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.


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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Show comments
  • Donafugata

    I should imagine that the birth of anything is rather like fireworks, once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.

    Birth is a disgusting business, I’d rather watch boring fireworks.

  • Hugh_Oxford

    Well yes, because the human infant has a much larger cranium which needs to be pushed through the pelvis. This is why human females have wider hips than males and probably why the hip/waist ratio is considered attractive.

    But what do we actually DO with all that extra intelligence I wondered, as I read this article.

    • transponder

      Always the compromise for childbirth that makes us worse at walking, running, throwing, balancing, and being strong (physically but also in some cases emotionally, because female hormones are a more complex and tricky cocktail than male ones). As I’ve said — but some people are incredibly resistant to what seems obvious to me — the features of manhood that are helpful to the species also benefit the individual male; whereas the features of womanhood, which are necessary for the species to continue, tend to put the individual female at a disadvantage, vis-a-vis the natural world and the human male. And if you should doubt that, despite the evidence of political history, pay attention the next time you read a scientist say that ‘men have the advantage [with alcohol, weight loss, sleep privation, powerful movement, etc.]’.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    It certainly would be better to be a sheep. According to today’s DT Al-Beeb are employing 65 staff to film the yawnfest. I’m sure that they can squeeze in a few expert ovine consultant and midwives to beef up the numbers. Such staff will be well refreshed, billetted as they are in £290 per night accommodation.

    • transponder

      Are you disrespecting the new Guardian-Lite Telegraph, sir?