You may need tissues for new BBC1 series Life and Birthby Laura Driver
A new TV series, Life and Birth, begins tonight at 8pm on BBC1. Life and Birth was filmed before the Coronavirus Pandemic and sees babies, at three different hospitals, on the first day of their lives.
It's a reminder that every single birth and start to life is different, even for women who have had one baby or more before. Be warned, you may need tissues to get through an hour in the life of NHS nurses and medics battling to introduce healthy new lives to proud parents especially now that we're all going to be viewing the programmes while in lockdown.
The first of six programmes is filmed at Birmingham Women's Hospital where in a typical week, there are 351 births. As well as having to reassure each woman on her personal path to the moment they will give birth, the doctors and nurses are seen here contending with a string of unusual situations, too. All complicating factors requiring a vast skillset, from medical knowledge and hands-on expertise to empathy and a calm reassuring presence when an emergency beckons.
The first programme is beyond intense, summed up perfectly when midwife Sozan Nazir says: "You have fear, love, excitement, doubt… everything together."
We meet single mum, Chennelle, 33, who is determined to have as natural a birth as possible, "My birth plan is to get through it alive!" she says "The circumstances are not ideal... I'd known the father for a number of years, but it didn’t work out. I told my mum (I was pregnant) in a car park in the middle of West Brom before we went to buy fruit and veg for my grandparents. She was shaking and I was thinking ‘I’ve broken my mum!’.
Childhood sweethearts Ashleigh, 22, and her partner Luke are expecting their second child together. "A lot of people do try to make out like pregnancy is full of rainbows and magic. And it’s really not," says Ashleigh. "It’s not this big bubble of glitter and magic that everybody makes out. But you are over the moon when you are handed that baby at the end. That’s the part that makes everything worth it." Their first child, Roman Rae, was kept in neonatal intensive care after being stuck for an hour in mid-birth led to a struggle for breath and sepsis. Ashleigh says of Luke: "Hopefully (cutting the) cord won't splatter on him like Roman's did." But then they experience another scare...
Mother of two Jodie first discovered there were complications with her pregnancy at her 20-week scan. Consultant Cardiologist Anna Seale eventually confirms that her baby's narrowing of the aortic arch will necessitate surgery. But a premature birth also means that Jodie's baby must double in size in order to have the operation. Her story illustrates the pressure faced by partners. Husband Dave says: "This is as helpless as I’ve ever felt as a father. Your lives are in the doctors' and nurses' hands. You just have to wait … and it's excruciating."
Hospitalised for two weeks on the antenatal ward, is Jenna. Her unborn daughter has a rare heart condition called atrial flutter that’s causing her heart to beat 443 times per minute. The video scan makes the baby's heart look like wobbly jelly. Jenna says: "I’m the only one in here that’s trying to keep my baby in. Everyone else is trying to get them out!"
‘Life and Birth’ meets parents at every stage of their pregnancy showing maternity care in a way that it has not been seen before. From intricate lifesaving surgical procedures on babies in the womb, to specialist care for women who have had multiple miscarriages, to births which go as planned, Life and Birth captures the incredible work of NHS midwives, doctors and surgeons, who are dedicated to supporting families as they bring new life into the world.
Life and Birth, begins tonight at 8pm on BBC1.