When my husband and I bicker (obviously, very infrequently) and we are reaching stalemate, I often say ‘well, who gave birth TWICE!’. Although I loved giving birth (yes, really) and there is no other feeling when you hold that brand new baby, it still bloody hurt and it did seem unjust that something both I and my husband had created, I had to do the carrying, sacrificing and delivering of. None of which I begrudge my beautiful children for, but if my husband could have maybe carried and delivered one of them …

The whole experience of watching his wife give birth, compelled writer, Joe Penhall, to scribe Birthday to show just how he and his wife felt about the process of giving birth: The beauty of birth is often underlined by a sense of mortality  and the visceral, blood-human nature of it all, which to top it all, you can’t escape. However, in the play, the process is subverted. Due to a horrific first birth, a husband and wife decide that second time round, the husband will carry and deliver the child. The play originally staged at The Royal Court, it has now been adapted to a TV drama for Sky Arts and will be shown on Tuesday 9th June at 9pm. This link gives more information on the showing: http://www.sky.com/tv/show/birthday

I was invited to a private screening of this programme, followed by a Q and A session with Joe Penhall and also the male main star, Stephen Mangan. As the programme played, there was a mixture of great laughter – some of the lines are just killer: ‘I’m so full of hormones, I am like a Bernard Matthew’s turkey’, but also melancholy moments as the gravity of giving birth hits the protagonists.

We are taken through the journey of the husband being prepared for his caesarean (obviously, as there wasn’t any physiological amendments to the male anatomy for the script!). There seems to be an unwritten script between couples experiencing labour – you will hear lines that you and your partner probably said to one another: ‘I just felt hopeless watching you there in pain’, to the more amusing comments: ‘it’s much worse for the man, there’s no pain like male pain’. You watch the characters experience disempowerment, bewilderment at the medical staff but also the exhilaration of the whole event.

This programme is visceral, gory and doesn’t spare any detail on the birth process – there is no gentle breathing and imagining white sandy beaches and turquoise seas, it goes for the guttural, physical aspect. We also see the dynamics of relationships played out: how you change as a couple once there are children, the relationships between the parents and doctors, the relationships between the doctors and midwives – the continual power struggles that colour all aspects of giving birth.

This programme is definitely a talking point: Have you ever gone back through the finer points of birth with your partner? Birthday will inevitably encourage to talk about the birth of your children and how you both saw it from your different standpoints. Indeed, afterwards so many of us talked about our birth experiences and what we have and haven’t discussed with our other halves.

I’m also pleased that I got to settle an ongoing discussion with my husband. After he had run the London Marathon in 4.5 hours, he told me it was worse than child birth. I refuted this, as nothing is quite like childbirth. Both Stephen and Joe backed me up, that although the marathon is hard and there is a chance you may also poo yourself, you can stop at any time – nothing is comparable to childbirth!

Thank you Sky Arts and Mumsnet for invited me along to this screening, and lastly, for our male readers, if the science was available for you to carry and deliver children, would you do it?

Birthday  Sky Arts Playhouse Presents Stephen Mangen, Anna Maxwell Martin

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