It's easy to understand why the old baby-delivery-by-stork story was invented. If the unvarnished truth had gotten out, the human race would have come to a dead stop millions of years ago.

Unfortunately, it isn't until the prospective mother knows the facts about the birth process that she can 1) make a well-informed decision to go forth and multiply, or 2) adopt as her personal credo the immortal words of Butterfly McQueen: "I ain't birthin' no babies!"

Prepare to be enlightened, future moms, as I give you "Big Mike's Complete and Unexpurgated Step-By-Step Guide to Childbirth."

The word "delivery" comes from the Latin "liberate," meaning "to set free" and those Latins weren't kidding around. Never will your sense of freedom be so acute as when the child who's been drop-kicking your pancreas for the past nine months is dragged screaming from his prenatal stomping grounds.

At the onset of labor, your baby is beginning his journey down the birth canal to the exit point. Most physicians claim this distance is only four or five inches, but doctors are notorious liars

who do not want to risk alienating anyone who owes them large sums of money. As any woman who's given birth will confirm, the actual distance is roughly equal to that between Salt Lake City and Omaha by way of Interstate 80.

In a traditional hospital, you'll be transferred to a sterilized delivery table. In an untraditional hospital, they may substitute a fleshly lemon-Pledged coffee table or, heck, maybe a bed of burning coals. In any event, you won't care. Believe me.

At full cervical dilation, the doctor will advise you to push when you feel the urge which is just as silly as telling an amateur boxer to duck when he feels the urge. There are occasions when the human body does not require verbal reminders, and this is one of them.

In the traditional delivery position, the woman lies on her back with legs up and held apart in stirrups. Today, however, some birth attendants encourage women to find a more comfortable position.

Do not fall for this cruel practical joke.

There is no such thing as a comfortable position when another human being is crawling through your most sensitive orifice from the inside out.

The doctor may need to perform an episiotomy to ease the delivery of the baby's head. If he informs you that this procedure will be necessary, do not ask, "What's an episiotomy?" His reply will compel you to bolt from the hospital, perfectly content to remain pregnant for the rest of your life.

The delivery of the baby's head may cause an unpleasant sensation not unlike that commonly inflicted upon prisoners of war suspected of carrying top-secret microfilm. On the plus side, your desperate pleas to be put out of your misery will be ignored.

With the next contraction, the rest of the baby will emerge. Some newborns will take their first breath and begin to cry. Others will look around, get a good load of Mom and Dad, and try to work themselves back up the birth canal. Still others will promptly demand you buy them something.

By the way, the old physician's practice of holding the newborn by his heels and giving him a slap is outdated and now believed to cause trauma to the baby.

However, it is still common for the mother to hold her husband by the heels and giving him a slap, just in case he's thinking of putting her through this again.

Once the umbilical cord is located and cut a relatively simple process except in those cases where a spelunker's helmet is required a brand-new family member will be placed in your arms.

And if your insurance coverage is average, both of you will be immediately ushered to the parking lot.

Welcome to parenthood.

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