One Born Every Minute: Why Would Anyone Watch Childbirth Unless They Had To?

14/08/2014 16:47 | Updated 22 May 2015

Why would anyone watch child birth unless they had to?

The much-hyped documentary, One Born Every Minute - a programme 'focused on providing helpful insights into the realities of giving birth' - is into its fourth series, and I continue to be amazed by its popularity. Why would anyone want to witness the 'realities of giving birth', unless they absolutely had to?

When the documentary first came out a few years ago, I watched it for about 10 minutes before feeling compelled to turn over, for the sake of my sanity.


The sight of a labouring and tearful lady in her dressing gown, pacing the hospital corridors in agony, in a bid to dilate past 2cm (a stage she had been at for the last eight hours), while her pale and frantic husband timed contractions, was not enjoyable viewing for me.


And yes, I suppose it was quite interesting hearing about how her and her husband had met, how many guests they had at their wedding, and how she had come to be pregnant in the first place, but not enough to make me want to sit and watch her go through the consequences – the trauma of labour and childbirth.

Knowing exactly what this poor lady was going though (having been through it twice myself), I felt utmost sympathy for her: the waiting, the agony, the worry, the uncertainty, the nerves, the dreary hospital curtains, the leather chairs, the big white menacing birthing pools, the beeping machines, the stress of midwives muttering about baselines and heart rates, the drugs and the drips, and the doctor arriving on the scene at a sprint, wielding what looked like a sink plunger.

Not to mention the other groaning women on the ward, rocking on birthing balls or clinging onto their birth partner's hands or face during contractions, and wondering when the heck their baby was going to come out.

Being in labour is not a time I want to remember, and watching this documentary made me feel like I was going through it all over again.

The one thing that got me through my own labour was the overwhelming excitement of meeting my baby. However, watching One Born is a bit like being a birth partner, over and over again. You sit there witnessing woman after woman going through hell. You watch midwives deliberate over heart-rates that are too fast or too slow, you fear for the mother and unborn baby's safety; and you wish to god that you can have a go on that gas and air to make you feel 'less there' and numb the stress of it all.

I was a birth partner for my best friend a couple of years ago and although I felt unbelievably honoured to have been asked to be part of such an intimate and magic thing, I bloody hope that no one ever asks me again. I swear that I found it harder going through my friend's birth, than I did my own.

Being the spectator, the helper, you are very sober and very aware. However, being the birthing mother, provided you have enough gas and air, you can feel like you have entered a different plane – and sometimes it can feel quite nice - in fact I had a positively euphoric experience on it.

The whole experience made me feel far more sympathetic towards my husband and what he must have gone though.

So why, oh why, do people tune in every week to watch numerous women going through this ordeal?

A friend of mine, Emily, a mother of one, tells me: "I LOVE One Born Every Minute! I watched it religiously when I was pregnant and found it brilliant and strangely reassuring to see all those women get through their births. For me, knowledge was power!"

However, for me, ignorance was bliss. I am so thankful that this programme wasn't around when I was pregnant for the first time. Seeing what it was really like would have absolutely terrified me and I would have spent my entire pregnancy in a state of panic and fear.

When I was pregnant with my eldest daughter Betty, I swanned around patting my ever-expanding bump, in a little bubble. Friends would ask if I was worried about the labour or birth, and I would always say no. I honestly wondered what all the fuss was about. How hard or painful could it be, for goodness sake? Having endured several laparoscopies, and fallen on a pint glass and nearly bled to death, I felt like I could take on anything.

Plus my mum had always maintained that the pain you experience during childbirth is a 'positive and happy pain' and therefore does not hurt. Now I have to ask myself whether she said this so as not to worry me, or whether time (38 years) really does just make you forget.

Another friend, Anna, mother of two, told me that she was recently feeling broody, and was contemplating a third baby. However, when she watched One Born Every Minute, "All feelings of broodiness quickly evaporated. My husband is very thankful for that programme!"

I watched One Born, from beginning to end, last Thursday night - purely for research purposes. And I do have to admit that when the baby finally put in his slippery appearance I felt very emotional, watching the parents meeting their offspring for the first time. I may have even shed a tear. There is obviously no getting away from the fact that the birth of baby is the most incredible thing in the world.


But it is most definitely not worth the 50 minutes of uncomfortable viewing for the sake of one tear. Next time I want to cry slightly I'll just go and chop an onion or poke myself in the eye with a pen.


Because it's not like we don't know what the outcome is going to be on these programmes. If one of the mothers gave birth to a calf or a kitten, that might be quite interesting. But no, it's always the same ending.

Forget 'One Born Every Minute' and the agony of childbirth. I would much rather settle down with a bottle of wine, watch the film One Day every night, and drool over Dexter Mayhew...

What do you think? Are you a One Born Every Minute fan or would you rather chop onions or watch anything else?

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