Yes, that’s right, we are not doing NCT classes (cue: look of horror flashing across all parents’ faces). We signed up twice. And unsigned ourselves twice.
Why? A few reasons. We’ve not heard glowing reviews about the content of an NCT course – generally, lots of stuff about breathing, which apparently all goes out the window when you’re in labour and is completely redundant if you have a caesarean.
Having said that, everyone who has been on a course agrees you’re basically buying new friends. To be fair, it seems to have worked for them, with almost every mum beaming about what a great network of other parents they’ve found and how they’re still in touch with those people five or ten years later.
It’s not that we aren’t interested in making new friends, but the NCT clique does feel a bit forced. Giving birth around the same time is hardly a common interest.
Being equally panicked and sleepless doesn’t mean we’re going to get on like a house on fire. In fact, equally stressed and tired people telling each other “how we do it” seems exactly the kind of social occasion I want to steer well clear of.
We already have plenty of friends and relatives that we don’t see enough. I’m not sure we could squeeze in any new pals without culling some we’ve known for years.
And those friends are dropping babies like conkers from a horse-chestnut tree in autumn. Five have given birth since Christmas, another is due this week, another a fortnight after our own, and two of my wife’s siblings are expecting. And in a slightly weird turn of events, our next door neighbour is due the same day as us and our downstairs neighbour pops two days later (evidently there was a power cut in the street at some point last summer). There will be no shortage of people to talk to about the value of “real” nappies or the phenomenon of projectile pooing.
Actually, is there a group we can join for people who have made a definite decision to not have children so we can live our lives vicariously through them, as they tell us about their holidays and wild nights partying and how they don’t know what to do with all this spare money they have?
We are, however, doing NHS antenatal courses, which will tell us exactly the same things as the NCT classes, at the very hospital we’re due to have the baby and ker-ching! for free.
One of the main reasons for not doing NCT classes is that ours came with a not insignificant £259 price tag and, frankly, we needed a new washing machine more than a different social circle.
The cost of these courses is quite an expense to two people who are about to have their world turned upside down. I know a couple in one part of London who were quoted more than £400, which is enough to make your eyes water more than a 12lb newborn. The essentials like a pram, a Moses basket, a cot, a car seat, a changing table will easily see you with a four-figure bill. Simply completing the hospital bag checklist will set you back a bit. If you’re first-time parents, you’re unlikely to have babygrows or breast pads or a TENS machine (whatever that is: maybe they tell you on the NCT course) kicking about the house.
It would be great if midwives gave couples a little more encouragement to support the NHS-branded courses. Then we’d all have a few more quid in our pockets for those post-birth soirees with our new pals.
Rob Jones is an editor working in London. His first baby is due in March.