What happens when the craziest experience of a woman’s life becomes truly wild, and soon-to-be parents decide to take on an unassisted birth in the outdoors?
That’s the hook to the newest craze in reality TV — a new series by Lifetime that promises to deliver babies Born In The Wild.
It’s not enough that we have shows that pair couples naked in the wilderness, expose the hidden addictions and peculiarities that make us all just a little abnormal and highlight the precarious situation of teen pregnancy in a glamorized spotlight — now we have to take birth to the extreme.
The birth of Born In The Wild
The premise of the show is based on the now infamous forest birthing video (warning — it’s graphic) and what’s dubbed as part of an unassisted birth movement. The movement is, quite literally, what it sounds like — mothers delivering their own babies completely unassisted by doctors, modern technology or even a partner, letting the baby fall to the ground (softly) or pulling the baby out by themselves.
The show’s producers state that it is centered around women who have given birth in a hospital setting before and have been unhappy with the experience. In addition, they will focus on safety for both the mother and the baby. All mothers are screened, have given birth before and all the births will occur within driving distance to a hospital.
Why are women (and viewers) drawn to a “wild” birthing experience?
Taking birth back
I think that the popularity of the wild birthing movement is actually pretty simple — we are fascinated by birth, plain and simple. As horrific, gruesome or outrageous we may find the act of birth, we can’t look away because quite literally, it is the birth of mankind.
Many of us, even those of us who have done it, fear birth and the raw, natural power of a woman in labor. The incredible draw of a show like this is that it is taking birth back to the place it began. I find it so interesting that when it comes right down to it, on some conscious or even subconscious level, a show like this points to the innate desire for a woman to regain some control over her birthing process.
Medical risks aside, I can understand the women in this show and the women who may be drawn to the idea. Going through two unmedicated births, which were hands-down the hardest experiences of my life (none of this transcendental, life energy flowing through me stuff), was also, incidentally, the only time in my life that I felt truly comfortable in my body.
I was in control, no one else. For once, I wasn’t worried about how fat I looked or if I was having a good hair day or even if I was offending anyone else. During my labors, it was as if I completely shut down everyone and everything else around me. It was just me and my body. I learned to listen to it, to shut out the outside world of fear and to just be in my body. It sounds crazy, but I almost miss that kind of relationship with my body. I was 100 percent comfortable in and with my body, and that is a powerful feeling to have.
Made for TV
Of course, there are risks to an unassisted birth, or even a birth of any kind. Complications do arise and obviously women stopped giving birth in the wild some time ago for a reason — so the show does pose some controversy. Which, as Ami Burns, a birth educator who also has a background in TV production, points out, is precisely the point. An idea of glamorized natural birth is one thing, but the bottom line is that a show like this isn’t about connecting women to their bodies or even making a statement about the maternity system.
It’s about ratings.
“I’m all for natural birth — I had one baby in a hospital and one at home — but the premise for this show seems a little out there,” she says. “TV shows are about ratings, and reality shows the shock factor. A ‘regular’ hospital birth? Boring. A birth in the wild? Oooooh!”
So before we get riled up about any birthing happening in the wild, let’s remember that women have given birth in the wild before with no problems and it’s possible to do it again. But women have also given birth in the world before with plenty of problems and it will happen again.
But, it’s just a TV show.