She’s Having a Baby, TV review: Sky Living's cloying maternity documentary is misconceived

 

Sky is in the midst of making its lifestyle channel, Sky Living, home to Britain's Next Top Model and What Katie Did Next, less female-facing – luring younger men with shows like Hannibal and The Blacklist in a process it is calling "de-pinking" in reference to the channel's formerly roseate logo – although it might also have implications for gay viewers. After all, this is the channel that once gave us the much-missed Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

It's a strategy that 27-year-old Lauren, one of the subjects in Sky Living's She's Having a Baby, last night managed to single-handedly dismantle with her ambition to turn her pregnancy into one long girly consumer binge, complete with spray-tans, manicures and a "baby shower" with pink balloons and pink cupcakes. Lauren had taken to impending motherhood as if she were married to Wayne Rooney instead of an electrician called Dan.

Lauren was juxtaposed with "career focused" Ruth, who intended to go down the "hypno birth route", according to Tamzin Outhwaite's jaunty, school-of-Mel Giedroyc voiceover. This involved something called "soft touch massage", which you could imagine Sting and Trudie Styler practising when all that tantric sex became too onerous, but as with all the best-laid plans of mice and women, Ruth ended up having an emergency C-section.

As she neared her due date, Lauren was getting her bearings. "It doesn't feel like nine months ago that I went walking round John Lewis," she said, while Dan offered the double-edged observation that pregnancy had made Lauren "more sensitive and caring" while he tried not to choke when she revealed the cost of her impending baby shower. Lauren missed a trick here, because she might have explained that baby showers involve being "showered" with freebies from long-suffering mates; it might prove cost-neutral in the final tally.

The births themselves were sketchy appendages – mostly filmed on what were tweely called "Daddy Cams", and it was only then that the scales fell from my eyes. She's Having a Baby was nothing to do with having a baby – it was about "Her" getting in touch with her inner Kirstie Allsopp or Gwyneth Paltrow for nine months before the inevitable stark reality of push (or cut). But then, for all of that, we have Channel 4's excellent One Born Every Minute, which also happened to be on last night.

Like Lauren in She's Having a Baby (an awful title by the way), Heather in One Born Every Minute had a partner called Dan and she also wanted to look her best in the delivery suite. Unlike Lauren, however, Heather knew that life isn't a cupcake, already being the mother of twins born very prematurely and since diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

And unlike She's Having a Baby, which focused on seemingly uninteresting people without discovering any hidden depths, One Born Every Minute once again revealed the extraordinary in the everyday. Naomi and Dan (yes, yet another Dan) are both devout Christians, and as such, one might assume, included for their comedy potential because that's usually Christians' allotted role in documentary-makers' minds. Not here though.

Dan clearly adored Naomi and was happy for her "to wear the trousers", as the voiceover put it (actually Naomi wore a modesty-retaining birth suit), but any preconceptions about sheltered lives were deftly dismantled when Naomi revealed that her parents, newly divorced and with new partners, had abandoned her to her own devices at the tender age of 16. She may have been just as high maintenance as Lauren, but seemed infinitely more human. And there's a lesson here for Sky Living as well: just because a subject is supposedly "feminine" doesn't mean it has to be "pink".

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