Would you give birth in the wild for reality TV?
As a new American television series announces its plan to film women giving birth in the wild, examines its au naturel credentials
If you thought having a baby in a paddling pool was daunting, think again. A new American reality show is about to give the term 'natural birth' a whole new meaning.
From forests to river banks, Born in the Wild will see young women deliver their own babies in a rural setting. Television channel Lifestyle claims the series will be unscripted and won't feature any first-time mothers. Filming is due to start soon.
“From the mood swings and false alarms to the crazy food cravings, learning to expect the unexpected becomes a way of life in the final days leading up to birth,” the press release announcing the programme begins.
“But what happens when the craziest experience of a woman’s life becomes truly wild and soon-to-be parents decide to take on an unassisted birth in the outdoors? ‘Born in the Wild’ will document the journeys of young, expectant parents who have chosen to give birth ‘in the wild.’”
Unsurprisingly, the prospect of the programme has prompted concern from medical professionals, who say that this back-to-nature approach can endanger lives. But Eli Lehrer, senior vice president at Lifetime, explains that Born in the Wild has been designed to minimise health risks.
Any woman volunteering to appear in one of the one-hour episodes must have an evaluation from a doctor and a “trained emergency professional” will attend every birth. And they won’t be quite as remote as the press release suggests: couples will have to choose their location within safe distance of a hospital.
“This isn’t [Discovery Channel’s] Naked and Afraid and we’re dropping people in the woods saying ‘go have the baby’. These are all people who have already had babies in hospitals who had unsatisfying experiences and who are choosing to have different experiences. This is something people are doing and we set out to document it,” Mr Lehrer told Entertainment Weekly.
“Our presence at these births is going to make them far safer than if they were doing it on their own,” he added.
Lifetime’s “Born in the Wild” was inspired by a viral (22 million views and counting) YouTube video which shows an Australian woman giving birth in a creek. Using the name 'BirthinNature' she films the delivery of her fourth child, while crouching over a yoga mat.
The woman, who explains that she is a trained doula, writes by way of introduction: “A week before I was due, we flew to my friend’s home in the Daintree Rainforest, the oldest rainforest in the world.” Once there, she decides to give birth “in a creek I fell in love with”.
At various points in the graphic, half-an-hour-long film (think One Born Every Minute, in the great outdoors) her toddler runs around, shouting “no pictures”. Meanwhile, a man in his fifties eats a bowl of cereal in the background and teenage girls frolic in their bikinis as the woman moans and squirms - first in an outdoor bathtub and eventually in the creek, where she gives birth to her daughter with a last-minute assist from her partner.
As YouTube videos go, it’s actually quite informative. Watching a woman actually move around while giving birth is a refreshing alternative to the typical Hollywood image of an expectant mother on her back, perfect hair and make-up, half-heartedly engaging in some "hee-hee-hoo" fake breathing.
And I can actually understand the instinct to give birth to your child away from the often depressing institutional feel of a hospital bed.
But even if we dismiss the medical concerns of Born in the Wild, the artificiality of this series is, frankly, absurd. Viewers may see a woman in labour, writing on a yoga mat, but the reality is that she's not alone. A whole film crew will be watching her every moan, groan and push. How wild is that?