Stage 1. Conception. Stage 2. Back up required – in the form of information and people. Stage 3 – booking an ante natal class.
Knocked up? Bun in oven? Don’t know the difference between pethidine and methadone? Confused by the amount of words in your baby book beginning with “Con2? Conception? Contraction? Condescending? Only ever seen a nappy on a PG Tips Chimp? You need ante natal classes. Let’s break this down in to manageable chunks.
Purpose number 1 of the ante natal class – Buying your future life long friends.
With us, first came the joy, the excitement, the hugging ourselves and each other with complete and total blissful happiness of finding out “we” were going to become “a 3”. Then, shortly afterwards came the real light-bulb going off moment – we had to get some friends and quick. Our kid was seriously going to need mates. He was already likely to be ginger (like me) and hairy (like husband). If we were going to give birth to ‘Cousin It’ from The Addams Family we needed to ensure he had back up on the school playing field. Not being locals and because my husband is incredibly anti-social (“I have enough friends Han. All 3 of them. Who live 2 hours away. In different directions”) we knew no one in the area, other than each other. So we bought some people to hang out with.
You have various options. Option number 1 – No classes. You may not want to attend any. You may be confident and watch a lot of One Born Every Minute. And I have had friends and relatives who have done just this. Option number 2 – You can have the NHS, government funded classes. There are 3 of them. You get to fondle a knitted boob.
Or you can go for option number 3 – you can pay for private ones. You still get the knitted boob, but you get a few more classes and a sizable dent in your bank balance. It is 100% a personal choice. Our choice was, we needed as many mates as possible – safety in numbers. We needed as much info as possible. We were already overdrawn so we went for it.
Purpose number 2 of antenatal classes – Your privacy leaves the building. Get used to it.
Nothing beats talking about your cervix in front of a room full of strangers. No, wait, there is. Having to act out, in front of strangers, a baby coming out of your cervix. This was class numero uno for us. At their very basic level, ante natal classes are the first insight you have to a future with no secrets. Future mothers, you will feel that you may as well not wear any underwear for the next 18 months of your life for all the privacy you have about, you know, down there *eyes go up and down knowingly*. Future mums and dads, you will not be able to go to the toilet for years without someone following you, banging on the door and saying…
Future trips to cafes will be ruined by your offspring pointing to the butch lesbian waitress and saying
“Why is that man saying his name is Claire?”
and pointing at the poor teenage boy with terrible acne and saying
“Why doesn’t that boy wash his face?” – hideous.
And ante natal classes are the entrance in to this world of truth and honesty! They are the boot camp for it! Women will be sat on the floor (the floor?! 8 months pregnant?! Ante natal leaders, seriously, you know your audience! Invest in arm chairs!) , drawing on a big bit of A3 the side effects of pregnancy – Each woman will be holding a permanent marker drawing liquid coming out of an orifice saying
“Oh no, not me, but I have heard *cough* that this happens to some people *cough*”.
Privacy has left the building, along with sleep filled nights for the foreseeable future. This is their valuable purpose.
Purpose of ante natal classes number 3 – Always be prepared.
Dib dib dib dob dob DOB. What our ante natal class did for us was getting our minds open to what happens when it all goes a bit …differently to how you planned it. It helped us not freak out when we didn’t get the ideal birth as detailed on the laminated birth plan I thrust at the midwives. Check this link out for what mine was like …And yes, it was really laminated and yes, I really did tell the MIDWIFE I COULDN’T OPEN MY LEGS TO HAVE A BABY. (the shame)
Purpose number 4 – You may get to meet a celebrity…
As well as ante natal classes, you are also recommended to have a session at the hospital birthing centre you plan on evicting your baby in to and have a nosey around. Take ear plugs. You will hear a woman moo-ing like a cow. Stay in denial about “this bit” of the eviction process. But do go and have a look around. It is vital. Because at 1am, when your husband drops you off at the door whilst he finds a car parking place, you will find comfort in knowing where the chocolate vending machine is.
On our visit to poke about the centre we join a bunch of other pregnant women, all sweaty and grumpy and fed up, waddling in to reception looking like a collection of car boot sale space hoppers and weebles. Except, what’s this?!!
*excited glances and raised eyebrows pass between husband and I*.
Sat by the window, is Ulrika Jonsson! In an NHS hospital! In jogging bottoms! As we get called to go for the tour, Ulrika walks past us. My husband suddenly beamed. He leans over to me, and whispers, all giddy and giggling
“She brushed her boobs against me as she squeezed past!”
I rolled my eyes in disgust, but inside I was delighted and already planning the text message I would send to everyone we knew about our new BFF.
So, there you have it – the good, the bad and the ugly of ante natal classes in my opinion. And this is just my opinion. If we hadn’t have gone, then we wouldn’t have met the friends we meet up with every week, a group of families we cherish. My kids might be getting beaten up in playgrounds (so ginger. So hairy). My husband wouldn’t have (gasp) new friends, as well as his old ones. I would never have seen Ulrika in jogging pants. And I would not know how to pretend to breastfeed a very hairy teddy bear (which was ante natal class number 4).
Hannah Mills is a mother of 2 small children, spending her days staying at home and (in her words) dragging them up with a wing and a prayer. You can follow her on twitter @HannahLMSmith or on her most excellent blog – www.mamabearwithme.co.uk