The TV show that busts the myth that home births are for hippies

Allerton in Bradford is pronounced ‘Ollerton’. Except in Yorkshire Midwives on Call (BBC Two), where the narrator keeps saying it wrong. Look, I know it’s a little thing, but I was born in Allerton so it annoyed me. Programme-makers: please pay attention to the details.

Anyway, this is a series about a team of Bradford midwives responsible for home births. The births are lovely, the midwives are lovely. “We’re like a real-life Call the Midwife, but without the bikes.” There is a syrupy voiceover and twinkly music, and so little is shown of the squelching, painful part of giving birth that you half expect the babies to be delivered by storks.

In many ways it’s the antidote to the hospital-set drama of Channel 4’s One Born Every Minute, which can be a highly stressful watch. One father-to-be said here: “When you see it on TV, it makes you think: ‘you wouldn’t have one, would you?’” Home births seem to be an altogether calmer and happier experience – friends and family members milling around, TV on in the corner, always someone available to put the kettle on. 

Also, as one of the midwives pointed out, men can be a bit more useful at home. They can also find different things to worry about: instead of fretting about hospital parking charges and how to install the car seat, one father-to-be wondered: “What if the birth pool splits and there’s suddenly half a ton of water downstairs?”

The programme did a good job of busting the myth that home births are, in the words of one midwife, for hippies. The mothers here included a junior doctor; a young woman who had her first child at 16 and was now on baby number four; and a care home worker who was welcoming her sixth baby less than a year after having her fifth, and was back at work a couple of weeks later because she needed the income.

Two of the births didn’t quite go to plan. Keeleigh lost blood after the delivery and had to go to hospital. Jodie’s labour didn’t progress, so she was transferred to the birth centre. But this isn’t a programme that dwells on the difficulties. Instead, it’s an advert for home births, portrayed as a service so user-friendly that the midwives will even do a spot of vacuuming before their leave.

And when each baby did arrive, it was a genuinely heartwarming moment. As one of the midwives put it: “Who can not love a newborn baby? They’re just lovely, aren’t they?”

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