Since the last post I’ve found out that two of the six women in our NCT group have had their babies, two little girls.  I’m really delighted for them both and it’s really making the whole thing feel very real (and, for us, very imminent!).

I was planning to write a post about the NCT, so this seems as good a time as any to do it.  It’s one of those default topics among mothers-to-be … are you going to go, or not?  Is it all a bit too worthy?  Is it worth the money?  Do they have their own agenda?  Is it horrendously middle class?  Everyone seems to have an opinion about the NCT, but the prevailing feeling seems to be that the connection you make with other new mothers in your area is invaluable.  We’d already attended a series of free ante-natal classes at St. Thomas’s, so felt reasonably clued up about what to expect, but felt that there was no harm in learning some more and, if we met some people we got along with, so much the better.

We signed up for two all-day Saturday classes and a half-day breastfeeding session during the week.  I was, I must be honest, a bit cynical about what it would be like.  I imagined being lectured about the wonders of natural childbirth, how to cook your own placenta and the evils of formula feeding.  The good news is that I was a long way off the mark.  The woman who led our sessions was brilliant.  Not only is she an NCT counsellor but a doula as well, so she’s attended oodles of births of all kinds.  Her point of view was refreshingly objective, and just on the right side of hippie craziness.  I really enjoyed listening to her, and her impersonation of a woman in labour is something that I definitely won’t forget in a hurry (nor will any of the men in the group, I’ll bet).  Importantly, she kept stressing how much of a bond we would form with each other and how this would really benefit us in the future.  There’s something toe-curling about saying ‘you will become friends with this group of strangers’, but she carried it off and really helped us to get over that initial awkwardness.

The only part I was a bit ambivalent about was the breastfeeding session.  The counsellor was one of those women that a friend of mine hilariously refers to as the ‘breastapo’.  I know there are benefits to breastfeeding, for both mother and baby, and genuinely believe that people should at least try it.  I also know, however, that for some women it simply isn’t an option (it’s too hard, the baby isn’t responding or getting enough milk, it’s too limiting if they need to go back to work, etc.).  I’ve heard some absolute horror stories from perfectly sensible friends and colleagues of mine who have put themselves through hell because they equate formula feeding with failure.  There’s an incredible amount of pressure on women to do it, there really is.  I’ve kept quiet while I’ve been told a long list of pro-breastfeeding claims: less ear infections, reduced risk of gastric diseases, less likelihood of obesity or diabetes in later life, higher IQ, world peace (OK, not world peace but not far off!).  I did, however, get annoyed when we were told that formula feeding is A Bad Thing.  It’s apparently unsuitable for human offspring because it is based on cow’s milk and their physiology is different from ours.  Not only do I think that is absolute hogwash, but there is a very real chance that some (or all) of the women in the group will need to feed their baby formula at some point.  All the counsellor has achieved, therefore, is to add another layer of guilt to that decision.  I don’t think that’s helpful or constructive.

That small issue aside, I would firmly recommend the NCT to anyone.  Not only have we met a fabulous bunch of people, but we really did receive some excellent advice and had fun to boot.  It’s yet one more step towards us both feeling confident and comfortable about the prospect of the birth and beyond.