We were having a fine time at a party recently when one of the guests casually mentioned that he and his pregnant wife had signed up for childbirth classes.
As you can imagine, this announcement brought the festivities to a grinding halt.
Suddenly people were quietly stirring their drinks and staring down at their shoes, everyone wondering who exactly had allowed this boob in the house.
Not wishing to cause a scene, I somehow refrained from whacking the guy over the head with a nearby skillet.
We can beat him up later, I thought. First let's try to talk some sense into him. His wife is probably one of these dewey-eyed Earth Mother types who's too far gone, but maybe we can save this poor sap before it's too late.
The fact is that the concept of natural childbirth is the most massive fraud ever perpetrated on the American public.
The idea that deep-breathing exercises and grainy instructional films along the lines of "Our Friend the Cervix" can help when a 9-lb. baby begins inching down a birth canal the size of a garden hose is, of course, preposterous.
Any thinking person could see that. And as combat-hardened veteran (although not nearly as combat-hardened as my wife) of three deliveries, the last one only a year ago, let me say this: You can take that deep-breathing stuff and toss it out with the trash.
The fact is, if I were conducting childbirth classes, the classes themselves would last approximately 10 seconds.
After welcoming each couple with a firm handshake, I'd say: "Tell your doctor you want drugs. Thanks for coming. Please drive home safely."
And that would be that. Within minutes the couples would be pulling out of the driveway and I'd be back watching "Seinfeld," secure in the knowledge that I had just dispensed the very best advice possible.
The irony of childbirth classes is that they continue to ensnare millions of unsuspecting parents-to-be, even though natural childbirth has been largely discredited (it seems to me) as a propaganda tool of weirdos, leftists, burnt-out ex-hippies and touchy-feely New Age shamans.
The classes themselves begin on a disquieting note with the arrival of a number of tense, unsmiling couples lugging -- of all things -- pillows under their arms.
Impromptu pajama party? Massive outbreak of narcolepsy? Bizarre satanic ritual wherein one chanting partner attempts to smother the other while an old Rolling Stones album wails in the background?
First the couples must endure a dreary orientation speech/pep talk delivered by some wild-eyed birthing instructor, who is usually named "Susie" for reasons that are not exactly clear.
In the breathless, chirpy tones of a Mary Kay cosmetics dealer, Susie will launch into a disjointed 20-minute address, attempting to convince the couples that:
1. Natural childbirth, which has been likened to having one's pelvic region pulled apart by two teams of sturdy oxen, is the greatest experience of a woman's life.
2. Inhaling and exhaling properly (this is my favorite bit of nonsense) 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, instead of reading the sports section or discussing the new Chevy trucks with an intern, he should offer emotional support and serve as "breathing coach."
Whew. Understandably dazed and reeling from this gibberish, the couples are then forced to sit through a harsh, full-color tape of a baby being born, which generally rivals the Battle of Iwo Jima for blood-flow content.
Things get even more surreal when the lights snap back on. Now pictures and 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 their bodies now in full flight-or-fight response, many will flee the room in terror, some going so far as to hurl themselves through the picture window if the exits are jammed up.
Those too numb to make a run for it are doomed to a pointless series of deep-breathing exercises on the pillows, with Susie --ing about the room like a Chihuahua on Dexedrine and squeeking: "Debbie and Phil, you're doing great!"
And you wonder why the birth rate is going down.