One Born Every Minute
Six series in and you would have thought One Born Every Minute had run its course. After all, how many times can you watch a woman give birth and still find it interesting? At least its sister show, 24 Hours In A & E, has different ailments and procedures to follow each week to keep it fresh and interesting. And yet, One Born continues to amaze and enthral week in week out, reducing millions of us to quivering wrecks as bundles of joy are delivered to a vast array of couples from across the social spectrum. It hit its stride from the very first programme, with its simple premise and unfussy format. Each week we follow two or three couples, no film crews just remotely controlled static cameras in the delivery suites, interspersed with talking head interviews with the parents and the staff. It’s to the producers credit that they haven’t tried to tinker with the format and jazz it up, they realise it isn’t broke so why try to fix it.
This week we had three couples to be virtual birthing partners to. Rob and Sarah – their first baby together, he worked out six times a week, used to be an alcoholic and was the size of a small bungalow covered in tattoos; she was impossibly glamorous for a woman in labour and ensured that her make-up was perfect at all times. Rob really didn’t want to be there and when they went into the birthing suite he told her “you’re gonna smash it out now!” Rob wasn’t the sensitive type. There was a dispute over the name, he wanted Zeus (a lot for a baby to live up to) she wanted Dexter (hopefully she wasn’t thinking of the TV show). Eventually the moment came. She didn’t even break a sweat; he surprisingly shed one tear, and little baby Zeus Dexter arrived in the world. There’s nothing like compromise.
Kate and Olly were the polar opposites of Rob and Sarah. Sensitive types who like camping and going to festivals. They opted for a hypno birth, something new for the show, which involved a lot of positive whispering and a special vocabulary that meant words like “pain” weren’t allowed to be used. It worked for them though. Balancing face down on a giant ball, with no screaming and shouting, Kate quietly gave birth to little India. Olly had his top off straight away to bond with his new daughter. Rob would have been horrified.
Finally Rachael and Marion turned up with twins on the way. A lesbian couple, they described finding a sperm donor as like shopping for a baby on Amazon. Sounds great, but I’m guessing the returns policy isn’t the same. They had complications, as the babies weren’t growing at the expected rate Rachel was rushed in for an emergency caesarean. An almost unbearably tense operation followed as the medical team did all they could to get the babies out and make sure they were healthy. When they did arrive, they were almost impossibly small. Wilbert weighed in at 2lb 15oz, while Caitlin was hardly any heavier than a pound of butter. It’s stories like this that keep us watching in our millions. When we saw Caitlin in her incubator, with arms the size of a finger, some maternal or paternal instinct in us all kicks in and it’s impossible not to be caught up in the uplifting, inspiring and sometimes heart-breaking human drama that the show delivers every week.
With One Born Every Minute and 24 Hours In A & E, Channel 4 has two of the most compelling documentary strands currently on British TV. The sheer simplicity of the format, coupled with the fascinating human stories on show strike a chord with the widest possible audience. Amazingly it’s the fathers that usually have the biggest emotional impact on viewers. No matter how butch and manly they appear to be on entering the hospital, when their baby pops out even the hardest of them melts. If you haven’t got kids, or even have no intention of having any, the show will still end up getting under your skin, and I defy you to sit through any episode without shedding at least one tear.