When Emma Willis returned to the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, Essex, to film the second season of the award-winning Delivering Babies, some people thought she was filming a pretend telly show.
Although the first series aired on W channel last year to viewer and critical acclaim, some people couldn’t believe that the TV presenter was actually working at the hospital as a trainee Maternity Care Assistant.
But from mopping the floor to cleaning up sick, making endless cups of tea and taking blood, the mum-of-three has thrown herself into the role with as much gusto as she did before.
Here, Emma answers seven burning questions about the show and being a mum - from the challenges of training this time around, to feeling broody on the ward...
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1. How did it feel going back to the Princess Alexandra Hospital?
It was amazing! I think the first series was extremely overwhelming and emotional. It was very brave of people to allow us into that scenario. For series two, I suppose I wondered a lot about whether it would just all be the norm now, or whether I’d still get emotional.
I wondered whether that side of it wears off over time the more you see it and get used to it. A bit like everything really. But it didn’t, and I’m glad it still knocks me and makes me emotional because it’s the most incredible thing to witness. So, it definitely ticked all those boxes for me.
2. Did you remember all your training from the first time around?
No! I mean obviously you do, because I spent such an intense period of time there last year that you learn a lot and take on board a lot and go away from it remembering lots. But then, when it comes to things like taking blood again, I’m like "I can’t just stab somebody!" or "What if I do it wrong or don’t clean it properly?"
You know all those little things that are really simple when you do it day in day out, and it becomes a rhythm and automatic. When you haven’t done it for nine months you suddenly panic that you’re going to do it wrong.
3. What did you find the most challenging part of the training this time?
This time what I found most challenging was spending time in the Neonatal part of the hospital, which I haven’t done before. Neonatal is the intensive care section, then you have special care, which is what they go down to before they go back to the mum on the ward.
So, it’s kind of that halfway house. I wasn’t working with the really tiny poorly babies though, because we were in special care and they were in the process of going home.
I did my training for inserting an NG [nasogastric] tube, so I can now tube feed babies. The training team said you just shove the tube up its nose, and it’ll go into its tummy and I was like "What?! It can’t be that simple". Their nostrils are so tiny.
You think you’re going to hurt them, and I think my biggest fear was when they said what you don’t want to do is put it into the lung, which sounds horrible! They said it’s very rare that it happens, but it can and in all the years they’ve been training they’ve never seen anyone do it. So, I was terrified I was going to be the first one!
I think that was such a big challenge for me because my daughter had had it a few days after birth and watching someone do it to her was terrifying. I was so scared that it was hurting her, so for me to have to do it to another child just felt all sorts of wrong.
But then you realise that it’s actually very quick, and the ones that I did never cried, so I figured that surely it can’t hurt that much, and they need it to feed. The only thing you’re doing is what’s necessary to help them get better, so that made it more justifiable.
4. Is this experience one that makes you feel broody?
I think initially it does, because you’re back and I remember the first time just thinking about the smells and how cute the babies were. And you do kind of think, because we [Emma is married to Busted star, Matt Willis] have said three is enough, "I’m never going to do this again" and I look at the bubble the new parents are in, which is amazing.
Then a few weeks later you realise that the bubble lasts forever, but that immediate newborn baby thing that happens is bloody hard work. We are very lucky to have three good’uns and why rock the boat? Let’s just stick with what we’ve got!
5. Do you hope to inspire other people to take up the role as a career?
Yes, I hope so! I mean, I love it! It’s bloody hard work and a lot of it is cleaning beds, making beds and answering buzzers, but I kind of enjoy that.
I think having been a pregnant woman, or having just given birth, you are just so thankful for any help you can get immediately before and after. So, I’d do anything you want, literally. If you puked, I’d clean it, it’s fine!
I remember I’d just got onto shift one morning and the buzzer went off and I went to answer it. I spotted that it was a girl I hadn’t met before, as she’d come in during the night. When I said hi, she was a bit like "Oh, hi" and I think sometimes people think we are just filming rather than actually working.
I think her partner then muttered something about her feeling sick, so I said I could go and get someone for them and then I just saw this big bowl of vomit and I was like "Oh you’ve been sick! Give it to me".
She was pretty shocked when I said I’d get rid of it for her. Then I went to the loo and there was someone in there, then I went somewhere else and it was blocked… and I was like "I just have a bowl of vomit and I just need to get rid of it!"
I suppose sometimes, when they’re not expecting you to answer a buzzer because they think it’s just a pretend telly show but you are actually doing the job, people are quite surprised.
And even when you’re mopping a floor. I did have a couple of women say, "Oh you’re actually doing it!" I was like yeah, I’m actually mopping.
6. If one of your friends was going into labour, do you think you’d be able to assist?
Assist yeah, deliver no! I mean I’d know how to pick up a phone and dial 999 for sure.
It’s a weird one isn’t it, because you don’t know until you’re in that moment. I always say to my friends that are pregnant, I’ll be there don’t you worry, everything’s going to be ok, if you’re with me you’ll be fine.
But I might just go into a blind panic. If I was stuck with somebody delivering a baby, I just don’t know… I don’t know. I’d like to think I’d be cool as a cucumber, but I might just lose my sh*t.
7. And finally, you are now fully qualified! Does this mean you can work in any hospital?
Yes! I’ve got the recognised care certificate, which everyone has to achieve to be able to get a job in a hospital. So, I’ve got a backup plan now!
I don’t have much time at the minute, but I think in the future, when all the telly stuff ends, I can’t imagine I’m just going to want to do nothing.
I love the environment, especially in that hospital. We were really lucky with the people that we had because they were all just bloody lovely and welcomed us in with open arms.
It would have been very easy for them to go "What the hell are you jokers doing here?", but they embraced it and loved it and they wanted to show what they do. They were also very natural on camera.
So yeah, maybe a bit of volunteering work, why not? I feel like I can do it!
Emma Willis: Delivering Babies season 2 premieres on Monday, August 5 at 10pm on W - BT TV channel 311/383 HD.
Images: W channel / Instagram