Last week saw the return of Channel 4’s popular observational documentary series, One Born Every Minute. Series seven shows us the trials and tribulations of the maternity ward in Liverpool Women’s Hospital, the busiest and largest of its kind in Europe.
The first episode of the new series showed us two couples, Yvonne, 41 and Gary, 48 who experience the nerves and joy of becoming first time parents at an age when they thought their opportunity to become parents had passed.
We also see Jennifer, 25 and Darran, 26 who are told at the 20 week scan that their daughter has a heart defect, the severity of which they will only know once she is born. The viewers are watching and waiting with the couples, as their labours progress.
With the cameras placed in the corners of the hospital rooms, they are conveniently out of the way of the parents-to-be as they nervously and excitedly wait for their new arrival. No area of the hospital is out of bounds, with cameras in the delivery rooms, operating theatres, neo-natal ward, birthing pools, reception desk, corridors, car park and the staff office, where we see the midwives move between cups of tea, eating cake and talking about the patients.
One of the most interesting aspects of the show is to see the midwives talking away from the patients. This sheds light on the need to move between having a laugh with your colleagues in the staff room, to suddenly having to reassure a nervous couple during a worrying time. The sweet natured midwives are the unsung heroes of childbirth (after the woman giving birth, of course!) as they reassure their patients and take this journey with them, even when the outcome may not be as hoped. It is emotional watching the process of childbirth on the show, let alone having to deliver babies everyday as your profession.
The individuals and couples bravely let us enter their world for a short time, as we learn more about them through the episode and why they decided to become parents, or how they have dealt with the news that they are about to become parents. We hear about the issues facing some of the pregnancies on the show, and the worries that the parents-to-be face. Laughter is clearly needed at a time such as this, and the show is often peppered with nervous humour and jokes from the staff and the patients.
Although a documentary series about childbirth will not be everyone cup of tea for Tuesday evening viewing, nothing too graphic is shown, and the series is the ultimate reality show. With many ‘reality’ shows now losing their realistic element and being obscured by editing or scripting, One Born Every Minute manages to be completely real, very emotional and untimely successful at the same time.
One Born Every Minute is on Tuesdays at 9pm on Channel 4.