NCT is a term I now use frequently assuming everyone knows what it means - they don't. "Oh I met up with my NCT Mums" I say as I get blank stares back. I don't know what NCT stands for, let me Google it right now... National Childbirth Trust... there you go, learn something new everyday.
So as you approach the end of your pregnancy your midwife will ask you if you have booked your place on the NHS course. I got told by a friend that they were a bit crap and that a lot of her friends really enjoyed the NCT class and stayed in touch with all their NCT friends. The NHS class is free and the NCT class is a three day course that is £200 for both you and your partner to attend. It's a group of 8 couples all first time parents wanting to learn about birth and childcare.
The course is split into three days, two Saturday's in a row 9-4 with a lunch break and then a Breastfeeding session in the evening 6-9. I actually didn't make it to the breastfeeding class so I can't comment as I had Oscar on the Sunday after the second class. It's safe to say I shocked/scared the other Mums.
When I was pregnant I said to myself and would also tell others that I couldn't see myself being friends with someone I had nothing in common with other than a baby. I envisaged still having young Mum friends with similar interests to me, into their make-up, used to be a party girl blah blah blah. But this course has totally changed my mind - there's now nothing more I love than to sit down and talk non-stop about babies. I enjoy having Mum-friends to chat about sleep regressions and pregnancy with and normal friends to keep me sane/young and hear about their crazy stories and reminisce on old times.
When we went to the first session everyone was quite shy and we sat around learning rather than getting to know one another. We first sat around in groups of the men and the women and all brainstormed topics on a big sheet of paper of the things we wanted to learn about and had questions on. I was a bit of a know-it-all as I had read so much and also been on one of my hypnobirthing taster sessions already that had talked about the stages of labour and how birth works so I was already clued up on that but knew very little about C-Sections and medical interventions during labour (forceps or ventouse) so I couldn't be more glad that I went to this course in time for my c-section as they explained the step by step procedure, how it all worked and what to expect and without that I would have been so terrified.
We had a few activities that really put things into perspective with regards to what a woman expects from the whole experience and what a man expects. We had to order laminated 'activities' that a couple would go through after having a baby and the men of course but they wanted to have sex a few weeks after and then women put it months after so this was a good ice-breaker for the group.
We did practical activities like how to bath the baby, how to change a nappy, how to dress the baby, what to put the baby in to sleep in, even just the basics like how to hold a baby. It was really good to have someone there to ask as many questions as you wanted, knowing they would take the time to explain. There was a lot of talk on a natural birth and it was definitely encouraged. Ironically, our group out of 8 only had 2 natural births.
There was a lot of talk on questioning medical intervention. They spoke about how the typical birthing 'scene' is a woman lying on her back, but then demonstrated with a fake pelvis and a baby doll how the baby naturally comes down the birthing canal and how being sat on your bum conflicts totally with the way the baby should naturally come out. They said to question the midwife on shift at the time why you need to be on your back and could you try other positions such as on all fours. They said to question whether you need to be lying in bed having the baby's heartbeat monitored constantly or whether you were allowed to have intermittent monitoring so that you were able to walk around the room as this helps the baby move down the birth canal, again, naturally.
The course went over what would happen after labour and how you can repair with soothing pads and aftercare. The teacher went over tears and episiotomies (where the baby's head comes out too fast and the area splits or is surgically cut to make more room) and what to expect when it came to bleeding and how to stay comfortable with big pads and big pants!! I think talking about labour and having a baby is something you expect but talking about what happens to your body after made it so so real. The bit after having a baby is something you never really hear about as they don't include the gorey details in films and it's just cute cuddles with the baby.
I would definitely recommend the NCT course but take it with a pinch of salt. I'm not sure if all the courses are the same but ours definitely left us all feeling like if we didn't have a natural birth that we were doing it wrong, like a c-section was a failure. I think I am quite a strong minded person and know that I still have an incredible bond with Oscar regardless of how he came into this world.
The NCT Mums have a Whatsapp group chat and we've all stayed in contact and have had so many good meet ups since. The men haven't stayed in contact so it's definitely more of a comfort thing for the Mums to have someone else going through the same thing. The babies were all due at the same time so we were all ready to pop. It's been interesting for me to have babies to compare Oscar too as even though he came 5 weeks early, he is huge compared to babies that were born when he should have been which means he's been growing more outside the womb than he would have been inside which is interesting to see!
I also attended an NCT Waterbirth class which I thought was good but not essential. A lot about water births you can find out online and this class was only 9-12 and just went over the basics. I remember feeling like the class could have been an hour long but they dragged it out by splitting us into two teams and making us write down our thoughts and then sit and talk about our thoughts and then she confirmed our thoughts. There was a lot of team building activities which I thought was utterly pointless as I would never see these people again, benefitted nothing from being in a great team with these strangers and was just there to find out about waterbirths. In my opinion, a waterbirth would be great for a straight-forward birth, but if there were complications and you needed to get out the water but was in a lot of pain it could all go pear shaped very quickly. After having an emergency c-section and knowing they got me into surgery and Oscar out in 45 minutes, I was glad not to have been in a bikini in a pool surrounded by whale music only to be told to get out, get dry and be wheeled off for a c-section. A waterbirth can also increase the risk of tearing as the baby can come out very fast. Otherwise, a water birth had so many advantages that I think could give a woman the perfect birth but the likelyhood of it going smoothly, and the woman giving birth in the water, was statistically was low.