A Dad Is Born Review: Manning Up..


Watching an awkward dad-to-be fumble about with a pack of cards while his wife pants her way through labour has become one of TV’s favourite set pieces of late. One Born Every Minute regularly delights in exposing the apparent stupidity of inexperienced new fathers while Call The Midwife’s expectant pas keep their hands clean by puffing sedately on a pipe in the hallway – but the TV tables are turning.

Wonderland’s latest documentary offered a purely male perspective of the birthing process and went some way in reversing the clueless stereotype we now expect to see wandering through the wards.

One man who was far from clueless about the whole “giving birthâ€? thing was recruitment consultant Jamie who had gobbled down four baby books by the time his little one was due to arrive. The poor chap’s meticulous research ended up freaking the crap out of him (and me) but it was refreshing to see a well-informed father on screen. Angsty middle-class Jamie was prodded and poked by director Kira Philips as he poured his heart out for the sake of underrepresented/misunderstood men everywhere. Good on him.

But after obsessing over how to deal with his child “coughing up mucousâ€? for the umpteenth time and fretting over how to fit the pram through the kitchen, I was probably not the only person urging Jamie to take his own bemused father’s advice and “drink plenty of wineâ€?.

This more thoughtful companion to Channel 4’s Daddy Daycare also followed two other prospective fathers in the build up to the main event. The three did make a rather crude cross-section of society (middle class Jamie was joined by working class Viktor and multimillionaire Greg) but the trio’s honesty when it came to struggling with a grumpy wife, screaming child and new financial burden made for genuinely enlightening and rather moving viewing. That is what made the whole thing work. The female partners of the men are absent for pretty much the entirety of the programme, leaving us free to focus on their very quiet internal struggle to find their way in a new stage of their lives; fatherhood.

Stinking rich trader, Greg, had booked his beautiful second wife in for an elected Caesarean at a private hospital and had taken time out of his schedule for the occasion. Greg had done all this before and one got the feeling (at first) that this was all a rather costly intrusion into his diary. “This is costing me £3millionâ€? he reminds Kathy as they drive their son home. But even this seemingly callous exterior is melted away by the (genuinely stunning) baby boy in question as cameras linger intrusively in the family home for the following two weeks. This is patient, inquisitive documentary making which allows the subjects themselves to disprove their own occasionally brash statements and get to the heart of their new-found identity as a dad.