One Born Every Minute Review: Labour of Love

ONE BORN EVERY MINUTE: Wednesday 4th January, C4, 9pm

For many people, the start of a new year means post-Christmas misery, large hangovers and savaged bank accounts, but for some happy-go-lucky individuals, it is a time for hope and fresh starts. Therefore it is apt that the start of 2012 also sees the return of One Born Every Minute; an award-winning documentary which can take us on a equally divisive emotional roller-coaster. It depicts the kind of brutal ‘reality’ that in comparison makes eating kangaroo testicles seem like a walk in the jungle.

If you’ve seen the programme before, you’ll be used to the premise… set in a maternity unit it is a no-holds barred insight into every desperate scream and painful push of childbirth, as well as the unstoppable tidal wave of emotion that comes with its labour. This time the 40 or so cameras used to capture each moment of drama have been placed in Leeds Royal Infirmary, a decision which makes a refreshing regional change from the first two series, which were filmed in Southampton.

The first episode focuses on two first time fathers whose stories are designed to pull on the heartstrings until they snap; Shaun, a young soldier who is desperate to see his girlfriend Donna give birth before he must leave for an army tour of Afghanistan; and Kurt, whose inability to control his emotions is a reflection of his and girlfriend Beth’s youthful age.

The programme has come in for critical acclaim in the past – winning a BAFTA in 2010 as well as a plethora of nominations last year – and despite being one of the most gender-specific docs on the airwaves, it isn’t difficult to see why it has been so successful. It’s a fascinating look at the testing experience of having a baby (both physically and emotionally) and the subtle humour which is its often hilarious side effect. The compelling nature of the programme comes in its understated details; for instance the empathy you might feel for young Beth as she is unable to control her nervous laughter, or the recognition you might find in Donna and her boyfriend arguing over who should be the one to make the trip to Greggs… The chit-chat of the midwives on their breaks also makes for humorous viewing, and it’s clear that their job is the ultimate in light and shade. One minute you’re making a list of all the names people call lady-parts, the next you’re trying to reassure a mother whose baby has been whisked off for observation. The kind-hearted nature of each nurse successfully puts their patients at ease and alongside the parents they are undoubtedly the stars of the show. This is proved in the moment one nurse sarcastically says to a dad more interested in the contents of his own stomach than his girlfriend’s… “How you men cope with all this, I’ll never know!â€?… Hero.

Granted, the sometimes gory nature of the birth isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (I wouldn’t advise sticking the kettle on in time for this one) however there is nothing too terrible shown, and anyway, what would be the point in censoring it? This documentary is the ultimate in reality shows… and in a time when the term ‘reality’ has seemingly lost all meaning, its authenticity should be welcomed. It is a touching and heart-warming portrayal which is successful in producing far more emotions than any bushtucker trial could ever hope to.