On Feb. 5, Gail Aquino of Rockville, who was 8.999 months pregnant, went to her mother-in-law's house for dinner. Topping the menu: spaghetti, covered with a special sauce that contained a little of everything in the refrigerator. It was a family favorite.

But this time, one of the ingredients in the sauce had gone bad. Within hours, Gail's stomach had turned into a whirling dervish. She did her best to remain in one piece, "but I was sick, very sick."

So wouldn't you know it? About 24 hours later, still feeling like a limp dishrag, Gail began having contractions. At least she thought so. So husband Jim packed her into the car at 3 a.m. and set out for the Washington Hospital Center.

By dawn, however, the Aquinos were heading home again. The hospital staff told Gail that the "contractions" were actually gas pains -- a ripple effect of having vomited so much.

Gail slept all the next morning and afternoon. But every time she awoke and walked around, the "gas pains" returned.

In an attempt to distract herself that evening, Gail sat down to watch "Winds of War" on television.

More "gas pains."

At 11:17 p.m., when the Channel 4 weather ended, Gail tucked in her two sons, Christopher (age 4 1/2) and Matthew (28 months).

More "gas pains."

But at 11:20, Gail suddenly realized that the pains had nothing to do with gas, or with spaghetti sauce.

"My water broke," she says, "and I realized the baby was coming down the birth canal. Right then. I mean, right then!"

Gail hurriedly awakened her husband. He called the rescue squad. A three-man crew arrived at 11:31. But they were too late.

At 11:29, Elizabeth Louise Aquino -- all 6 pounds 7 ounces and 20 inches of her -- had been delivered into this mad, mad world by none other than her startled dad.

Mother and daughter are doing well, the former reports, which is mighty good news.

Almost as good: the family has started joking about spaghetti sauce again.