“I’m going to my first antenatal class tonight”, I mentioned to my friends as I left the office.
“Oh? We didn’t know you were pregnant! Congratulations!” chimed their friendly sarcasm.
It reminded me that it did feel a bit funny going to an antenatal class without a baby on the way. But I reassured them I wasn’t going for me. I was going to observe and learn about what people experience at their first NCT class, so that next time when anyone asks me about classes I can speak from experience, rather than what I’ve read or heard from others.
So I went along on a wintery Wednesday evening last month, to observe my local course in Westbury Church Hall. Picturing my chilly local church hall from my days as a Brownie, I wrapped up warm. But I needn’t have bothered: I entered a lovely snug room, lit with the warm glow of (pretend) candles and a circle of comfy chairs. I was handed a cup of tea and introduced myself to the practitioner and to the mums and dads-to-be who were gathering there. Most were a bit nervous or apprehensive, but the group quickly got chatting.
The class began with mums gathering around one table and birthing partners gathering around another to draw up a list of ‘things they’d like to know’. What struck me instantly was that there was no such thing as a silly question! People quickly shook off the fear of ‘I should know that’, so that the women’s list included questions like ‘Where can I give birth?’ or ‘How do I know when to go to hospital?’ and ‘What if they won’t stop crying?’
The birth partners were both caring and practical: ‘How can I best look after my partner?’ ‘Where can we buy affordable baby equipment?’ and ‘What should we pack in the hospital bag?’ they asked.
We had two long lists of all the questions you could imagine. Everyone instantly showed obvious relief. ‘I thought I was the only one who didn’t know these things!’ people echoed, ‘I was worried that everyone else would have a whole birth plan worked out already!’
We went on to talk about the later stages of pregnancy, how the body changes (including how much the bladder shrinks and where the stomach goes), what happens during labour and what to do when this happens. I learnt so much!
At the end of the session everyone was nattering away and feeling excited that their journey to being a parent was starting to feel even more real. For a lot of people, their first antenatal class is their first interaction with NCT, and often the start of a long relationship with the charity. If they are all as positive and welcoming as the one I attended, I can certainly see why people are keen to stick with NCT and the friends they make through it.
I’ve been working at NCT for three months now as a Volunteer Support Officer as part of the new Volunteering Team. It’s a fantastic job. I love working with such dedicated, passionate volunteers. Although I’ve worked in volunteer management with other charities, I’m brand new to NCT – I’ve never been involved with the organisation in any way before. I must admit, I was a little apprehensive about how I would fit in with a parenting charity, not being a parent myself. But I’m thoroughly enjoying it, and have learnt so much, not least through observing classes, visiting branches and taking part in events. My recent visit to an NCT antenatal class summed this up for me, so I was keen to share it with you.
This blog is by Bethany Squire, Volunteer Support Officer (Engagement) at NCT.