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Giving Birth....Reality TV style

I’ve discovered a new reality TV show so gripping it’s a job to tear myself away from it. There’s no singing, fire-eating, enhanced cleavages or chiselled blokes offering roses. It’s amongst other things, pure, unadulterated footage of real women giving birth.

I’m a latecomer to One Born Every Minute – a show, now in its second series, which aired for the first time last year and follows expectant parents and staff during the daily ins and outs (pardon the pun) of pre and post natal life in a British maternity hospital.

Unable to view the series in its entirety on-line, I’ve been content just browsing the series website and watching the various videos available. Amazing that after just five minutes yesterday, I was exhausted from watching both a natural and assisted birth, a C-section and a same-sex couple discussing the pros and cons of sperm donation.  All in the time it’d usually take me to make a cup of tea.

You’re drawn to the parents featured in the show instantly and can follow each of their pregnancy and childbirth journeys, riding along with them through the highs and lows of their experiences. One expectant dad talks about he and his wife’s struggles through IVF, a labouring teenage mum-to-be is calmed only by her equally as teenage boyfriend whispering to her. It’s real life without the varnish you’ll see on fictitious shows - it’s pregnancy with stretch marks and swollen ankles, it’s labour with bad hair, curse words, bowel movements and stitches.

The viewer’s spared seeing too much. But just enough to witness and then experience the emotional tidal wave which engulfs new parents as they are handed their babies for the first time.  It is raw, compelling and beautiful.

As I watched intrigued, Husband N ran through from the living room at one point in a panic asking what the noise was. I hadn’t considered that the screaming and wailing accompanying women in the final throes of birthing might interrupt his viewing of American Idol. ‘Child birth,’ I sniffled through my tears, pointing at my computer screen. He rolled his eyes and left me to it.

So what is it about child birth that brings me out all teary? It’s not just the being a parent and already having gone through it part – I watched a similar show when I was pregnant with Eliza and it had the same effect – I was a sobbing mess. I guess it’s that understanding – the camaraderie shared, that unity, that sameness with other women. Pregnancy and childbirth are quite simply two of the most overwhelming and emotional experiences a person can go through.

As women, we’ll all have different pregnancy and labour experiences but what, God willing, follows the immediate birth of our babies – that rush, that ‘I did it’, that momentary forgetfulness of the gruelling labour that has gone before, that primal ferocity of instinctual love, that baby we made - is surely one of life’s most enchanting – and unifying – moments.

After Eliza was born we were lucky to have lots of well-wishing friends visit once we got settled at home. There were a couple of mum friends, now with older kids who were just desperate to hold my newborn and once they had her in their arms, I watched as they began to cry. Cradling Eliza they were transported back to that time when they’d gone through all that pregnancy and birthing to holding their ultimate prize. I so get it. I can’t see friends’ newborns now and not be thankful for the waterproof mascara. These babies are such gifts and seeing or holding them only reaffirms for me how truly lucky I am to be a mother and furthermore, to be expecting again.

I believe a US version of the show is coming to our screens soon or is certainly in the pipeline. Until then, check out the UK show’s website. And be sure to have some Kleenex handy....