Immaculate conception

I'm going to film my son's birth and pitch it as a gritty, fly-on-the-wall piece to Channel 4.

This is probably my final column as a non-dad. Any day now, my wife will give birth to our first child. Her waters will break in a dramatic fashion, most likely as she's walking around the supermarket. Events will then proceed at an unstoppable pace until she's lying on her back on a hospital bed. Doctors will monitor her constantly, checking figures on screens and noting them down on clipboards. When the baby emerges, he will be clean and presentable, exactly like a doll. Then we'll go home - having fitted the car seat with no difficulties at all - and settle into a life of immaculate domestic cosiness.

At least, that's what I understand happens from the times I've seen childbirth depicted on TV and in films. But over the course of our antenatal classes, given by a genial, no-nonsense midwife called Viv who says things like "Can someone pass me my woolly model of the womb?", I've come to realise how unreliable nearly all those accounts have been.

I know, I know - television industry in "not entirely faithful to reality" shocker! But all the same, did you know that many women's waters don't break till they are in hospital? Or that lying on your back is now thought to be a difficult position to give birth in, and a huge number of women choose to hang on to a rope, or immerse themselves in water? And that babies normally arrive an alarming colour and covered in all sorts of unsightly gunk? And that they're really small and can't do a bloody thing for themselves and don't even have any money on them?

OK, maybe you did know some of that. But it seems to me that the entertainment industry does a worryingly good job of sanitising childbirth, as with a lot of un-photogenic subjects - sex (people in films appear to keep most of their clothes on), bodily functions (never happen on the big screen), death (normally confronted with placid resignation, rather than the shrieks of existential horror I'm planning). Along with all the features on stars who have "got their figures back" and are jogging along Sunset Strip 11 minutes after giving birth to triplets, the generally tidy births presented in our fiction do a disservice to mothers-to-be. Not to mention the most important people of all: the dads. Me.

What's the solution to this? One comes to mind: I'm going to film my son's birth and pitch it as a gritty, fly-on-the-wall piece to Channel 4. My wife isn't in on this plan yet, but when she thinks of the profile boost, I'm sure she'll go for it. And by the time it gets on to TV, the ugly parts will miraculously have disappeared and the "greatest day of our lives" - as it's been hailed by a number of relatives, unfamiliar with the idea of tempting fate - will be just like Hollywood promised us: efficient, mess-free, and over in about four minutes.

Mark Watson is a stand-up comedian and novelist. His most recent book, Crap at the Environment, follows his own efforts to halve his carbon footprint over one year.

This article first appeared in the 08 February 2010 issue of the New Statesman, Nightmare on Cameron Street