37+2 (or, antenatal classes)

If there is one thing that I have been consistently told throughout pregnancy, it’s that I should join an NCT group and go to an antenatal class. Well, here’s the thing. I ignored you/them all and we didn’t. The more I talked to people, the more they admitted that the thing they mainly got from the class or course was a group of couples likely to give birth at the same time. We may have shot ourselves in the foot here, but neither Marto nor I are fans of enforced friendship. Naturally becoming friends with someone that has a shared interest or similar passion (blogging and WI being my two examples is one thing) but simply by virtue of having had sex last July? I also read quite a lot of criticism about the NCT not offering structured learning and a lot of the time the classes being dominated by getting to know the other couples. If it had been free, I would have gone. But £280 seemed like a lot of money to acquire a group to have coffee with.

That said, I was keen to give antenatal classes a shot. Sadly, something has been against us the whole time. In Somerset, our midwife casually mentioned the January antenatal classes the day before they were due to take place, seeming surprised that I couldn’t attend at no notice and that Marto was away working in London. They were running classes every other month, so we would have moved by the time the March classes came round. In London, my booking appointment was at the hospital on the very first day after we moved. I enquired about the antenatal classes and was cheerfully informed that the community midwife would organise these for me at the appointment that was provided for some three weeks later. At that appointment however, I found that it was too late for the March classes had already started and not only had they started but they were fully booked and I should have had the foresight to book them as soon as I realised I was pregnant. After some discussion, a place was booked for us on a 5 hour class at the hospital, yesterday.

On Wednesday evening at 6.10pm I was telephoned to say that the class was now not on Thursday but Friday. Marto thankfully was able to swap his days off and so off we trotted to the appointed place this afternoon. It could not have been more shambolic if it had tried. The presenting midwife explained that she had been roped in at the last minute. She couldn’t find any of the props that she wanted. There was no real introduction and she appeared to just want people to question her for the 5 hours as “we would get more out of it” that way.

The room was full of first time mothers and she was asking us what we knew about labour and so on. All of the information she gave was contained in any number of the pregnancy books and she added nothing further nor gave any clarity to the subject. She didn’t even know what if any the hospitals policy was for discharging babies in carseats, saying she didn’t know but then earherly agreed with one man that it was illegal to allow a baby out that wasn’t in a car basket. She fobbed off Marto’s questions about physiology of a contraction by saying it “was complicated” although she did describe it to a level of detail that if you had never heard of a contraction before, you may have learnt something, but gave no further insight.

My question was about the structure of the day. It seemed odd to expect heavily pregnant women to sit in a top floor classroom on a warm day for 5 hours. She seemed surprised by my question. I asked what topics were lined up for the afternoon. She informed us that the breast feeding lady and the physiotherapist would not be attending due to the change in date but we could attend a breast feeding class in late April. When I pointed out that this was after Pip was due, she seemed at a loss, suggesting I attended with the baby. She then handed out some breast feeding DVDs and said we would now be watching it.

At that point Marto and I decided to cut our losses. We retired to our garden, where Marto continued tidying and weeding and I slept in the sunshine. Given I had been up for a lot of the night with practise contractions and cramps, listening to the radio being played by the people upstairs from 4.45am, sleeping and relaxing seemed a good deal better use of the afternoon. Which was a shame, as I think that the classes could have been a really useful forum for learning and discussing, had just a little thought been put into the structure of the topics and each participant been informed of these beforehand and asked to consider what areas they may wish to ask questions.



  1. Amy March 30, 2012 / 6:56 pm

    I’m so sorry it was such a let down. I got a lot from ours (um and no friends really, not sure that is a good reflection on me!), but it does depend a bit on how in control you like to be and how much you are willing to go with the flow.

