Lights, Camera, Action!January 7, 2012 No Comments
The camera has never been particularly kind to me. I am not one of those photogenic women who stares soulfully down the lens, chin tilted at just the right angle, managing to look both hip and formidable at the same time. I am far more likely to be the only person in the photo with their eyes shut, or – even worse – the one who looks glassy-eyed and inebriated, despite having spent an evening sipping mineral water. I may even be the one who bends to inspect a ladder in her tights at exactly the wrong moment. So, when some well-meaning person at an otherwise pleasant get-together produces a camera from their bag and points it at me…..well, they might as well be brandishing a can of pepper spray.
Given that I have such a fractious relationship with the lens myself, it will come as no surprise that for some time now I have struggled, without much success, to understand what appears to be a growing trend in the delivery wards: making a video of the birth. Take a peek inside the hospital bag of a soon-to-be mum and you may well find a camcorder tucked away amongst the maternity pads, sleep-suits and nightdresses.
Which leads us to that all-important question: why?
Does everything nowadays have to be a performance? What is it about modern life that encourages us to live everything in front of the camera? Personally, I wonder about the intended audience. Call me old-fashioned, but it hardly strikes me as the kind of thing you invite the neighbours in for. I simply cannot see myself passing around bowls of popcorn while saying, ‘that was me at six centimetres dilated.’ When it comes to cringe factor, birth videos have the potential to beat wedding videos hands down. They also contain a lot more blood and mucus, and probably more shouting and foul language. If this was the cinema, your movie would have no chance of earning a ‘universal’ rating or even ‘PG,’ though there will, of course, be no sex. In fact, after watching a video of you giving birth, some people may never have sex again.
‘But,’ I hear you say, ‘we’re not going to show it to anybody. This is something for ourselves. Our record of a very precious moment.’ Well, it remains a personal decision of course and one that no couple will take lightly. Allow me, though, to play devil’s advocate for a moment. Consider this: which would you prefer? For you and your partner to experience – together and first hand – the very wonderful event that is the birth of your child? Or for your partner to spend those magical moments on the other side of the lens, psychologically separated by the camera, reduced to watching the birth of his child as a ‘spectator’ later at home? And perhaps to realise, only then, that he would have preferred to have been holding your hand instead? Not to mention the fact that it takes a very brave man to tell a woman in her twelfth hour of labour to say ‘cheese.’
And let’s face it: if you think you’re doing this for baby, a video of their birth is unlikely to be your child’s favourite viewing, even if you do decide at some stage to show it to them. Trust me, there are plenty of other ways to embarrass your children, so best stick with the cartoon channels.
It is also worth remembering that in a hospital environment there will be other people present besides mum, dad and the new baby. Spare a thought for the hard-working medical staff, who go to work to deliver babies and not to star in an endless series of other people’s home movies.
Would we expect hospital staff to work under such conditions if they were, for example, performing heart surgery, or operating to remove a gall stone? ‘Ah’, you say, ‘steady on there. Surely, birth is not a medical procedure. True, and one would always hope that the birth process would be as natural as possible, with the minimum of medical intervention. But in the unlikely event of an emergency situation arising, matters will not be helped by someone wandering around with a camera, looking for a good angle, perhaps not even aware of the implications of what is taking place in the ward.
At the end of the day, this is an emotive topic on which many people hold strong views. Everyone must come to their own decision as to what is right for them. Bear in mind too that, unless you are having a home birth, you will need to check if there are any particular rules or requirements in relation to the use of camcorders in the delivery ward, as these may vary from hospital to hospital. Perhaps it comes down to how comfortable each of us is with the presence of a camera at a time like this. Personally speaking, I find the idea of being filmed unnerving at the best of times. I do not relish the thought of what I might look like, or indeed sound like, when filmed red-faced, sweating and exhausted after a long labour. I’m guessing that I’m not alone in feeling this way either.
As you have probably gathered by now, my husband and I chose not to video the birth of any of our children. We have lots of very cute baby photos and, for us at least, that is enough. I do not feel that the miraculous experiences that were the births of my children are in any way diminished by the fact that they are not on film. And it is not as if I am averse to family photos per se. After the birth, with baby snug in my arms, and in the weeks, months and years that follow, I am far more agreeable to smiling for that camera. Sometimes I even keep my eyes open.
Words by Danielle McLaughlinTags: birth, labour, medicalGIVING BIRTH, PREGNANCY