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25 March 2012

photo of comedian laurence clark and son with actor david tennant

Photo of comedian Laurence Clark and son, with actor David Tennant

Richard Downes reviews 'We Won’t Drop The Baby', featuring disabled comedian Laurence Clark and his family and finds a four-fold joy. The documentary is part three of BBC1's Beyond Disability Series.

In the build up to the documentary ‘We Won’t Drop The Baby’ I thought the programme was about the interaction between Laurence and Adele Clark and narrator David Tennant. It is not. David Tennant isn’t in it. You hear his voice, but if you give the story the attention it deserves, you wouldn’t know he was there.

My only complaint is about the critics desire to write David Tennant. I have already mentioned him three times myself. However, the series to date, has been built on the idea that celebrities are the disability story. Our loves, our losses are told in an unfriendly media.

The Clark’s story concerns the joy that comes from the birth of a child, the joy of beating the barriers the NHS creates and the joy of adapting family life to include the new member successfully. The filmmakers do this extremely well whilst also revealing the hidden stories of disabled people.

Adele Clark dreams of having another child and giving the baby a natural birth. Laurence feels reluctant. He is happy as they are, but manages to turn his trepidation into a joke. He says his big worry is that they will have a Tory.

To understand the story of the Clarks we are asked to know the background of their own births. We are asked to tolerate the news that Cerebral Palsy is not hereditary, that their conditions arose from the failures of the NHS around their births.

That Adele and Laurence survived and became rounded adults is in no small part down to the strength of their own mothers who feature strongly. You hear about their hopes and aspirations for their children. They are as good as anyone else and they will live to celebrate an ordinary life with partners of their own. The mothers did not get this wrong, though we could argue about the language. Neither will the Clarks get the development of their children wrong. The young, dramatic, Tom Clark, their first child is ample proof of this.

However, it will not be achieved without overcoming barriers from the attitudes of the public who will question how the impregnation was achieved, whether IVF has bought around another miracle. The public and their masterful professionals will continue to give verdicts, set limits to what we can achieve. In doing this we observe a secret joy in the filming, where NHS staff are caught on camera and have no idea of what to do.
The final joy arrives in watching the Clarks and their full set of relationships. There love for one another is clear. It is shown in loving looks, hugs, comforting words, small acts of kindness in passing the tissues, the truths that they have already told Tom, how they seek to involve him.

Laurence’s mother talks about them in terms of admiration for trying their best to do what they do and achieving it in their own way. She also manages to balance the dilemma of wanting to help but not helping and keeps her own anxieties at bay whilst Laurence and Adele make adjustments to show how they will parent. Adele and Laurence finish their time on camera by denying how special they are - claiming only to be living their lives. So, it falls on me to put the kibosh on these final words. Laurence and Adele are as special as anyone else. He is a father and a professional comedian who takes a droll look at life. She is a woman, lover, mother, wife, enabler to Laurence.

I have seen Laurence recently. Jamie’s birth is already in his show. As are the failures of the NHS (I will see him in his new production Health Hazard). He also celebrates the importance of having a film crew with him to note his families travails with the NHS. Unusually, a film crew has done a very good job indeed in telling disabled people’s stories. Well done!

BBC 1 documentary 'We Won't Drop the Baby' is available on BBC i-player until 11.15pm on Sunday 1 April

Comments

Kate

/
29 August 2012

As a non-disabled person who is childless-not-by-choice, this story filled me with joy and sadness. Sad, because I always feel loss for what I can not have, but joy because another couple who had the odds against them achieved such a wonderful gift.

I wish them all the best, how could anyone begrudge them of the amazing miracle they have been blessed with?

richard downes

/
20 April 2012

u c.

even DAO geton the celeb kick. Wot a photo

richard downes

/
27 March 2012

absolutely right Debs. its all been said before. but when your midwife is saying you can't do this because you can't get into the bath before they even know whether you can get into the bath and when nursey its very clean is keeping you away from the birth with patronage then its good to be reminded its still going on, that we are confronted on a ddaily basis and we still have a need to keep on saying it andproving it and winning it

Deborah Caulfield

/
27 March 2012

The previous comment was mine. The fields were left blank, inadvertantly.

/
27 March 2012

I watched the programme, not without some trepidation. Though it was excellent, I have residual concerns about such True Life stories.

One of my problems is having seen it all before.

Several people I know have appeared in magazines and on TV, telling their stories from their own perspective, explaining they have the same aspirations as everyone else.

It's hard to avoid these stories coming over as Triumph Over Tragedy.

And...

I have two kids, many of my disabled peers have kids, who now have kids of their own.

Here's the thing:

NOTHING BLOODY CHANGES!

* Disabled people still fighting for the right to have their own families.

* Having 'won' the fight, gone against 'good advice', the support is not generally available. The medical professionals turn their back. Not always, but too often. Not out of kindness but stomach-churning prejudice.

* Disabled people insisting on doing everything themselves, having to, for fear (understandable) of feeling, or being judged to be, inadequate.

Good on the Clarks. I just wish it wasn't necessary for disabled people to continually have to make the case.

Andrew Beet

/
26 March 2012

I watched the documentary we wont' drop the baby and enjoyed it. it's nice to see a disabled couple have a child when all the doctors said no you can't have children because of your disabilities. That is wrong. When Adele said when she is stopped in the supermarket and asked how do you manage having children when you have got cerebral palsy and when laurence was interviewed he said "it's none of people's business" and i think that's right. Also when Adele said at the end of the programme people look at me and laurence and think we shouldn't have kids i think that is wrong. It doesn't matter whether you're able bodied or disabled i think you should have the choice to have children if you want it.

Melissa Mostyn-Thomas

/
26 March 2012

There was a delicious irreverence about the documentary that I loved. Laurence's and Adele's personalities complemented each other really which made for a truly engaging relationship and great TV, and I couldn't help but laugh at the way Laurence's mum covered her eyes when they were negotiating how to get baby Jamie in the bath (which of course they did, successfully). I split my sides at all Laurence's jokes too. I so wish there were more like this.

I find it oddly prescient how the three documentaries in the BBC's Beyond Disability season resonated with various aspects of my and my family's lives. Like Risa Monckton in Letting Go, I am a parent wondering about the future of my disabled child; just like Rita Simons is considering for her daughter Maiya in My Daughter, Deafness and Me, I have just had a cochlear implant; just like Laurence Clark's mum in We Won't Drop The Baby, I have been told that my little girl will have learning difficulties as a result of her CP.

Out of the three, though, only the latter reminded me that the best way to address life's perceived tragedies is to laugh uproaringly in their faces.

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