Amazingly, in the year 2011, when Richard Branson is offering tickets to the moon and a robot just won the final of a telly quiz show, some humans are still insisting on the atavistic pursuit of reproduction. It's very odd. And when famous female ones do it, it's even odder. It's perverse! It's political correctness gone mad! I mean, it must be – otherwise why would celebrity mags scream with headlines about having the first pictures of a famous lady and her bump, as if we had never seen one of those extended bellies before?
Our celebrity media are currently going so wild for these paparazzi snaps that it's as if we've all turned into David Attenborough, peering in to investigate the gestation period of the adult human female
"First Picture of Victoria Beckham's Bump!" shout the gossip mags, as she walks through an airport with sunglasses that look markedly bigger than her midriff, which is hidden underneath four layers of cardigan and a hand. Then there's Natalie Portman with a bump at the Oscars, Kate Hudson with a bump at the Grammys, Alicia Silverstone taking her bump to the farmers' market, and Pink helping her bump into her car. Mariah Carey, Emma Bunton, Rachel Zoe, Ivanka Trump, Jessica Alba, Marion Cotillard – all currently up the famous duff. That's a whole lot of bumping going on. And we need to see pictures.
Of course, if you've been dieting and squeezing yourself into dresses sized like corsets for the past five years, priding yourself on a life of restricted calories and physical perfection, then you do have yourself to blame for the increased attention, just a little bit. If you trade on your controlled chic, then your body taking over and doing its thing is quite a thrill for us to watch.
Even if the woman in question longed for this pregnancy, even if she used fertility treatment to get there, even if she booked in for a Caesarean before having so much as a scan, pregnancy is still a situation beyond her control. It creeps over her, bringing hormones in its wake, making her sick and tired and elated and spreading, always spreading, until she can't reach her own toes. It reduces her to an animal.
Of course, some of these are undeniably good stories. Tiny Natalie Portman turns up to promote Black Swan, a film in which she plays an obsessively thin ballerina, her bony body frequently investigated by the camera, and she's preggers by the character in the film who said he'd never shag someone like her – well, that's quite a good one. And then there's Nicole Kidman and Elton John who have both recently become parents through a secret surrogate, robbing the poor paps of the pregnancy stage entirely. But Victoria Beckham on her fourth child (and saying she might try for a fifth but probably will stop at six) is hardly a challenge to white rhinos in the African savannah in the rarity stakes.
I still remember, with a shudder, the issue of Heat in which they showed famous pregnant women on the cover with a big red tick beside those who were still super glamorous, and a big red cross over the bellies of those who just looked tired, worn out and, you know, pregnant. I have a friend who is currently in the early stages of pregnancy, and who became convinced that she was suddenly showing, at only 11 weeks, even though she certainly hadn't been the day before. Elated, she went out to dinner and proudly let all her friends in the restaurant pat her bump. By morning, after an uncomfortably flatulent night tossing and turning in bed, it was gone again.
Perhaps that's our real fascination with these pictures. We want to see if the bump is still there the next day, or whether the famous lady in question is just having a bit of trouble with trapped wind.