girls I like Japanese Arrietty, Anastasia, Ariel and Jasmine.”