THIS SEEMS as good a time as any to rail anew against the most massive fraud ever perpetrated on the American public: the concept of natural childbirth.
With the birth of our third child expected in May, my wife and I are often approached by well-meaning but dim-witted individuals who, desperately fighting through the fog that has enveloped their brains, note that my wife's stomach has ballooned to the size of Desert Storm commander Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf's.
Then these individuals arch an eyebrow and ask in that syrupy, Earth Mother voice whether we'll be attending refresher childbirth classes.
Nine times out of 10, there isn't a two-by-four lying around that you can use to whack these people across the forehead.
So suppressing our irritation, we explain that no, if it's all right with you, Mr. or Ms. Busybody, we WON'T be attending refresher childbirth classes.
And the reason we WON'T is that this would be sort of like attending refresher classes in: "Time: How to Waste It in Idleness and Sloth."
The idea that deep-breathing exercises, instructional films of the "Our Friend the Cervix" variety and spirited discussions of the uterus will help when an 8-lb. child begins inching down a narrow birth canal is, of course, preposterous.
So when the big day arrives and my wife goes into labor, we will calmly drive to the hospital. We will calmly wait out the initial contractions as we did during the births of our first two children: with her moaning and angrily throwing cups of shaved ice when I (politely) ask her to keep the noise down so I can hear the TV.
And when the labor pains finally intensify, why, we will calmly drop to our knees and beg our obstetrician for massive quantities of drugs.
Whether my wife takes them or not is her business; me, I'll be wolfing down everything I get my hands on.
I expect some good stuff, too: Morphine, ether, Johnny Walker Black. (Worse comes to worse, I'll settle for someone knocking me out with a croquet mallet.)
The irony of childbirth classes is that they continue to ensnare wave after wave of unsuspecting parents-to-be, even though natural childbirth has been largely discredited (it seems to me) as a propaganda tool of touchy-feely ex-hippies, leftists and New Age prophets.
The classes themselves begin on an eerie note, with the arrival of any number of tense, unsmiling couples lugging -- of all things -- pillows under their arms.
Impromptu pajama party? Tragic outbreak of narcolepsy? Bizarre satanic ritual wherein one chanting partner smothers the other as an old Doors album wails in the background?
Who knows? First the couples must endure a dreary orientation speech/pep talk, delivered by some wild-eyed birthing instructor (usually named "Susie" for reasons that are not exactly clear.)
In the breathless, chirpy tones of a career Moonie, Susie will attempt to convince the couples in a disjointed 20-minute address that:
1 -- Natural childbirth -- which has been likened to having one's pelvic region pulled apart by teams of sturdy oxen -- is the greatest experience of a woman's life.
2 -- Inhaling and exhaling properly can largely replace powerful narcotics in masking the pain of childbirth.
3 -- The male partner is every bit as important to the birthing process as the female, and should put the sports section down long enough to offer emotional support and serve as breathing "coach."
Well. Dazed and reeling from this subversive gibberish, the couples must then sit through a series of grainy, full-color movies of a baby being born, which generally rival the Battle of Gettysburg for blood-flow content.
Often pictures or plastic models of a woman's reproductive system are passed around the room and examined with an air of clinical detachment, as if they were sale items at a Tupperware party.
By now even the most gung-ho, "no-drugs-for-us" couples are generally in a state of intense emotional upheaval. With the adrenalin surging and their bodies in full "fight-or-flight" response, many will flee the room in terror. Some will actually hurl themselves through the plasterboard walls, leaving a cartoon-like silhouette and smoke trails in their wake.
Those too numb to make a run for it are doomed to a pointless series of deep-breathing exercises, with Susie --ing about the room like a fox terrier on Methedrine squeaking: "Peggy and Ralph, you're doing great!"
God help us all.