Saturday, July 14, 2007

Unassisted Childbirth on UK TV

There continues to be a growing interest in unassisted childbirth in the UK. In fact, I recently discovered that 45% of the traffic to my web site comes from the UK, while only 20% comes from the US. And so I wasn't entirely surprised when I received a call last month from Dani Ellis, a producer for the Richard and Judy Show, a TV talk show that airs nightly on Channel 4 in the UK. Dani asked if I would be willing to go to London the following week and appear on the show. I said yes, and a few days later I was on my way!

The day of the show I was standing in my hotel room with my hair wrapped in a towel when the phone rang. A woman at the front desk told me a car was waiting to take me to the studio! How could I possibly have gotten the time wrong?! Somehow, twenty minutes later, with dress in hand and hair dripping, I managed to make it downstairs and off I went to the show!

Forty-five minutes later I was ushered into the "green room" where I was introduced to the two lovely women and baby shown above. Both Natalie (on the left) and Julia (with baby Madeleine on the right) are UK mums who have had unassisted births. Both were excited to be on the show. After a brief conversation, we were off to hair and make-up.
One thing I have noticed about make-up artists that work on television shows - they have excellent under-eye concealer! All evidence of my recent sleepless nights was gone! (I would love to be one of those people that can sleep on planes - or even relax on one - but flying is a challenge for me, as is sleeping the night before a trip, and ummm, on a trip. If only I could sleep as easily as I give birth!)

After hair and make-up it was back to the green room. I nodded hello to the other guests that would be appearing on the show - a group of young, sharply dressed men and women (well, to me, boys and girls) who had been on the show Big Brother. One of them was apparently writing a book about the experience. Naturally (of course) I tried not to listen to their conversation but I couldn't help but overhear a few bits and pieces:

"I couldn't believe how she always wore her bikini and high heels in the house."

"Well, YOU wore your bikini in the house."

"Yes, but not my high heels! And I didn't go out to the pubs with my knickers hanging out!"

"Well, we all want publicity. I saw you were in the papers."

"Yes, but who wants to be in the papers for being bad in bed?"

Meanwhile the staff was in somewhat of a tizzy. The Spice Girls had just announced they were reuniting, at least temporarily! Somehow the story had to be squeezed into the show. Dani, the producer, ran into the room to make sure we were ready, and brief us on what could and couldn't be said on live television. Apparently Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction did not change the way things are done in the UK. Live means LIVE. There is no delay at all.

"Please, no swearing," Dani explained.

"Can I say the word 'orgasm'?" I asked, "I like to make analogies to sex." Off she ran to ask about orgasm. Minutes later she was back, giving us more details about how we could respond to questions.

"Don't be afraid to speak your mind or interrupt. We like to keep the conversation lively!" she said, and then realizing she had forgotten to ask about the potentially forbidden word she said, "Oh - orgasms," and ran back out of the room.

Moments later she returned with a verdict: no orgasms.

"This is a family show. We don't want a child at home asking, 'Mummy, what's an orgasm?'"

"What about 'climax' or 'excited'?" Natalie asked.

"Yes," we were told a few minutes later. We can say "excited"!

At last it was time for our segment! The three of us were led onto the stage where we met Richard and Judy just seconds before they said "action!" or "we're on!" or whatever it is they say when the cameras start rolling. I actually wasn't nervous but for some reason I don't remember much of what happened once we went on the air. Later that night I remembered that when I said to Richard, "The same consciousness that knows how to grow an egg and a sperm (can I say sperm?!) into a human being, knows how to complete the process" he said, "That's ridiculous." Overall the man was not receptive to our ideas!

But Julia and Natalie were brilliant (which is a word people use a lot over there but in this case it's true)! They talked about how empowering their births were, and the problems they endured in their previous midwife-assisted births. I managed to get in a few words about the dangers of hospital birth, as I was essentially put on the defensive. I barely got to talk about unassisted childbirth, although I believe I may have mentioned my breech birth.

And then before we knew it, it was over and we returned to the green room for wine and h'orderves. There was one sobering moment when I said to Julia that I would have liked to have told Richard that 2-6% of babies are cut into during C-sections (I rarely bring up hospital birth statistics during interviews but Richard was so ademant in his belief in the safety of hospital birth). At that point, Julia pointed to a scar running down her cheek and said, "How do you think I got this? The doctor who did my mother's C-section was drunk and cut right into my face." I only wish I would have had this information PRIOR to going on the air!

I'm looking forward to watching a tape of the show (one is supposedly on the way). I've heard from two friends, Patrick Houser and Veronika Robinson (who just happened to catch the show!) that all of us were "brilliant"! Veronika also wrote about it in her blog.

The rest of my trip went well! I met with friends, roamed around London by myself (and only got lost once) and took a beautiful train ride through the country-side. I'm already looking forward to going back!

I suspect that interest in unassisted childbirth in the UK will continue to grow. This past week I learned that a major UK TV station has just commissioned a documentary on the subject! The producers are hoping to find three couples, either in the US or the UK, that are planning unassisted births in the next eight months and are willing to be interviewed both before and after the birth. Those of you who are interested in participating (or would like to learn more) can contact me at and I'll put you in touch with the producers.