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Culture House Daily

When it comes to childbirth, I’d rather be a sheep than a woman

7 April 2014

10:51 AM

7 April 2014

10:51 AM

I know this because I have now sat through five series of One Born Every Minute (Channel 4) and three series of Lambing Live (BBC 2), and compounded it all with a weekend on a farm, watching teeming sheep deliver one, two, sometimes three lambs at a pop. Pop! Out tumbles the afterbirth. Shepherds let it trail. The lambs find their feet within a day of coming out, and gambol around it. They put our babies to shame.

I’ve long thought the producers are missing a trick. Why not roll the two series into one, a sort of omnibus to redefine ‘mummy porn’ as a genre of becoming, rather than a genre of so-called literature (this currently includes the 50 Shades trilogy)? We are all voyeurs now, it’s just that some of us think ourselves more wholesome, more highbrow than the erotica reading sort. That’s why we watch wretched women pushing out babies. Or sheep delivering lambs. Little Bo Peep indeed. Better together, I say.

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In One Born, hapless fathers-in-waiting moan about how long the birthing process is taking, and scoff all-day-breakfast baps in front of their nauseous partners. Rams are sensibly ushered away from the birthing pens. No sympathy pains for them.

Sheep are just as attentive to their young as Homo sapiens, wiping them clean with an economical lap of the tongue. Midwives today talk incessantly of skin-on-skin contact. No sooner is the baby delivered than it is laid on its mother’s naked breast. It is interesting that the makers of One Born tend to observe a no-nipple policy, but allow a fairly generous view of the vaginal region, blurring only the external parts. The sheep of Lambing Live know better than many of the bald teens of One Born, retaining their wool to preserve what is left of their modesty. Their teats, on the other hand, are fair game for a panoramic shot. By Rod Liddle’s reckoning, they’re pert and attractive enough for public view.

Up close, in fact, watching lambing live, rather than Lambing Live, provokes nothing like the voyeuristic response it does on TV. No artificially protracted moments of suspense, no commentary, just life. I don’t imagine watching a human birth is any more titillating. It’s all in the context and framing to turn something you’d rather not watch into something you can’t take your eyes off.

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