Hands off the bump
Deirdre Reynolds goes out and about with her fake pregnancy to find out how much criticism her bad behaviour attracts
'Aahh, when are you due?" coos a complete stranger, as I rest a glass of lager on my globular belly with one hand and drag on a cigarette with the other.
"Er, September 10," I bluff -- before she twigs: "God, you're very high up."
In truth, my six-month bump is due to be delivered as soon as I waddle back to the car.
And the reason it's so 'high up' is that, having stuffed it up my dress, it's now somehow migrated towards my boobs after I sat down.
Don't worry, I'm not one of those crazy ladies from a Channel Four documentary who attempts to fulfill her desire for a child with a creepy Reborn doll.
My 'pregnancy' is all part of a social experiment to find out what happens when a mum-to-be breaks some of the biggest pre-natal no-nos in public -- smoking, boozing and wearing sky high heels.
It's something new mum Stacey Solomon discovered earlier this year.
The reality TV star was stripped of her Celebrity Mum of the Year title after she was snapped puffing her way through four cigarettes in two hours while seven months pregnant.
And branded selfish, irresponsible and a bad mother, heavily pregnant Stacey (22) was forced to go on live television to explain herself.
"I just thought I would be able to quit," she sobbed. "I completely understand why people would be angry . . . although I do think some [of the criticism] is a bit harsh."
Bumming a light off a laidback smoker at the next table, I have no such problem.
But, like Solomon, I am later forced to defend myself when a passerby in his thirties challenges: "Are you really smoking?"
Since when did a woman's growing womb become public property?
"When you're pregnant, it can feel like everyone is an expert," says Ruth Toomey, co-founder of Mummy Matters parenting workshops in Dublin (MummyMatters.ie). "The problem is that they're all giving you conflicting advice.
"Between pregnancy books and smartphone apps, the amount of information out there for mums-to-be is wonderful -- but it can also be incredibly overwhelming.
"As a mum of three, the idea that your baby bump can start to feel like public property really resonates with me," she adds. "But nobody has the right to throw their tuppence worth in when you're pregnant -- or after you've had the baby, for that matter."
Supplied by Moonbump.com -- a UK company specialising in fake bumps used by women for surrogacy and adoption -- there's no danger to my foam foetus should I take a tumble in my heels.
But when Preggers Spice Victoria Beckham (38) tottered along to the royal wedding in customised six-inch Louboutins last year, she drew the wrath of the mummy mafia for endangering unborn daughter Harper.
Likewise, when expectant mum Kourtney Kardashian (32) almost fell in lofty footwear recently, she was accused of putting fashion before the safety of her child -- due to be born this month.
Role-model mums slipping up is not always a bad thing, though, according to experts.
"There's huge pressure on women to have the perfect pregnancy," says Mummy Matters' Ruth Toomey.
"So, sometimes it can actually be a relief to see celeb mums doing the wrong thing.
"Part of the reason we set up Mummy Matters was to let women know that whatever they're feeling is OK," she adds. "There's no such thing as the 'perfect pregnancy'."
Tell that to any of the dozens of both male and female Dubliners who dart withering looks my way for seemingly smoking and drinking for two.
From hot tubs to hair dye, skinny jeans to skinny lattes, is there anything pregnant women can do without condemnation?
"Most women are pretty educated about what they should and shouldn't do when pregnant," says Dr Andrea Nugent, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Mount Carmel Hospital and Easy Health magazine panellist. "But when people tell mums-to-be something that isn't scientifically proven, it can really scare them.
"Every day, I have to mop up the tears of women who have been told some pregnancy horror story.
"I tell my patients not to listen to unsolicited advice," adds Dr Nugent. "If you have any questions, write them down to go through with your doctor or midwife.
"My biggest advice for mums-to-be is enjoy your pregnancy and try not to worry."