Baby it's YouTube

Sat, Jun 2, 2012, 01:00

An Irish couple who make a living from broadcasting their lives on the web are planning to share the birth of their first child with their online audience

FOR MOST COUPLES the birth of their first child is an intimate and deeply private moment usually witnessed only by themselves and those assisting at the birth. This week one Irish couple announced their plans to mark this milestone by broadcasting the birth of their firstborn on the internet.

The Cork-based husband and wife Jonathan Joly and Anna Saccone already have two popular YouTube channels where for nearly two years they have broadcast daily programmes about their life; everything from shopping trips to Joly’s romantic marriage proposal, and even their wedding, last September.

“When you hear what we are planning it may sound odd, but for us it’s just a natural progression of what we do. We have an audience, a community of people who follow our lives, so for us to broadcast the birth of our first baby feels perfectly natural,” says Joly of the 120,000 subscribers to their channel LeFloofTV.

The couple’s baby, a girl they have already named Emilia, is due to be born on September 3rd. Despite being advised that they could not take photographs or use a video camera at Cork University Hospital, Joly “discreetly” filmed the first scan and broadcast the video diary, which was viewed 80,000 times.

“Our audience engages with us constantly. It’s not just that one-dimensional TV experience where people are sitting mindlessly watching the box. They get involved and tell us what they think, and we really feel a sense of community,” he says. “We share our experiences and, because of that, people are emotionally invested in the content.”

After broadcasting the scan footage, Joly received a letter from management at the hospital advising against filming such antenatal appointments again. “I think people who don’t understand the YouTube platform might see what we are doing as seedy or weird,” he says.

Having started out in the public-hospital system, the couple have since decided to go private, and their consultant has agreed to allow limited filming of the birth. They are permitted to film before and after the epidural is administered, for example, but not the injection itself.

“It’s more about capturing the emotional journey of Anna giving birth to our first child rather than the graphic details,” says Joly. “I am not going to bury a camera between my wife’s legs. There are plenty of TV shows where you can see that kind of thing.” The public appetite for such television programmes is evident in healthy viewing figures for the Channel 4 series One Born Every Minute. In Ireland, the Births of the Nation documentary, on RTÉ, followed five expectant mothers in the lead-up to the births of their babies.

High-profile examples of people who have broadcast the births of their children include the US TV presenter Ricki Lake, but YouTube is also awash with the birthing films of ordinary people. A spokesperson for the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin says it allows video cameras into the delivery rooms “once the privacy of others in the area is protected and that anything filmed is done so very discreetly”.

“I know some people think what we are doing is outlandish, but it doesn’t feel at all strange for us,” says Saccone, adding that although they “put so much out there” they are still able to keep some things private. The couple make a “decent” living from their media activities, including Saccone’s fashion programme Style Diet. “It is not the same as a reality show. We are in control of everything that is broadcast. We decide what we will and will not show,” she says.

“There have been stressful moments in this pregnancy when I’ve wanted to curl up in a ball and not show my face to the internet, but I know all the time that Jonathan has my back, so it is never an issue. The filming has become such a normal part of our lives now that the question isn’t why would we want to share the birth of our baby with the world but why wouldn’t we?”

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