Men In Labor Fundraiser

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BAY COUNTY-- Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center's neonatal intensive care unit welcomed a different kind of pregnancy.

The March of Dimes kicked off their first "Men In Labor" fundraiser at the hospital by strapping sympathy bellies on men.

The eight-week program is bound to bring some laughs but they also hope it brings awareness to an important issue.

These brave men are going where few men have gone before. The first trimester of pregnancy.

"I have not done this! This is a brand new program for me."

The March of Dimes is challenging these volunteers to raise awareness for a greater cause: premature births.

"I think they're going to have a lot of fun. They chuckle a little bit when we tell them that we want to give them a belly and be pregnant for eight weeks but the reason we want to do that is very important," Michele Redmond said.

Nationwide, one in nine babies are born premature. In Florida, that number is one in eight.

Each one of these new dads gets one of these bags and inside comes a pamphlet with all the information they need to know, a hospital gown, and of course the entire reason why they're even here: the big belly.

While they prepare to raise a child, the March of Dimes is also hoping they'll each raise $1,000 for the cause.

"I'll be sporting my first trimester belly and I haven't seen my belly yet but I'm pretty sure I'll be able to pull it off very well," Carlton Ulmer said.

Most of these men are dads in the community.

But are they ready to carry a child full-term?

When it was finally time to strap-on...

"Ready to go!"

The new dads were all smiles.

"How's it feel?"
"Oh it's great. It's great."
"What're you having?"
"I'm having a boy."
"Oh yeah."

But behind the laughs, organizers of the program hope to leave a lasting message about carrying your child to full-term.

"Families have to endure something that they sometimes don't even expect to endure so it's very heart wrenching at times," Dr. Antonio Pena said.

The Men in Labor will attend two more events in the eight week program to mark each new trimester.

This is the first time Bay County's taken part in the fundraiser.

The March of Dimes is holding similar ones across the Gulf Coast, including Fort Walton and Pensacola.