"Men? Men are a different breed." And with these words of warning from one midwife, we returned to a new series of One Born Every Minute and the story of two young fathers-to-be.
This is the third series of the sharply documented, Bafta-winning reality TV series and to mark new beginnings, the 40-odd cameras have been relocated to Leeds General Infirmary to follow tonight’s expectant parents: Kurt, 20, and his passive girlfriend Beth, 18, and 20-year-old Shaun, a soldier on leave, who arrived with his 28-year-old girlfriend, Donna.
The current rash of constructed reality TV has set this series apart. One of its strengths has been how it eschews a narrator in favour of story arcs which play out, like birth, as nature intended. But as always, the real drama came from the relationships between the prospective parents, strained or otherwise. Kurt, though keen to become a father following a rather traumatic childhood, was torn between his contracting girlfriend, Beth, and the football results. It was only when the contractions proved complicated that Beth, having to choose between her mother and boyfriend as to who would assist her forceps birth, tellingly chose the former. When push literally came to shove, an agitated Kurt crumbled. His family arrived, he threw a tantrum (although whether out of concern, nerves or boredom wasn’t clear), eventually storming outside and responding to every one of their placations with either “I need a cig” or “I need a drink”.
Shaun, meanwhile, wanted to witness the birth of his daughter before returning for his second tour of duty in Afghanistan, so the couple had arrived prematurely, hopeful the midwives could artificially break Donna’s waters. It worked but not without drama and tears from both parties, making it the most rewarding of the two narratives. Cleverly splicing comedy with gravity, the film entertained the prospect of new life, war in Afghanistan and the magnitude of Donna’s need for a tuna sandwich.
It was a fine start to the series. Commendable research meant we met two prospective fathers, the same age and from the same background, but with utterly disparate approaches to fatherhood. While Kurt’s story, as it became, won’t do much to change traditional views on parenting, as dear dazed Shaun headed off with Donna, baby Freya and his kit bag to see out his final 24 hours before flying to Helmand, we were left with a warm feeling of parenthood.
One Born Every Minute makes no bones about the brutality of childbirth. From the siren wail which opens each episode with a promise of what��s to come, to the truly enlightening list of synonyms for the word “vagina” discussed by a group of midwives on a tea break, this is unconstructed reality: crude and bloody and amazing.