Birth Is Awe-Inspiring And Women Will No Longer Be Shamed For It
Birth is, without question, the most important moment in any person’s life.
Even if you have never given birth or been present at a birth, you were born. Obviously.
And on top of its universality, birth is where we see and experience the full range of human emotions crammed into one intense event. From joy to terror, from self-doubt to triumph, and everything in between. It is where women become mothers and where our sense of self can be completely altered. It is a transformative event.
And we get to see it all in the new Australian iteration of One Born Every Minute. A documentary-style program, OBEM centres around the labour and delivery ward of Sydney’s Westmead Hospital and allows us all into the birthing suite to witness the strength, tenacity, and majesty of what the human body is capable of, and to share tears with families meeting their newest member for the first time. It is heart-swelling television that connects us and reminds us just how remarkable pregnancy, labour, and birth is.
And yet, for centuries, birth has been treated as 'secret women’s business'. Men weren’t even allowed in the delivery room until the early 60s. Women were routinely dismissed when we spoke about our experiences and emotions around pregnancy and birth, if we dared to speak about it at all. We even endured (and many of us continue to endure) debilitating physical and psychological conditions as a result. The intense physical, emotional and psychological impact of bringing life into the world was hidden away and completely invalidated.
This has come at a cost that continues to shame mothers today.
I was so disappointed to watch many of the UK Goggleboxers viewing the British version of the show through their fingers and turning their faces away. As if birthing babies and, by extension, women’s bodies are 'disgusting'.
They are not. And to express disgust is a hangover from our misogynistic past that does real damage to those of us creating and delivering babies. In that vulnerable moment when we are staring down the barrel of the most physically, emotionally and psychologically challenging thing we will ever do, the last thing we need to worry about is whether we are aesthetically pleasing. The last thing we need is to feel shame as we bring life into the world.
And that’s what is so exciting about the new version of One Born Every Minute, and its primetime slot. It normalises and validates the experience of the 77 percent of Australian women over the age of 15 who are mothers. It shows our tenacity and grit, our persistence even when we think we are failing, our ability to put our own needs aside for those of our baby, and it recognises the achievement that is growing and birthing a child.
It shows us that, far from 'secret women’s business', birth is one of the few experiences that connects us all.
I have watched every episode of the British and American versions of the show I can find. I whisper encouragement to women who cannot hear me, I feel instant and great affection for the fathers-to-be who support their partner, rub her back, get their hands squeezed off, and get yelled at, and, without exception, I cry my heart out every time a baby emerges and I see the exhausted triumph on their mother’s face and the wonder and instant love in their father’s eyes.
And if that’s not good television then I don’t know what is.
Birth is the furthest thing possible from 'disgusting'. It is awe-inspiring and joyful and overwhelming and such a thing to behold. How lucky we are to have the privilege to see women do it from the comfort of our homes every single week.
Watch One Born Every Minute Australia Tuesdays at 8.30pm on Channel 10 and on 10 play.