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The Baby Borrowers Interview: A baby-loaning mother and teen “parent” sound off on the hit TV show, on Babble.com

The NBC show The Baby Borrowers (alternate title: Birth Control) follows baby-craving teenage couples who are given real-life parenting challenges, as they look after a baby for three days, then move on to toddlers, pre-teens, teenagers, and finally the elderly. The concept has stirred up controversy on both sides of the pond (it’s modeled after a British show of the same name), with some viewers thinking it abusive to the young children, and others admiring the show’s hard-line realism for teens who might be considering having a baby. Unusual for a TV show, a town hall will be broadcast on August 6th about the issues the show has raised. Babble spoke to both a teenage participant and the mother of a ‘borrowed’ baby to find out what in the world they were thinking. – C. W. Thompson 

Natalie Nichols is a parent who allowed Love Productions, the company behind the show, to ‘borrow’ her two children – who were two years and six months old at the time of filming – to be watched over, temporarily, by a teen couple. Natalie has two other children ages thirteen and eight, and lives outside of Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband, who works for the government.

How did you get involved in the show?

The casting agent contacted me through my MySpace page. I guess they saw the photos and the background story.

What is your background story?

I was a teenage mom on purpose, I thought I knew everything and moved out when I was sixteen and still a student. I got pregnant on purpose and got married really early – I was married at eight months pregnant. I was a good kid, didn’t drink or anything like that. But after my parents suddenly decided they didn’t like my boyfriend, it sparked a rebellion in me. So I said, I’ll show them.

It didn’t turn out so well. I wasn’t emotionally prepared at all. My older son is now thirteen and he got the brunt of the deal. He heard us arguing constantly and yelling at each other, and neither one of us was ready to be a parent. So I thought it would be a good opportunity to help other girls not go down the same road.

It sounds like there was a legitimate reason for you to do the show.

For me, just changing one girl’s life was enough. The teens that had our children were Sean and Kelsey, and Kelsey wanted to have a child at eighteen. She reminded me of me when I was that age. She wanted to prove to her boyfriend that she could do it, but I kind of think she wanted to prove to herself as well. It’s a perfectionist mindset. I thought it was good. I’ve gotten numerous letters from other girls who’ve also said that it’s been meaningful for them.

Can you see yourself helping more teens?

I’m hoping that this will open up other opportunities. I’ve never been in a position to speak publicly. I honestly and truly am doing this to help others. I really don’t think this is an entertainment program. It’s a bit entertaining, but that’s how you get kids to watch. The parents are watching as well. And all the controversy is a good thing.

Was it difficult being on set?

The parents went three days with each child. I was on set about seven days. I didn’t find it hard. I co-slept with Etta at home, but then I didn’t see her for three days on the set except through the monitors. I pumped milk every night. The teenagers did not sleep with the kids. Nothing was staged. Because of editing it may look that way. I stayed awake for almost three days. Etta was so young, I could not sleep. It is part of being a mom.

Were your children treated properly?

The two-year-old got a diaper rash and the producer completely halted production. A paramedic was called and I was called in and the producer consulted me about the diaper rash. You don’t get that at a daycare center.

Did you have to intervene at all?

I did go over twice, but more as a mentor for the teens. I guess I gave them a bit of tough love. They just were not getting it. Sean had mentioned that maybe they could just let Etta cry. I think the scared straight idea is just what they needed, so that’s what I gave them.

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