Anyone watching ‘One Born Every Minute’ - whether you’ve given birth yourself or not - will probably have a lot of questions. Mainly, do they really not mind that there are cameras recording every groan and grunt?
Now, 32-year-old midwife Harriet Fisher, who has worked in the NHS since 2008 and is currently stationed at Birmingham Women’s Hospital, shares what it is really like to work on the show.
The mother of one daughter, Esther, shares the most heartwarming birth she’s ever witnessed as well as the weirder things that happens on a maternity ward.
What was the most heartwarming birth you’ve witnessed?
When the snow was really bad before Christmas I looked after a lady who recently arrived from Pakistan and spoke no English. It was hard to talk to her and it was the middle of the night so I couldn’t get a translator. She had relatives with her. They were very supportive but had different ideas about how they thought the birth would be. I think they thought she would need more pain relief than she did which is totally fair enough.
Anyway, she didn’t like the gas and air so I offered her the pool. She got in and laboured with such power. She progressed really quickly and did not have any further pain relief. I brought her baby up to the surface of the pool and passed her to her incredible mummy. The snow was falling thickly outside and she proceeded to do something I have never seen before - she howled with laughter. It was so loud she filled the birth centre with her joyous whoops.
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It was the utter joy of having given birth with no assistance and such control and power that made her laugh herself to tears. I have never witnessed anyone laugh, especially this passionately and loudly as soon as I passed them their newborn child. It was glorious. We did not have a word in common but we laughed so hard together. It materialised, later, that she had been watching lots of clips on YouTube of spontaneous births and a water birth was the birth she had dreamed of.
What happens a lot on maternity wards that people wouldn’t expect?
The thing that seems to surprise people most, especially first time parents, is how long early labour can take. Women can experience irregular, sometimes quite painful, contractions for several days before establishing in full blown labour. This worries them because it is often hard to sleep. But it is very normal.
We recommend lots of rest, food and fluids to maintain energy levels. If women are well and in a healthy pregnancy then we do not recommend they are in hospital at this stage, hormones that are produced by being in the safe, familiar environment of home help contractions to build.
Have you had any unusual requests from people?
I once looked after a couple who loved death metal and really wanted to listen to plenty of it, very loudly during the birth of their child. I was happy as long as I could hear their baby’s heartbeat when I listened to it and as long as they understood we may need to turn it down or off in an emergency.
How comfortable are couples with the cameras?
They become as comfortable as we are! The cameras are wall mounted and very much fade into the background. We all get used to them very quickly.
Do couples ever want the cameras to stop rolling?
I did not come across this during the filming. However, I know that the One Born Every Minute team are extremely understanding. They make it very clear that if any point couples wish to withdraw consent for filming, this will be totally respected and the filming will stop.
Is there anything during filming that surprised you?
This sounds awful but I was surprised by how nice everyone was! I don’t know what I was expecting but the One Born team became part of our team. We all got on really well and we missed them when they were gone. Everyone was really approachable and really open to suggestions from us.
Do you think the show creates fear about birth for women watching?
I think the show is in a very privileged position. It has the opportunity to educate everyone about what birth is really like. Birth can be immensely empowering and life-changing for all the right reasons. It can be the making of a woman, a couple or a family. Birth can also be very scary.
I don’t think One Born Every Minute creates fear any more than it shows how powerful women are. It shows love at its rawest moments. It also shows how frightening the process of becoming a parent can be.
Is it helpful for women to see other women giving birth before they do it?
I think it entirely depends on the individual. Some people benefit hugely from educating themselves by watching footage of birth and reading information about birth. They watch YouTube clips or shows like One Born Every Minute to help them understand what to expect. Some people choose not to do this and use instinct as their guide.
Midwives are there to help guide women through labour and birth and therefore we can provide any support and answer any questions. I think experiencing labour and birth yourself is entirely different to watching it.
One Born Every Minute starts on Wednesday 7th March on Channel 4 at 9pm