Remember when you packed on those extra pounds when your Mrs. was expecting? It wasn’t because all there was to eat in the house was the premium ice cream, Mallomars and olive-oil-soaked prosciutto-and-provolone stuffed cherry peppers she craved for your soon-to-be baby. It was biology.

According to the Today Show report I saw yesterday (and the June 14 USA Today article from which the piece was blatantly borrowed from), fatherhood is hormone-based. This, of course, debunks the well-worn scientific theory that females get knocked up by ethereal beings known as sperm gremlins.

In the weeks just prior to the wife popping Junior out the ol’ birth canal, the hubby’s body starts producing more cortisol, also known as the “Oh, Shit!” hormone. This is because it helps regulate our instinct for fight (“Oh, shit — I’m gonna kick your ass!”) or flight (“Oh, shit — I’m gonna get my ass kicked!”). In the case of pending parenthood, it makes men respond as follows: “Oh, shit — what am I getting my ass into?”

This increased hormone production causes anxiety, panic and — due to a corresponding drop in testosterone (aka the Blood-, Beer- and Boob-Lust Hormone) — an interest in prettying up the house by purchasing decorative throw pillows. Though not yet documented by researchers, I also predict a wave of fathers-to-be will soon develop a compulsive urge to purchase nipple clamps. The reason being they they have read the following sentence: just prior to becoming a dad, a man’s body produces about 20% more prolactin — the hormone that, in mothers, helps produce breast milk.

The dad-to-be brain also changes, becoming more attune to hearing a baby’s cry and distinguishing what it means, the research says. But according to mom-centric parenting magazines, whether the guy reacts to the kid’s bawling remains a voluntary reflex.

So what does this research prove?

It shows that when the time is right, the biological programming of men should kick in and justify a little extra empathy from the world. And maybe a complimentary prescription for Xanax. I just hope it doesn’t prompt some deadbeat dads to fight back down the road, claiming a medical condition based on hormonal imbalances.

Meanwhile, it’s been 8 years since my last child’s birth: Al Roker, how can I get this Mallomar-and-pepper monkey off my back?

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