Have You Been Watching…One Born Every Minute?

"Ok, own up- who fed this baby helium?"

By Kate Diamond

‘For seven weeks Channel 4 filmed around the clock in a busy maternity hospital to find out what it really feels like to bring new life into the world,’ boast the opening credits.

Well, not what it really feels like. 21st century technology is incredible and, while HDTV can accurately depict life as one of Noel Edmonds’ beard crumbs, it can’t replicate the sensation of a fully dilated cervix. And nor should it strive to.

That said, the cameras at the Clarendon Wing of Leeds General Hospital do seem to have captured the requisite mix of screaming women, gunky newborns and midwives drinking tea from comedically large mugs.

Despite the close up shots of placentae, OBEM makes for unexpectedly compelling viewing- so much so that it’s been a smash hit for Channel 4 and has recently made the obligatory jump to the US (complete with frankly awful promotional posters that make it look like a below-par Reese Witherspoon comedy).

Back here in the UK, we have down to Earth midwife Louise Holt to preside over the madness.

‘“There’s a real difference in how partners approach labour’ she narrates, by way of exposition. ‘Some are really enthusiastic and supportive. Some don’t want to know and wish they weren’t there.’

Ok Louise, got it. Classic good cop/bad cop. The rest will undoubtedly become clear from the highly edited back stories and sound bites.

In the blue corner, enter Tricia and Steven, one of the couples from last night’s episode. Steven immediately makes a play for the role of Hero Husband, being protective in a non-nauseating way and throwing around words of encouragement like ‘you’re doing super’ the way only a Yorkshireman can.

Tricia, who sustained a brain injury from an accident in her teens, and is possibly the nicest girl you’ll ever hope to meet, reciprocates with classics like ‘I’ve never pushed a baby out before.’ And, when told by a midwife ‘I’m going to put these two fingers into your vagina’, comes back with the only true and proper response of ‘Urgh!’

The husband of couple number two, back-footed before they’ve even begun, gallantly opens with ‘I can father a child from just looking at somebody’. His eyes add the ‘bow chicka wow wow’, as women of child bearing age up and down the country mentally check they took their pill this morning.

Halinka and Richard approach the birth of their fifth child with inspirational quotes including ‘wake me up when it’s out’ (him), ‘I can’t believe I’ve done this over and over. I swear to god, why can I never learn?’ (her) and ‘If we get a little girl, our son will be really gutted’ (both, as a running theme). Richard also spends a good portion of the show making blow job references with the gas and air. Classic.

There seems some disagreement to whether Halinka’s ‘instant childbirth condition’ is actually spontaneous or just fast. A passing midwife speculates her waters have probably broken. But then good to her word, she catapults a 7lb baby out while said midwife is still drying off the hand mirror. All that’s left is for the couple to enjoy this special time together, and make birth announcements to the rest of their excited family.

As her tiny new baby naps on her chest, Halinka phones her son with the wonderful news, ‘I’m sorry, it’s a girl.’ Sweet. Meanwhile Tricia, who’s also just delivered a little girl, exclaims ‘I love her!’ while blowing her nose on a bloody towel. Which, when all’s said and done, is the more audience pleasing response.

However, the true star of the show, amidst all the minute old babies, is old aged Linda. In what is meant as reassurance, Lovely Louise tells Tricia ‘you’ve got the most senior midwife ever in the world. She’s done midwifery longer than you’ve been born.’

Shown throughout, most prominently yelling ‘have you ever been constipated?’, poor Linda is merely giving Tricia a reference point on the art of pushing. Sadly she’s so old she may as well be shouting at a bookshelf from her armchair in the old folks home.  Later, Lovely Louise remarks in the staff briefing ‘Linda deserves double pay in there today. She has been absolutely marvellous.’

Any implied reference to the state of NHS pensions remains unsaid.


One Born Every Minute is on Wednesdays, C4, 9pm. You can catch up on 4od here


About Hilary Wardle
Hilary is a freelance journalist and copywriter who writes for a wide range of websites, magazines and newspapers, including Buzzfeed, MSN, The Poke, Chortle, the Guardian and the Independent. She specialises in arts and entertainment, comedy, video games and viral content. Contact her at Hilary3@gmail.com.

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