I wasn’t sure I even wanted to watch Tuesday night’s Childbirth: All or Nothing – birth documentaries can easily be judgy or edited to make someone look like a freak but I am glad I did watch it because it was all positive. It was a documentary of extremes with three homebirths – including a freebirth, a highrisk pregnancy and a placenta eater – and a planned caesarean but it was beautifully portrayed without sensationalism.
The documentary followed four women:
Anna was pregnant with her second baby – she is wealthy and busy and it showed her preparation for her second planned caesarean at the private Portland Hospital with a Harley Street obstetrician.
Birth was described as horrendous, with talk of women dying and suffering, the need for drugs and how disgusting a waterbirth must be.
Anna described how she doesn’t like randomness, don’t like surprises, wants to look nice and to feel like a woman again soon after after her baby. It would have been easy to dislike her and her choice for a planned caesarean with her mansion and her housekeeper and her busy jet-setting lifestyle but I totally respected her choice – giving birth isn’t for her and she doesn’t want to be judged or to feel she has to justify her decision – although a justification was given: they had struggled to conceive with several rounds of IVF and they consider a caesarean the safest option to bring their baby into the world.
Jo was pregnant with her second baby and she lives on a narrowboat and the programme showed her preparation to freebirth again, without any medical assistance.
Birth was described as being normal, instinctive and natural, and she believes that the pain of labour is a rite of passage as a woman and how some cultures treat mothers as warriors. To her labour makes her feel invincible, able to take on anything. Jo said that people would probably think she was mad but she didn’t care, people can think what they like.
The programme showed how Jo met with her midwife and the supervisor of midwives to discuss her plans for a freebirth and the legalities of birthing without a midwife. In contrast to Anna, Jo believed this to be the best and safest way for her to bring her baby into the world.
Katy was pregnant with her second baby. She prepared for a home water birth with hypnosis and she talk positively about giving birth at home – “All I need to do is Relax & Breathe and nothing else”
She described birth as being natural and normal but the focus of the documentary was on her plans to eat her placenta.
Lisa was pregnant with her fourth baby and she was preparing for a home water birth. Birth was, again, described as being normal and natural and she trusted her body’s ability to birth her baby. Lisa was categorised as high risk as she was expected to have a large baby and had been diagnosed with gestational diabetes. The documentary showed her midwife discussing the risks with her and Lisa’s choice to opt for a homebirth, refusing induction and trying natural ways to induce labour instead. Lisa was also planning a Lotus Birth – to keep the placenta attached until the umbilical cord naturally detaches from the baby.
The best bits (for me)
I found the caesarean to be beautiful and, despite being major surgery, it showed how gentle the obstetrician has to be with the scalpel. Watching Anna see her baby being born and meeting her baby bought a tear to my eye.
Katy passionately believed in the ability to use her breathing to stay calm – we witnessed her working hard to give birth to her baby in the pool and shortly afterwards she described it as the hardest thing she had to do but she had forgotten it already. Breathing works!
The confidence Jo had in her body and in her instincts to guide her. She was passionate about being able to do it with only her husband for support.
Lisa’s description of the emergency during the birth of her baby – when her waters broke she experienced a prolapsed umbilical cord, which her midwife had to deal with quickly to save her baby. She described this as a complication that was not predicted and being in hospital would not have prevented it from happening or made it any safer. She was very calm and she even got back into the pool after she had given birth to her baby, so she could birth her placenta.
Overall, the documentary was a great balance of women’s views about giving birth and I enjoyed hearing the different perspectives without sensationalism and judgement.
My only criticism is that I would have liked to see atleast one woman prepare for a hospital birth, sharing her perspective about birth rather than just showing the extremes. But if you like all things birth, it is well worth watching: BBC – Childbirth: All or Nothing
To help you prepare for the birth of your baby…