Is NCT worth doing? Are you just paying for friends?

“You’re just paying for friends.”

“I only want to do it for the support network.”

Entering the last trimester of pregnancy and the ‘shit becoming real’ phase. I was relatively late compared with my school friends into the realm of motherhood and many of them were on their second children. I knew they would be so supportive and at the end of a phone call or pleading message whenever I needed them but it was nagging me that they were relatively old hats at the game. Having been through it before, the second time, they had informed me, was much easier as you knew what to expect more. Well, I wanted my expected barrage of questions to be answered with options and things to try rather than potentially – it’s just a phase or oh-my-one-did-that-don’t worry. Time to find another support network because one is never enough, is it?

I asked my husband about NCT and he had the typically blase opinion that we would just get on with it together and effectively make it up as we went along and that we didn’t need to pay money to do that. There was no denying that that was what my parenting choices was primarily going to based upon, but I did want those choices to be informed a little bit more if possible as the fear that I was going to screw the little one up was tinkering in the back of my mind as I suspect it is with all first time parents. I asked a couple of friends their points of views and they either fitted into two camps…1) wouldn’t have been able to do the first year without them  2) was pretty pointless and a waste of money. My gut told me that the friends in the second camp were lumped with numpties at their NCT group.

My womb; my choice was my attitude at the end of that chat and I booked myself onto the next suitable group roughly 6 weeks before I was due.

Five other slightly nervous ladies gathered with varying degrees of knowledge, massive tummies, popping Rennie like there was no tomorrow. I suspect they were thinking the same as me….please don’t let any of these people be idiots…I might be relying on them for the next few months! The awkwardness of the first day of desperately trying to remember names, grimacing at some of the vocabulary and trying to get comfy on the seats passed quickly and I left knowing that I had been blessed with some good people.

The course finished, the whatsapp group started and then the countdown was really on. We knew who was roughly due when and what order we should be popping in, but obviously that went out of the window. Messages came through of pelvises feeling like they are being shattered, pineapple eating and potential waters breaking and then within a few weeks – we all had given birth to our healthy babies. Our babies had been born between the 1st and the 30th of December so the ones that had a head start were the gurus and forging the path for the rest of us. I gave birth towards the end and one of my clearest memories of the first few days is reading through the hundreds of messages from the girls who had given birth first and suddenly understanding and being able to take on board what they were saying and experiencing before. Of the 6 of us, 5 of us had C-sections (3 unplanned, 2 planned). Just the C-section advice and reassurance was worth the NCT fee alone.

And now, where are we at 7 months down the line? Well, the chat has quietened a bit but only because we are more comfortable with our every day choices about what we are doing and our tried and tested methods based on advice from all the mums mean we know a bit more about what to do with rashes, disappointing empty nappies, worthwhile baby classes, switching to proper food and the everyday questions. We meet up roughly once a month and have done a First Aid course together and some of us did a weaning course together.

These girls have been one of my rocks. Although some of us share mutual friends and very similar postcodes, I doubt I would have met any of these girls without the NCT connection. I wouldn’t have been as comfortable, confident or dare I even say it, enjoy it as much with this network. Like I said, giving birth towards the end of the pack, meant that I had a clear insight into what I might be faced with in the next few weeks.

We’ve got our summer BBQ together this weekend and my phone has buzzed just now with a weight update from the ‘Mitchell Brother’ to my boy with their shared decision to not sport hair quickly. One of our crew has moved away for a bit, but the connection we’ve built over a few months means that whether we are still friends in 10 years or not, these ladies have been a crucial part of this year and whenever I think back to the beginning months of motherhood, they form part of the picture of happiness and fondness of my new life. Thank you girls.

Please say I’m doing “a good job”

Work is a cycle of performance management reviews, targets and catch up meetings. Simply setting three or four targets for an employee to structure their year around and if at the end, the targets are met or even partially met, they could be in line for a reward.

What’s the equivalent for a new parent? That the baby meets the milestones suggested by Apps or best-selling books? Communication seems to confirm the baby is satisfied? The parent feels like they can function adequately? New Mum’s don’t trigger alarm bells with the points-scoring questions asked by their Health Visitor? There isn’t a clear cut answer.

It’s the little daily triumphs. Myself and one of my closest friends had babies within 11 weeks of each other. We live in different parts of the country but made efforts to see each other before we dropped and when our little ones were about one month old. In the blur of the first few weeks of me being a Mum, the comments from other Mums were what I clung onto when I was feeling fragile – “You’re a natural”, “You’re doing so well”, “He’s a happy baby”, “I’m so impressed” were said by friends and my Mum. I’m sure they meant these but, deep down, I’m sure all of these comments were said by Mums as they know the power of these little nuggets.

When I went to visit my friend with her little one, we had a wonderful time. Harking back to how light my son must have been at the same point as I was having a cuddle, sharing gems of what to look forward to, enjoying listening to the sounds little newborns make and when the time came to leave, I gave my friend a huge hug and made sure I looked her in the eye as I said my little praise nugget. She didn’t need me to say this, she was trying to be a Mummy for unfairly too long and I like to think I would have said something if I was a Mum or not.

Whatsapping later on, and I echoed the sentiments. My friend replied that she was delighted I thought so. She didn’t need any verification but if she was anything like me, I understood the vital necessity to hear it from anyone in particular other parents. .

I wonder if all new parents feel like this?