When starting out on the epic journey of parenthood, soon-to-be mums and dads try to prepare themselves in various ways. Advice from friends and family is complemented by reading books, blogs and magazines. Then there’s always Dr. Google who can provide practical help, advice and reassurance (and downright panic) at the touch of a few buttons. Alongside this, many expectant parents still sign up for good, old fashioned antenatal classes.
But is the information provided by these methods, including antenatal classes, really focused on equipping new parents with the skills and knowledge they’ll actually need?
Knowing me, Knowing you
I’ll be honest and admit that the main reason I signed us up for antenatal classes last year was to meet other local people having babies around the same time. Pure and simple. That’s not to say we didn’t already have a wealth of friends who had recently had babies who were poised and ready with all kinds of advice as well as many lovely hand-me downs.
We decided against the ‘local’ NCT classes, as they were held not-so-locally on the other side of the city. Instead we plugged for those part-subsidised by our local Children’s Centre, run by BirthPrep. (The one positive contribution our Children’s Centre has made to our daughter, but that’s for another time.)
If you don’t know me by now
I’ll admit my expectations of the classes were heavily influenced by too many TV programmes. I was anticipating several evenings sitting on the floor, supported by my husband, practicing breathing techniques in a room full of other couples whilst being shown how a baby doll makes its way out of a knitted cervix. However, it seems things have moved on somewhat, and instead we sat around talking frankly about the process of labour and birth – on chairs – like the adults we were truly about to become.
We were lucky enough to be ‘dropping’ around the same time as five lovely couples. All were similarly minded and with great senses of humour that got us through even the darkest moments of discussing labour and birth. But there’s the rub, really. Out of the three three hour sessions, two were focussed on labour and birth and only one on the next 365+ days of caring for a baby, primarily covering feeding and bathing.
When every book on the subject confirms that each and every labour and birth is different – what’s the point of focussing so much time on something that is so far out of anyone’s control?
Now, that’s not to say that the Midwife-led approach to the BirthPrep classes should or could have been any different. And that’s also not to take anything away from the wonderful help, assistance, advice and general goodnature of the lovely Cathy who took our classes. But I can’t help thinking that more practical advice about the early days with a newborn would really help new parents, not to mention the poor, helpless baby depending on two clueless adults who should at least know the basics!
This time I know it’s for real
On being handed our little bundle of joy, I think I was awash with about 5% instinct and 95% blind panic! The midwives in the hospital were amazing in helping and offering advice and assistance, but I felt completely under-prepared for the task ahead of us. Advice on how to wind a baby, what to do when you’re left alone in the hospital with your new baby for the first time, when and if to use a dummy, what to do when you first bring the baby home and tried and tested plans for coping with newborn sleep deprivation might have been useful.
However, I suppose in many ways, the course we went on, did offer us this help and advice in the long run. Largely through meeting up regularly with the lovely ladies from our antenatal classes, we have all shared experiences, tips and advice over the ensuing months. We’ve laughed. We’ve cried (largely with laughter). We’ve shared baby sick, nappy changes and weaning adventures. We’ve eaten a hell of a lot of cake and drunk an obscene amount of caffeine. We’re even planning on drinking something a bit more grown-up soon!
What do you think? Did your antenatal classes adequately equip you for the challenges ahead ? Where else did you get help and information from? What was the best advice you were given?
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