So there we were, watching the passing summer parade, two over-25 chicks, one a mother, one not, wondering how, or when, or why the bellies of pregnant women became not just a fashion statement but a prominent … accessory.

Had we blinked? Or, in the interim, morphed into prudish killjoys?

No more tastefully tenty, baggy, modest, form-disguising “maternity clothing” worn by pregnant women. Instead, not to be gross, but hordes of expectant mothers suddenly walking around major metro areas, and probably everywhere else, too, in skimpy, blatantly tight-fitting breeders’ stretch-togs making them look like they’ve swallowed a prominently displayed oversized medicine-ball in the name of advancing the species.

A block from my house, there’s even a trendy maternity-clothing boutique named – you got it – BELLY!

Granted, we believe the body is beautiful in its multifarious forms, but does that mean mandatory letting it all hang out? Whatever happened to muumuus, djellabas, ponchos, smocks, um, bagginess? “I saw one pregnant woman in a mini-skirt that left so little to the imagination,” my friend recalls, “I wanted to tell her to go home and change.”

Maybe such effrontery’s a boastful branch of the pro-life movement? As in: If you’ve got it, flaunt it? Perhaps I should have paid more attention when AOL showed belly-painting photographs. What was that about? Homage to that very pregnant Demi Moore once posing nude on the cover of Vanity Fair?

But wait – before you get the idea we’re a pair of twisted sisters, let me disabuse you of that misapprehension.

Somehow, this flaunting-your-belly thing seems to be a parallel universe to those “I had an abortion” T-shirts: If Planned Parenthood can make terminating a pregnancy into a short, punchy slogan sounding like a travel destination, why can’t pregnant women publicly celebrate their status?

I wish I believed that.

But, quite candidly, just as I hold the opinion children should be seen and not heard, I feel the same way about pregnant women, in reverse – they should be heard and not seen, at least for the duration of their, um, confinement.

So I ask: Suddenly, pregnant women’s bellies seem a hot fashion item. Gone are baggy maternity clothes modestly hiding the body. Now the belly itself gets displayed by tight clothing rather than tastefully tenty stuff. What do you think?

“Adelaide,” a lapsed archaeologist, married, without children, notes: “Sex, it’s all about sex! The hideous bag dresses were supposed to conceal the evidence women had Done It. Then for a while, late ’60s and early ’70s, pregnant women wore cutesy, floaty, frilly dresses with no maturity, meant to suggest innocence. Then came professional maternity wear: Spend a senseless amount of money and ignore the whole thing. Now pregnant women go great lengths to remind the world they’re still hot chicks – a lot more honest than pretending to be virgins.”

“Pina,” a Pacific Northwest insurance proprietor, married and a mother of two, suggests: “Amazingly, it was just becoming trendy when the hot celebrities were sporting their round bellies. It all started when Uma Thurman became pregnant – fashion designers felt she’d change the industry on the baggy tasteful clothing from the past. Their feeling was of course to embrace your womanhood while allowing nature to expose your femininity. But it’s way more important to have a healthy baby than worry about the clothing one wears.”

Psychotherapist Pam Ladds, New York State, declares: “Women have no reason to hide their bodies just because they are pregnant. They look beautiful. Do we only want women-children to be displayed? Is it the impregnators who have a problem with this? Is it too scary for them? Might they have to share what they think is ‘theirs’ with a baby? The New Taliban striking again?”

While “Shaneal,” a married artist on the Atlantic Coast, demurs: “No way around this one – human gestation cannot be made pretty.”

When did this belly-flaunting begin? “Years ago,” Pam Ladds suggests. “Probably as the Britney bimbo fashions started. If everyone else can show off underwear, why not display a neat belly? I think one of the fascinating things about it is the fact it does raise questions. No one questions women made to look as if they were children in tiny clothes. But a pregnant woman looks like a woman, not a child. So of course it gets questioned. After all, women may have minds of their own and not just be compliant kids.”

They look like that goddess, what’s her name, the eggplant-shaped one, Venus of Willendorf. They look like that.

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.