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When Life Begins...
One Born Every Minute
Member Name: jo1976
One Born Every Minute
Date: 25/03/10, updated on 10/02/13 (157 review reads)
Advantages: Gripping viewing showing differing experiences of labour, positive portrayal of births
Disadvantages: May put some people off having babies!
Every minute of every day, a baby is born in Britain - so we are told every week by a fascinating 'fly-on-the-wall' Channel Four TV series. 'One Born Every Minute' is an eight part series following the day to day events of a maternity hospital in Southampton and is currently showing on Channel Four on Tuesday evenings at 9pm, with the last in the series due to air on 30th March.
Each episode tends to focus on the labour (and subsequent births) of two women which is interspersed with interviews with the midwives involved who offer some insight into their role and their experiences. Given that I am already a mother to two young children and am currently expecting my third (and final) child, I have a particular personal interest in this topic but I would still be totally absorbed in this series even if I wasn't pregnant.
The beauty of the series is that it shows just how different and unpredictable each labour can be, which is far removed from the impression of childbirth shown on your average soap opera, for instance. (Where the woman's waters break and baby pops out in some totally inappropriate place within minutes!) Some of the labours filmed seem to drag on endlessly until the happy outcome. Others end quite dramatically if, for instance, an emergency Cesarean section is deemed necessary to safeguard the welfare of the child or mother. It can be really gripping viewing.
I find watching the series an exhausting emotional and physical experience as I can totally empathise with the individual women as they are going through their labours. At the end of each episode I am completely drained, as though I have given birth as well. I get so tense and am willing the mums to push with all my might that I'm almost pushing with them. I can particularly empathise with the mothers towards the end of a long, slow labour when they are just totally physically (and mentally) exhausted and they are being cajoled (if not bullied) by the midwives to carry on pushing.
I find the series to be an incredibly accurate portrayal of the realities of childbirth and the hospital experience but one which has reinforced my generally positive impression of the midwifery profession, in general. The midwives featured reveal their own feelings and personalities as well as demonstrating the day to day realities of the job, including such unpleasant tasks as attempting to break a woman's waters or even sniffing her pants! All of the midwives just seem to exude that sense of efficacy and confidence, which is exactly what you hope for when you are at your most vulnerable and in a hell of a lot of pain.
For my husband and I, this series has given us a real opportunity to talk about our own experiences and preferences when it comes to labour. I certainly appreciate his role as 'birth partner' much more since watching this series, particularly as most of the fathers featured have been pretty inept. At best, the fathers appear to be pretty useless and, at worst, downright insensitive and a right hindrance. After seeing this series, I'm not surprised that some medical professionals are of the opinion that fathers should not necessarily be present at the births of their babies. As for the father in one of the early episodes who thought it was funny to tickle his labouring wife with a blown up glove and then try and lock her in the toilet - he certainly wouldn't go on to father any more children if he was married to me!
The series, as well as being entertaining and compelling viewing, also has a genuine educative value. There are many aspects of labour and birth filmed and discussed that are not always common knowledge and this helps to raise awareness and understanding of some of the possible issues and potential difficulties during labour. I think this is invaluable viewing for all mums-to-be as well as (if not especially) their partners. I've certainly learnt a lot about childbirth just from watching this series, although it is perhaps a little too late for me to be saying that I never want to go through all that again at this moment in time! (Maybe this series could work as a contraceptive device too?) The series also touches on some of the rarer experiences by following a baby born with some of their internal organs outside of the body and filming within the neo-natal ward to follow some babies born prematurely. Everything is filmed with complete sensitivity and without any sense of exploitation of the families and individuals involved.
I really do feel for the brave couples for allowing cameras (and God knows how many millions of viewers) to share in such an intimate moment of their lives, not to mention having people passing judgement on the state of their relationship. As well as following the birth experience, the series also shows snippets of interviews with the couples filmed before and after the birth which shows just how different their expectations turn out to be from reality. Having watched this series, perhaps people might have slightly more realistic expectations about the birthing experience or, at least, have greater insight into the complexities of what is still believed to be a 'natural' experience.
I would recommend anybody who hasn't already been following this series avidly to view some of the episodes online, as it is a series that should not be missed. All episodes can be viewed via the Channel Four website: http://lifebegins.channel4.com/the-tv-series/
Summary: Compelling viewing