A year ago today I was eight months pregnant and dragging the husband along to the first of four antenatal NCT (National Childbirth Trust) classes.
He was not exactly up for it. For starters, he was missing West Ham play. And he couldn’t understand why we needed to sit in a room with five other couples for SIX HOURS (we did break for lunch in the middle) on a Sunday to talk about how our baby was going to be born. And then go to another three sessions in the weeks that followed.
We’d also had to pay more than £200 for the privilege of the experience. Money which could have been spent on clothes for the baby. Or nappies. Or something else that seemed infinitely more practical than chatting.
Off we went to our NCT Signature Antenatal course (held in a side room at David Lloyd in Southend.) And a year on I can happily say it was one of the best pre-Sonny Jim decisions we made.
Although the classes themselves were helpful (to a point) with preparing us for the actual practicalities of giving birth (mind you, of the six of us I think only two of our birth plans actually went to plan!) it was the friendship forged between us mums-to-be (and totally encouraged by our NCT instructor, Lisa) that really made the course worthwhile.
The five other mums and I have more than stayed in contact. We probably Whatsapp each other on a daily basis.
We’re all pretty different. Have different styles of parenting, are making different choices with childcare and returning (or not) to work. But having five other new mums, with babies the same age as yours (NCT put you in groups by your baby’s due date, so everyone in your class is due within about three weeks of each other) cannot, I’ve found, be underestimated.
In those first few months when you’re in the fog of newborn sleepless nights, it’s been brilliant to have a little gang that TOTALLY understand exactly what you’re going through at that moment in time.
We’ve shared poonami nightmares (cutting an outfit off in the loos at Waitrose? Yep, we’ve been there.) We’ve traded weaning tips (anyone else’s baby just want to keep eating? Oh good, not just us then!) and between us figured out the best places to take the babies when you really need a coffee – or glass of prosecco (NCT classes are made up of mums that live within a couple of miles of each other – handy when the thought of going further than the end of your road with a pram is just too much.)
We’ve messaged each other in the middle of the night when the baby just WON’T STOP CRYING – and one of us has always been awake too. We’ve been each other’s biggest cheerleaders, reminding each other that we ARE doing a brilliant job, even when we haven’t managed to get dressed till lunchtime. Together we have ventured into baby sensory rooms, started swimming classes and soft play.
Being a mummy can be the best, most wonderful thing in the world. But being a new mum can also be lonely. It can be tough. It can be intimidating to venture into classes and play groups on your own, with a baby that you don’t really know yet – and might scream. And while most of us already have amazing pre-baby friends and families that love us, it can take a while to find your feet as a mother. To feel like you actually have a clue what you’re doing. Having pals who are muddling through in their own wonderfully messy manner and making mistakes just like you are, is unbelievably reassuring.
I’m sure all NCT classes aren’t like this. But mine was. And while our maternity leave is now at, or coming to, an end, I’m pretty sure our friendships are just starting and our babies will be playmates for years to come
So to my NCT gang, the lovely Sally, Jody, Faye, Maggie and Llydia. Thank you. You’ve help make my first year of motherhood – and Sonny Jim’s first year – more special than I can say.