    So here is the most useful thing that was drummed into us at our classes. Ask questions, ask for things to be explained to you and why a course of action is being suggested. Then talk to each other and ask for time if you need to think something over. We did this and my husband was really good at doing it if I wasn’t quite with it. It meant that even though the birth was nothing like the birth plan, we were ultimately happy and involved with it all. I didn’t feel disappointed it was more medicalised than I’d hoped for, I felt like I had been part of making the right decisions for my baby.


    • thelittlepip April 6, 2012 / 2:26 pm

      I kind of like to be in control of going with the flow. If you see what I mean. And I def prefer structured learning even if there is flexibility in the delivery of that. I guess I was hoping for practical advice which went beyond what can be written in a book. Still, I think we’ll be ok.

      Thank you for your advice though, very helpful x

  2. Bella March 30, 2012 / 7:42 pm

    What a shame it was so disappointing! With ours I actually think my hubs got more out of it than me as, like you I’d read all the books.
    The earlier commenter is right – one of the most useful things we learnt from NCT was ask and feel informed and this is job for Marto. The acronym they had was BRAN B – what are benefit of procedure. R – what are the risks. A – is there an alternative. N – what would happen if we did nothing
    Also (trying to remember stuff…) keep moving as much as possible. Oh and during labour the moment when you suddenly really doubt yourself and just want to walk out (my quote “I don’t want this f-ing baby anymore” cring!) is just before the final pushing. When/if you feel like that get M to remind you this means you’re nearly there!!
    Good luck. Trust your body and Pip to know what to do and remember – babies are born, pizzas are delivered!

    • thelittlepip April 6, 2012 / 2:24 pm

      Thanks Bella, great advice. I usually ask all that stuff anyway, so hopefully we will remember that during labour as well.

  3. Emma March 31, 2012 / 11:49 am

    We’ve also decided to forgo NCT classes for the reasons you give. We’re also moving back down south a few months after the birth so the whole ‘making friends’ would have to start all over again anyway. One of the community midwives does her own active birth sessions which I must, must ring up about tomorrow otherwise we’ll get no instruction whatsoever! I’m hoping these might be helpful as I like the idea of moving as much as possible.

    Friends tell me you meet lots of other new mums through playgroups etc so I’m not too worried on that score. Another close friend, who also didn’t do NCT, asked her midwife/health visitor (I forget which) for a list of new mums in her area shortly after her first baby was born and she just rang around and invited them to her house and started a baby group from there.

    I’m going to take on board the info from your other commentators – very helpful advice x

    • thelittlepip April 6, 2012 / 2:22 pm

      Where are you moving to? And you’re right, there are loads of groups to join so I’m sure I’ll meet some mums other than by doing nct. They have nct coffee mornings which I plan to go to, every fortnight at a local cafe, so will give thr a go, and I found a playgroup/ mums group at a local church which I will try too.

      • Emma April 13, 2012 / 5:40 pm

        Southampton, unfortunately! My husband’s job (he’s a lecturer at the university) was made permanent so he can’t do the weekly commute to Manchester much longer. My research contract at Manchester is only temporary and it’s a job I can do from anywhere. Neither of us are keen on Southampton as a place to live. We’ve thoroughly spoiled ourselves by living in Manchester, and before that in London. Going by the general silence among people we ask, there are no (or very few) independent shops, delis, bakeries, bars etc but there are beautiful areas around the city to which we hope to move after a year. We’ll also be much closer to most of our friends who live in London. Sorry, I’ve gone on a bit there – I think you can probably tell I’m not too overjoyed by the prospect!

        I’ve just got back from our last holiday ‘a deux’ so catching up on your posts. Love the mobile and I hope Pip makes an appearance very soon.

        • thelittlepip April 14, 2012 / 7:21 pm

          Southampton isn’t as bad as it could be 🙂 as my granddad says, it could be Wigan! (although I am sure Wigan isn’t bad either)

          My cousin lives there (Southampton) and she seems to like it, although I haven’t heard her talk about many independent shops and cafes. I’ll ask her for recommendations though.


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