We’ve just got back from our first NCT session. You may remember me moaning about the price a while ago. Now I’m a couple of pay cheques down the line and the sting of the transfer is over, I can report that it has already been 100% worth the money for a first time fretter such as myself – and we’re only one session down with two to go.
We bumbled into a room with seven other couples – all the ladies with matching bumps, smiling mouths and tired eyes and all the men making lighthearted wise cracks with a detectable note of fear hidden beneath their jubilance.
We paired up with someone other than our partner at the start and had to learn their name, due date and the hospital they are due to give birth at – and report it back to the wider group. Over the course of the day we progressed from gleaning these fundamentals at the beginning, to sitting around freely talking about massaging perineums at the end, whilst studying laminated images of a dilated cervix.
I was previously preoccupied with whether the people at NCT would be my ‘type’, viewing the cost as a down payment on some kind of mummy-friend speed dating event – but once you get there you realise you already have the biggest thing in common with them all, and you really don’t need anything else binding you together to feel the comfort of companionship and camaraderie.
The highlight of the session was the woman running it – Rebecca. She was so very wise and knowledgeable on the subject of birth. You can’t underestimate how reassuring it is to have access to someone like that, who is available for six hours straight to answer your every idiotic question (and the idiotic questions of others that you never even thought of). A busy midwife would never have the time to indulge you in such a way.
We did a couple of exercises with the men and women in separate groups. It was nice to get people away from the partner dynamic. The women could then freely talk about some of the gorier aspects that they may have shielded their parter from, and it made sense to have the men together as naturally their knowledge base on birth matters was sparser than the women’s and their fears and worries were different. We had to write down what we expected from the course and the areas we were keen to explore. Then the men’s group had to basically create a birth plan, structured around them working through a series of decisions that may need to be made once labour kicks off, while the women created an image of their perfect birthing environment – an exercise which helps you to focus on what’s important to you.
The second half of the session entailed Rebecca talking us through each stage of labour in detail, running through the approximate timings of dilation from one to ten centimetres and all the physical changes inside the body i.e. what is actually going on in there during all the pain. Also covered were optimum positions to get into to help the baby come out, ways to breath to manage pain, things to think about wearing, packing, eating and such an abundance of other advice.
I’d heard some negative comments about NCT counsellors before I booked the course, in that they push for women to do everything naturally without drugs and are staunchly anti bottle feeding. I didn’t find this to be the case with ours. She was very human and very neutral. She seemed keen just to impart knowledge so we could use it as we liked, to help prepare us to make the right decisions for ourselves as individuals, both ante and postnatally. I was pleasantly surprised that she wasn’t a wafty hippie with Crocs on, but had extensive knowledge on the medical aspects. We were also really lucky to have an anaesthetist in the group who gave us a twenty minute comprehensive explanation of the ins, outs, pros, cons and risks of pethidine and epidurals.
I learned a substantial amount over the session today which I didn’t think was possible as I’ve been Googling for England. Internet research isn’t a substitute for receiving tailored information from a professional that’s relevant to your specific circumstance. I’ve also met some really nice people and have been left with a residual positive and excited feeling about the birth. Money well spent.