A friend of a friend recently announced her pregnancy and soon afterwards set up a Facebook group asking her mummy friends for advice. My first nugget of wisdom? No, not take ALL the drugs, although in hindsight… Nope, not even buy a Perfect Prep machine (that was my second piece of advice).
My first piece of advice was to enrol on an NCT course. Considered by some as over-priced introduction agencies for middle-class parents-to-be NCT classes kind of are that and that’s exactly why I would recommend them.
I’m not sure I would have signed up it weren’t for the amount of people who recommended the classes to me throughout my pregnancy, not for the sessions themselves but for the vital support network.
A friend of mine who has a one-year-old daughter put it perfectly when she said:
“I’m more than happy to help you with any questions you have but you’ll probably find your NCT friends give you a better answer because they’re in the trenches with you.”
At the time I naively sniggered at the turn of phrase ‘in the trenches’. Fast-forward to being heavily pregnant during a blisteringly hot summer and I knew what she meant. Fast-forward some more to day three post-partum when the baby blues kicked in and I literally cried all day for no reason and I really knew what she meant. Fast forward to when I felt a total failure because I had to give Elliott formula and I totally knew what she meant. Fast-forward to now when I need some help and advice, or just a good moan and I get it. I totally get it.
It’s funny to think that this time last year us NCT buddies didn’t even know each other and when we did meet our only common ground was a protruding bump. Now we’ve been through so much together. We’ve talked about things I’d never thought I’d speak to someone I’d known for such a short space of time about, yet now it seems second nature – stitches, waters breaking, boobs – no topic is off limits, we’ve all been there.
We’ve all taken it in turns to be each others cheerleaders when times are tough and in those early days when sleep was (literally) a distant dream there would always be someone available on the Whatsapp group to chat with and keep you sane-ish. We’ve all celebrated the triumphs as our little ones have reached various milestones too.
Writing this I almost feel quite emotional thinking back to the classes where we first met, the time we met for coffee (decaf obviously) once we had all broken up for maternity leave (giving the staff at Café Nero a mini heart attack in the process as we all waddled in with our huge bumps), the emotional reunion in the park where we were all so proud that we had managed to get out of the house with our little ones and not run any one over with our prams.
As birth stories were recalled our journeys to motherhood were all slightly different but because memories were still fresh we could still relate to each other, even if just to moan about how ridiculously hot the maternity ward was.
Sure, the NCT classes were good. Where the NHS classes were informative, the NCT classes were touchy feely focusing not just on the mechanics of childbirth (and the drugs) but also what you can do during the different stages of labour to work in harmony with your body (great if you get the opportunity to utilise them I’m sure, I didn’t). You also get the contact details of an NCT breastfeeding buddy, along with a dedicated class on breastfeeding. There was a brief class on how to wash and dress baby and lots of talk about how our relationships would cope with the change of having a baby on board. But mostly we bounced on birthing balls, ate cake (provided in the course fees) and swapped stories, tips and concerns.
Now, as our little ones have been with us for over half a year, we support each other through teething, weaning and the strange mix of dread and liberation that we feel about going back to work.
An expensive introduction agency? Nope, a priceless one.
P.S. My friend was so right about having people ‘in the trenches’ with you, it’s amazing how quickly you forget the challenges of the newborn days and even now I find myself asking people with tiny babies stupid questions like “are they sleeping through yet?” at least I have the decency to cringe when I realise my foolishness.
To find out more about the NCT and course near you visit, nct.org.uk