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NCT classes provided me with some time and space each week to consider the reality and practicalities of pregnancy, labour and parenthood. I knew the basics – I didn’t expect any of it to be a walk in the park, but at 35 I felt ready to take it all in my stride. I was not worried or anxious about the huge changes which were already taking place in my life but at the same time, I had not really stopped to consider what these changes would actually mean on a day to day basis and how we would handle them. Picking out a pram, buying some maternity leggings and resigning your best high heels to the back of the wardrobe is one thing – considering when you would want to be induced, which drugs (if any) you want in labour and what the first 48 hours with a new baby at home actually look like are considerations within a different league.
Janice’s classes provided a space which quickly became a safe place to ask anything – which we did. We talked openly about the topics which we identified in the first meeting as being important to us and it felt comfortable to do so with other people going through the same thing. It was ok to ask about breast pads (I never even knew these existed), sleeping bag ‘togs’, what actually happens with forceps and how many varieties of pain relief there are – and what their side effects can be. It was fine to ask about how induction actually happens, what a c-section looks like and what kind of breast-feeding support we can expect, (this seems to vary depending on where you deliver your baby) and whether we wanted to bottle feed. It was ok to question about our bodies afterwards – the bleeding (who knew that would last for weeks?!), exercise, recovery and what the role of midwives and health visitors would be. We also learnt from each other – who was enjoying pregnancy yoga, who wanted to borrow the hypnobirthing CD, where could you get a good pregnancy massage and who was really craving salt (me). Week by week, my knowledge would build and with it, my confidence in my ability to deal with the quickly nearing future.
NCT classes cannot prepare you for everything – they did not prepare me for the fact that when it came to the crunch the last thing I wanted was the water birth I had dreamed of and that actually Rita would appear with me kneeling by the side of the bed. Having said that it is fair to say that Janice did make it clear that birth plans should always be flexible. The classes, though informative did not prepare me for how crazy I would be under sleep deprived conditions and how emotional at times this would make me. What they did give me was 6 other women (and men) at the end of a what’s app group any time, day or night, to offer support, strength and usually cake the following day. This proved to be particularly useful on the night feed – who else can you guarantee will be up at 3am and willing to chat?!
My group meet up regularly – we are lucky in that we all get on and spending time together is supportive and fun. We have been to classes together, each others houses and sometimes we even allow the Dads to come too! We went out for a Christmas night out – this was our first meet without babies, and none of us fell asleep in our food! It’s certainly a testament to the fact that our friendship may have been founded on our pregnancies but now is deeper than our babies. We are now at the stage of comparing notes about teething, weaning and (shock horror) childcare for when we begrudgingly go back to work. We communicate every day, sharing tips, concerns, advice and of course the inevitable ‘poo stories’.
Between us we have had a breadth of difficulties and hurdles to cross during the months that we have known each other. There have been difficulties we expected and some that none of us saw coming. Some of these issues I feel were helped practically through the NCT classes but nothing can fully prepare you emotionally, and that is where your reliance on others is so important. NCT gives you these people – these friends, as well as the practical skills you need to survived parenthood, and even enjoy it.