Born in the Wild recap, Episode 1 (March 3, 21015): Lifetime’s new unscripted series Born in the Wild, which I liken more to extreme birthing, opens by reminding us that years ago women gave birth without doctors or drugs (if only they had the options, right!?!). Clearly, times have changed — thank you modern medicine — and now over 98 percent of babies in the U.S. are born in hospitals. This series, however, is not about those seeking traditional hospital birthing experiences, instead it’s the women who are looking to reverse the trend and give birth in the wild.
Viewers were warned before watching that Born in the Wild does have content that may be too intense for some viewers —a valid warning. What followed, however, was a cheesy over-the-top lead-in involving wolves, woods and a lot of agonizing screams that most likely scared off most male viewers. I get the idea of creating the drama and suspense surrounding the unknowns of this series, but the beginning was ridiculous and took away from the rarely seen miracle of giving birth in all of its full detail, which the series does capture. But enough on that, let’s meet the couple profiled in the premiere episode.
In Episode 1 of the six episode series we meet 24-year-old Audrey Bird and her 28-year-old husband Peter, along with their two children. The couple has only lived in Alaska for three months at the time of shooting, prior to that they lived in San Diego where Peter was a deputy sheriff. After being exposed to the crimes of the city, Peter realized he wanted to raise their kids in a safe, natural environment, thus their current locale in a remote part of Alaska, located about 150 miles away from the nearest town.
Audrey is a fully trained midwife. She had a bad experience with her first birth at age 19. “My labor was full of fear and that’s not something I ever want to do again,” Audrey told cameras. Audrey delivered her second child in the comfort of their own home with just the help of Peter.
Viewers get a quick overview of the Bird’s old lodge property that features a simple two-story home located along a beautiful lake and sandy beach, where dense woods align their backyard. We see the Bird family walking through their property with their pack of dogs, who frequently alert them to the dangers of black bears that wander through their trails and property. Peter tells that he recently killed two bears and expresses his concerns on the upcoming birth and the smell of blood that could attract more bears. Oh great, like there wasn’t enough things to worry about already.
Audrey and Peter walk around their property looking for a suitable birthing location. Audrey decides on the beachfront and Peter pitches their birthing tent and fills it with some mats for comfort.
While Audrey admits there is “huge controversy out there” in terms of where babies should be born, she says: “I’m excited to have my baby outside in Alaska where we are surrounded by the lake and trees and the clouds and mountains, it’s absolutely breathtaking.” And it truly is – completely tranquil – free of noise and everyday distractions. For most, a nice place to visit, the last place to give birth.
In Alaska the weather changes frequently, so Peter prepares a secondary shelter on higher ground, and it’s a good thing as we later see that the storm flooded their beach side birthing tent. The new shelter is made from a preexisting porch-like structure where Peter adds trees and tarps to make it more secure.
Just as Audrey is starting with her contractions, Peter needs to leave to pick up Audrey’s mother Bonnie and sister Hannah, who are flying in from Arizona to assist with the birth and watching the children. A quick trip to the airport in a pick up truck is not part of the plan, that would be too easy. Instead, Peter needs to travel across the lake in his canoe – a one hour journey to pick them up on the other side of the lake. Here’s where you go “OK, wait a minute. So he’s going to leave Audrey alone with two little kids when she started some serious contractions?” Imagine the cameraman – alone with Audrey – freaking out that he/she might be the one delivering this baby if they don’t get back in time. #NotPartOfMyJobDescription
Anyways, picking up Bonnie and Hannah proved to be more than challenging for poor Peter. The duo came completely underdressed for the Alaskan weather, but luckily Peter had rain gear for the two to keep warm. The good news, Bonnie brought pizza! The bad news, it’s in a cardboard box and it’s raining. Oh well. The three set off in Peter’s tiny canoe that is propelled by some five-horsepower motor. Credit goes to Bonnie who was more than unsure about this maiden voyage. Peter explains that the canoe can hold up to 400 pounds – probably not the best vessel to transport three people plus their luggage. White caps on the lake threaten flooding the canoe and they are forced to bank it several miles before their destination. The trio is left to hoof it back to the house, which is a five-mile trek along a slippery-rock bank.
Audrey is relieved when they arrive. She’s ready to get rolling as her contractions have increased in intensity. BTW, they know the baby is a girl and they plan to name her Piper. Audrey and Peter head to the structure that Peter built to prepare for the birth but run into some uninvited guests in the form of aggressive mosquitoes. As if things aren’t challenging enough with the bad weather, less than ideal shelter and now mosquitoes. Between contractions, Audrey and Peter are swatting at the biting mosquitoes – so not an ideal birth location. I can’t even imagine, this is insane.
As Audrey enters active labor she has no drugs to help with the pain. She’s groaning and crying out, which just echoes through the property making it difficult for her mother who is watching the children. This is getting increasingly stressful. Even Bonnie tells the camera, it’s upsetting for the kids to hear their mom crying in pain. “I just hear her screaming and I’m starting to get worried,” Bonnie says. OK, Bonnie – we’re all worried now, damn you Lifetime. I want my TLC A Baby Story back.
Audrey’s starting to panic a little not understanding why this is so hard, something she would know having assisted many births as a trained midwife. She’s been laboring hard for three hours now. She knows something is not right. Peter tells her that Piper’s posterior. OK, wait, what? What does that mean? We learn that means the baby is head down but facing the abdomen, which is not ideal and requires a woman to push much longer and many times requires a c-section.
Things are intense. It’s actually agonizing to watch, really. After some serious pushing, Audrey manages to get Piper’s head out. Cameras are in position to capture everything (but not in a gross way). This is actually more raw, real footage than the videos you saw in your hospital birthing class. It was fascinating to see Piper born, her expression on her face when entering the world was amazing. Truly a miracle. Audrey was able to care for Piper immediately, suctioning out her lungs and getting her covered — an amazing feat having gone through the labor she just did.
Audrey calls for the kids to come down to meet their sister and the family enjoys their moment completely in the wild.
“It feels more foreign to me to give birth in a sterile, cold, tiled hospital room than it did to be just in the woods with my baby,” Audrey says later. “It was a very cool experience and I’d definitely do it again.”
Peter summed up the experience saying, “As a father there’s an unexplainable connection I have with the child that I’ve delivered myself. One hundred and fifty years ago birth was just something everyone did at home but then we started to try and influence birth, started calling it an emergency, started taking interventions — all these things became fears.”
“Birth is safe,” Audrey concludes. “You take low risk women, who are planning to have a home birth or an unassisted birth or birthing in the middle of nowhere and it’s going to be safer than a low risk woman in a hospital just because of the intervention … If birth wasn’t safe none of us would be here.”
So what do you think? Agree with the non-hospital route for birthing? Let us know below.