Channel 4’s latest series of ‘One Born Every Minute’ started last week. It’s a forty camera Fly on the Wall documentary, filmed in the labour wards of The Princess Anne Maternity Hospital in Southhampton.
Despite the obvious fact that it’s how every one of us arrived into the world, it is not always deemed comfortable viewing. If Twitter is any guide, its delivery scenes are met with feelings of either glowing warmth or horrified revulsion, in equal measure. And not necessarily along a male vs female divide, or uninitiated vs been there done that lines either. I suppose you can only gauge your own reaction by watching it. For my own part, I will cry gushingly at every birth moment shown, just like I did in the last series.
Watching last night brought to mind another birth related scene I came across recently. I was wandering nonchalantly through a stationery shop, when the following image on a card literally stopped me in my tracks.
This is a painting simply called ‘ Madre’ by a Spanish artist called Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida, painted in 1895. I could not take my eyes off it.
It is just such an intimate portrait, brimming with the emotion of such a tender moment.
But also, just how incredibly comfortable does that bed look?! Remembering when I came home from hospital with my first born, all I wanted was my own bed. Away from the din, the smells and the rubber mattresses of the hospital.
And they say newborns don’t smile, but in the close up of this image, you can just about see the faintest of tiny smiles on the infants face, like the precious little twitching ones they do while sleeping. And doesn’t his mother looks just blissfully shattered and happy?
This image completely sums up for me the total exhaustion, comfort and contentment I experienced being back home and a new mother. It is one of the most evocative images I have ever come across.
Then I started thinking about the artist. I have been unable to find out any more about the painting. Was he the husband and father of this scene? Or was this perhaps his sister, or a stranger to him. Either way, he has done a stunning job in recreating a most intimate image of new motherhood, that for me is beyond charming and quite remarkable, considering he cannot – obviously – have precisely experienced it firsthand.
Of course perhaps five minutes after capturing this scene, the bubble of bliss probably burst. Baby wakes, screaming hungry. Mammy wakes, screaming blue murder, aimed squarely at the end of the bed. ‘Look at you, painting away and me in bits. Isn’t it well for you?! It’s a man world I tell ya…’
And so reality kicks in, as only it can when a new little person comes into your life and your home.
If I ever visit Madrid I shall make a bee line for the Museo Sorolla where this little masterpiece currently resides. I will stand in front of it and cherish it as another lovely birth scene, without any of the background screaming (actual or tweeted) on this occasion.
What does anyone think?