For dads, falling in love with a pregnancy pillow is a bit like having an affair. They enter your marriage surreptitiously, as one of the many dowry inanities bestowed upon a happy couple during delirious baby showers. Their names are matrimonious and deeply goofy, like Snoogle and Queen Rose, fashioned as lush, swooping bands of cushion that fit between your thighs, run parallel to your waist and rest above your head. The design is intended to prop up pregnant people who need extra support for an inflating womb, because it’s hard to sleep facedown or faceup when carrying around a beach ball in your stomach. But like all soft things encountered after dark, pregnancy pillows can also catch the leering eyes of curious husbands, who are eager to test-drive a different sort of nocturnal embrace.
“It was my suggestion,” remembers Zach, a 33-year old in Vermont who has an 8-month-old son. “My wife tends to sleep with seven different pillows, and I thought we should get an alternative. She slept with it for four or five nights, before going back to her pillow arrangement because she was able to adjust those exactly how she wanted them. It was sitting over in the corner of the room unused. I think I waited until she was done with her pregnancy. I didn’t want to claim it before then. But shortly after my son was born, when I was exhausted and looking for anything to improve your sleep, I was like, ‘Might as well try this.’”
Today, Zach and the pregnancy pillow are inseparable. It’s his new ball-and-chain. He tells me that, in the witching hour, when he and his wife are switching off nursery duties, he trudges down the hallway — pregnancy pillow in tow — to mollify the baby, before drifting off with his own maternity surrogate. It’s become one of the couple’s marquee inside jokes — a husband and his wife and his wife-shaped cushion — which puts him in line with a whole league of new dads who have claimed their partner’s pregnancy pillows for their own.
Each of them have their own justifications. For Zach, it’s simple: He has sleep apnea, a condition that makes the traditional back-first slumber extremely uncomfortable; pregnancy pillows, however, are designed to keep their users suspended in side-sleep animation, which is an ideal physical sensation for him.
Meanwhile, Ken, a Virginian who’s been a dad for two years, was drawn to the lumbar support. “I’ve got lower back problems, so I need to use a body pillow to keep my knees separated because of a pre-existing injury,” he explains. (Still, like Zach, he waited until his wife delivered the baby before salvaging the pillow as his own from the couple’s closet.)
Down in St. Louis, Brian, the father of a 3-year-old, tells me that while he loves the feeling of being spooned, he “hates the heat.” Thus, the pregnancy pillow checked all the classic paramour boxes: big and comfy, but cold and dead on the inside. His wife would wake up, take her shower and Brian would pounce on his prey. “Eventually it was a daily thing where I’d abandon my own pillow for hers as soon as she got up,” he admits.
Patrick, a father of two boys in Florida, is far more humble about his larceny. “I’m not saying I’m out of shape, but I’ve got a stomach on me,” he laughs. In other words, as far as Patrick is concerned, the concave schematic of the pregnancy pillow is perfect for third trimesters — and the extra few inches of dad fat. He explains that the pillow curls itself underneath him, which is a far more sublime feeling than he’s ever gotten out of a traditional body pillow. Patrick also didn’t have to bargain his way into the conjugal pregnancy pillow jurisdiction. He works nights, while his wife works days; essentially then, their relationship with the pillow is uniquely polyamorous. “The day she got this thing, and it was my turn to sleep, I was already excited,” he says. “I got it situated and comfy, and good god, did I fall into the deepest sleep.”
You won’t be surprised to hear that each of these dads routinely gets roasted by their spouses. There’s probably no easier target in marital derisiveness than men falling head-over-heels for a maternity product called the Snoogle. But they tell me that the teasing has been entirely good-natured and non-controversial. Ken earned a raised eyebrow or two; Zach ends up on the butt-end of a couple of cocktail party stories — it’s all fine.
In fact, the only dad who says that the shared custody of the pregnancy pillow has gotten them into trouble was Brian, and to be fair, that surfaced during one of the most stressful moments of anyone’s life. “It wasn’t until we went to the hospital for her labor where she actually got annoyed. While she was struggling to get comfortable in her hospital bed that was too small for the [pregnancy pillow], I decided to use it during my naps,” he explains. “So I’d be cuddled up comfortably on the room’s couch snoozing away with her pillow as she laid there awake and in pain. It wasn’t my proudest moment, but hey, I had to get my rest in order to help her during labor — or so I tell myself.”
The couple navigated that moment in the best way possible. Months later, after Brian had fully claimed the pregnancy pillow as his own — and after he’d worn down the poor cushion into a sodden mess with the oily pressure of his own male body — he awoke on Christmas morning to discover that his wife had purchased him a brand new one.
True love, I guess, is buying your husband gifts from Cosmopolitan top 10 lists.
I suppose that should be the moral here. There’s so much misdirection and charlatan bullshit in the way the self-care industry tells us to think about our bodies and our genders, when in truth, an object like a pregnancy pillow can work on a vast swathe of humanity. “Clearly, having gone through the process of having a kid, you’re totally vulnerable to all kinds of marketing and anything that will try to make her happy,” says Zach. “It’s like, ‘Oh a pregnancy pillow! Let’s try this!’ To be honest, though, if you marketed it as ‘a full-body back support pillow,’ I probably never would have bought it.”
Lucky for him, it wasn’t. And so, he fell for the bait, and brought home one of these many supposed miracles to assist his ailing wife. Along the way, he saw through the illusion and recognized the pregnancy pillow for what it actually is — a hunk of cashmere that feels really good between your legs — and refused to deny himself that comfort.
And that, my friends, is the greatest masculinity of all.