The week in radio: Sold a dummy as baby talk fails to deliver
I've been putting off listening to Radio 5 Live's Bump Club with Edith Bowman and Colin Murray for some time. You might even say I've been giving it a wide berth (ho ho). Why? Well there's the problem of the name.
Bump Club sounds to me like a Cath Kidston-smothered NCT get-together complete with Keep Calm... coffee mugs, a knitted uterus and couples cooing over sinister 3D ultrasound photos. It has an air of wholesomeness and exclusivity about it, a gathering of the ferociously fertile.
But putting aside the name, perhaps the concept – a 45-minute show devoted to baby bores everywhere – isn't so bad. After all, it has a ready-made audience – soon-to-be parents, new parents, those wondering whether they're cut out for procreation– who could well need all the help they can get. I could certainly have done with some proper advice before giving birth. The teacher at my antenatal class believed that an exercise ball, a new nightie and a positive attitude was enough to get me through it. In the end, it was a little more complicated.
So there's room on the radio for a proper, tell-it-like-it-is account of pregnancy, childbirth and the early days of parenthood, even in the supposedly male news-and-sport domain that is 5 Live. I'm thinking not so much Call the Midwife as more One Born Every Minute without the harrowing visuals.
This week's episode brought good news: roughly half of the pregnant women whom the series has been following in recent months had popped their corks. You literally couldn't move for newborn babies.
Thus, I was all ready for the sounds of waters breaking, mothers panting, fathers snoozing and babies taking their first gooey breaths. I was looking forward to hearing tales of cars hurtling to the hospital, of women taking midwives by the scruff and demanding the keys to the drugs cabinet and of presenter Colin Murray being carried across the room in a tidal wave of amniotic fluid. I wanted to hear about childbirth in all its terrifying, life-changing glory.
But there were no microphones in the delivery room. Instead, we got Murray visiting the maternity ward the next day to meet the newborn twins of Mercy and her partner and talking to the day-old babies in a strange, squeaky voice. We got Edith Bowman sighing down the phone to new mum Matilda who this week was induced and had an emergency caesarean section, and to Kirsty, who gave birth to baby Ian last Friday. There were no searching questions here, just a series of happy, tired people proving that new parents are, as a rule, happy and tired.
Only the broader, issues-based segments brought any real depth. A piece on uncommitted fathers was almost derailed by Murray who, to no one in particular, asked, "How active do you need to be as a father? Could you do more? Should you do less?" but redeemed by the campaigner and MP David Lammy who dispelled the myth that all young dads are lazy and feckless. There was also an illuminating chat with a disabled couple with a toddler and a second baby on the way, and the shameful lack of assistance offered to them by the NHS.
Overall, however, Bump Club was far from the no-nonsense portrayal of procreation that was promised at the start when Murray warned us: "We don't shy away from the honest details of pregnancy and childbirth." An honest depiction would have involved swearing, shouting, tears and gore. This was childbirth in soft focus, wiped clean of its blood and sweat.
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