I’ve always been a keeno in class. First to put my hand up, often have an answer, like getting my voice heard. I LOVE learning. New things, old things, classrooms, field trips, night classes, tricksy languages: you name it, I’ve had a go.
So when it comes to the subject of having a baby, WELL, how steep is that learning curve? None steeper. I’m going to read the best-written books, I’m going to go to ALL the classes I can muster, and download every Your Baby, Week-by-Week planner there is.
A few friends mention the NCT. Sure I’ve heard of them before, and when you’re not-pregnant, you don’t give the Natural Childbirth Trust a second thought. “It’s a great way to make friends. It costs a bit, but it’s worth it. You get an instant friendship group”.
Let’s face it: one of the easiest times to sell someone something is when you’re getting ready to have a baby. You can write off almost any cost eg see Bugaboo or Tripp Trapp – because hell, the precious child of yours who you’ve not even met yet, deserves the best of everything.
So, an NCT course. Sounds good. Useful. I talk to the other half. See what he thinks. Talking in groups really isn’t his thing. I suspect many dads-to-be would consider themselves falling into this category.
I can’t lie: he isn’t keen. He makes the very good point that we’re already booked on to an NHS antenatal class that probably covers everything we need. And it doesn’t cost anything. Why do two courses when you can do one?
Fair point, I say. But the N-C-T’s good because… natural… leading charity… social network and so on. Fast forward a few conversations: the other half comes round to my way of thinking and we’re booked on the ‘Bumps to Babies’ course. At the cost of around £160.
The course consists of six sessions: four antenatal, two postnatal. The first session feels like a cross between going on holiday and going to war. Excitement mixes with fear, which mingles with the unknown and unexpected. It is late summer and the city has never looked more beautiful.
We meet six other couples in a scuffed-up, comfortable room in a community centre. The women, like me, are heavily pregnant. The men seem sure of their purpose there and not to mind their supporting role. We’re all a little fluttery, wide-eyed and eager to get started.
Folk seem nice. Funny. Friendly. There’s so much to take in. And impart. How many times do you tell ‘your’ story when you’re pregnant? Breech, gestational diabetes. Twins, elective C-section. First baby, no problems. Sheesh. So we all tell our stories, a few disclose gender, some others, (mother’s) age too.
The teacher, I think, is a bit too cool for school. Glib, casual, sunglasses on head. I urge inwardly: make more of an effort, love. These are our first children we’re talking about here. And we’ve paid you good money to get you and your organisation’s take on things. Step up your game some.
But she doesn’t. We kick things off with a terrible ice-breaker. We do group chats, ‘break out’, and make obvious lists. Of pros and cons. Of hopes and fears. Apart from someone asking when you can start having sex again (postnatally) (a bloke), it’s without incident. We get back together as a group, feed back, and it’s you know, all a bit bland, sliced white loaf.
We have tea/coffee/water in the break. You see who’s having caffeine/who isn’t. Who’s really into natural childbirth. Who’s neurotic, who’s laid-back. The worriers. The risk-takers. We flit around each other, moths looking for light, cavedwellers for heat, all first day at school, looking for signs in common, references to recognise.
We feed back some bloody more and I wonder: where’s the content? Where’s the information, you know, the expertise, the hard facts we’re paying out for? I mean, I’m not averse to co-creation, but hell, this is ridiculous.
“And now, time’s nearly up, so we’ll dim the lights and finish off with some massage.” Whaaaaat? Sure, we could do that at home. I also worry how my other half is going to cope with admittedly totally above-board massage in front of others. Hmmmm…I needn’t have been concerned, because as soon as we start, I have to ask him to stop. He’s actually massaging my poor, world-weary, baby-heavy back like he’s roughly ironing a shirt. STOP PLEASE!
And before we can fall about laughing for too long at the ridiculousness of this group massage situation, suddenly and thankfully, time’s up. Till next week. We file out, stepping closer to parenthood, to our mid-sized cars, and drive off into the early autumn night, clutching our bumps, and sometimes, each other.