I have many early memories of the NCT, my mum used to be a mentor? If thats the right word, I can remember coming home relatively late when I was about 8 to a room full of pregnant women and rather worried looking partners, and my mother holding a doll and a plastic pelvis she used to keep in the spare room. So as I was browsing the internet 24+ something weeks it occurred to me to see if there were any classes running nearby that I could maybe attend. I was in look as there was one starting that very evening, whats even more amazing is the very large discount (You pay 10% of normal fees) that you can get through the NCT as a student, this may seem trivial but I believe it promotes accessibility to its services.
I went to the first class with my mum. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, its quite a strange situation, getting a few expectant couples in a room together to essentially teach them how to be pregnant/give birth/cope with a newborn… All rather strange things to attempt to formally teach. I was greeted at the door with a ‘Oh you must be Hannah!” She was warm, open and friendly, she was a flurry of colours and enthusiasm! But it was clear that I wasn’t her average mum to be and as she introduced me to the 4 other couples they were all very lovely and welcoming, but also very married, very middle class, and very..well… people who looked like they should be having a baby, people who had done things in the socially acceptable ‘right’ order. It was quietly intimidating to be the odd one out.
The following six weeks contained a series of classes with an introduction, tea break and activity. My mum accompanied me for the first 3 classes, it was amusing to see how often she disagreed with some of the advice being given out, It was one of the first times I realised that people had hugely different views on parenting, that being a mum was essentially a very devisive and varied minefield of opinion. During these sessions we were often split into groups of mums and dads/birth partners in my case. My mum created a very different dynamic in the group as she was someone, unlike the other birth partners, had actually given birth!
The fourth week I had to go on my own, I was really nervous, it wasn’t anything that the co-ordinator or group had done wrong… I just felt so different. The activity of the day was looking at different positions to give birth in and in particular how the partner could help and support the woman during her labour. I obviously couldn’t participate fully in this activity as the coordinator couldn’t provide the sensitivity and intimacy that the situation required. I looked around at the other couples and you could see the love, trust and connection between them and I just felt so horribly alone I had to leave the session early.
For me the true reason I went to the classes was in attempt to find some common ground people, somewhere I was able to feel really comfortable being pregnant and be around other first time parents who were feeling the same mixture of angst, excitement and trepidation, and once I realised that my feelings were my feelings and they weren’t a reflection of what other people saw. I saw myself as different, I saw the stereotype of the young single mother and presumed that that was what these people would think of me, but I was wrong. Its one of the strange situations, I presumed that they would think I was a stupid reckless teenager and was shocked when they treated me like an adult. It was something thus far I hadn’t properly experienced, I was still treated like a student at college, and for the most parts I was still treated like a child by my parents, in that they were protecting and looking after me. It genuinely gave me hope about the future, I would be operating within an adult world, undeniably something I was lacking experience in, but I enjoyed talking and interacting with people, who were now my equals not my adult superiors. The people I met at the NCT never once felt sorry for me, they sympathised with my situation but judged me purely on what they saw at the sessions (I appreciate that I was an exceptionally emotional hormonal pregnant woman) but we all were and it was a period of transition that we were all going through.
At the end of the 6 weeks we all decided to go to the pub for a drink, something I’m sure was relatively comedic, seeing 5 heavily pregnant women waddle into a pub to order soft drinks, and talk about epidurals, anxieties about breastfeeding and what was to happen next. We had a variety of due dates and over the next 6 weeks the other 5 couples welcomed there tiny bundles, it was so exciting, but really surreal knowing that that would happen to me very very soon! I went to meet one of the mums and her 3 week old baby E, I was still pregnant but it was the first time i’d ever really held such a tiny baby and it was amazing!
Over the next 18 months we met up with our tiny newborns that turned into proper babies, then crawling walking one year olds, over time the contact dwindled as they returned to work and I started university, its amazing how little time you realise you actually have, and how impossible it is to coordinate everyones equally busy lives. There are now more babies, new adventures, the internet is truly a wonderful way of keeping in contact when you lack any social organisational skills! The NCT is an experience I would highly recommend, I do feel that it is advertised for a very particular ‘type’ of parent, but that doesn’t mean that isn’t welcoming of those who don’t fit the standardised mould. I believe that the NCT could work on its advertising strategies to encourage diversification and inclusivity but that doesn’t detract from what was an experience I’m very grateful for.