Nearly £200 to make some friends – or the best money you’ve ever spent: What to expect from your NCT Signature Antenatal class

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Being a first time (and therefore totally clueless) mum, Mr F and I signed up for antenatal classes. We were primarily looking for advice on every aspect of the birth and first few weeks of caring for a tiny human, and as a side note, to bond with other parents to be. I decided that NCT seemed to be the way to go. Their mission statement was one I was completely on board with:

We are the UK’s leading charity for parents, for your First 1,000 Days – right through your pregnancy, birth and beyond.

We’ll give you accurate, impartial information through our website and our much-loved courses and classes.

We’ll bring you together with other new parents in your community, to make vital and lasting friendships.

We’ll campaign on your behalf to change the things that matter to you.

Because we believe everyone can, and should, feel supported in becoming a parent.

The website was easy to use, and I quickly found details of classes in my area. What I hadn’t realised was that all the other mums-to-be attending would be due within a few weeks of me, a perfect idea! There was the option of doing two full weekends, or a series of two hour classes once a week. We went for the evening classes, to give us maximum time to digest the information and bond with the other parents. I was shocked to find out that the NCT Signature Antenatal course was £187 – this would likely be out of the price range of many parents to be, and seemed a bit steep. Nevertheless, we needed all the help we could get, so we booked onto the course.

Before our first session, we both felt nervous – almost like the first day at school! Making friends as an adult in a forced social situation is not the dream. I’m socially awkward at the best of times with new people, and usually over compensate and terrify people by asking stupid questions such as ‘if you were a biscuit, what biscuit would you be?’ I also toyed with taking a pad and pen to make notes – then decided not to be ‘that’ mum-to-be. We were contacted beforehand by the course leader who sent us a welcome, a bit about her background, and clear directions on how to get to the venue. Using these we arrived catastrophically early to the first class…we chatted with our course facilitator as we helped her set up. She was friendly and welcoming, and had supplied a selection of drinks and biscuits – extremely welcome to starving pregnant ladies!

As the others arrived, I looked around the room. Would these women become my close friends? Was it possible that as other highly publicised stories, our children would grow up pals for life? They all seemed far more together, knowledgeable, and pro active than me – the first instance of ‘mum comparison’ (or as I call it, ‘comparimum’) kicked in.

After some slightly cringe worthy getting to know each other games, and a break to mingle and chat over more biscuits, we agreed on course guidelines – the course would then be tailored to our wants and needs. I was amused to find our suggestion of ‘there are no stupid questions’ to be slammed by one of the other mums to be, who pointed out ‘but there are stupid questions – no-one has time for that!’ I decided that she would absolutely be my friend!

Over the weeks we learned about birth, caring for your child, and, unexpectedly, about caring for each other as a couple. Each week we were sent useful links by our course leader to support our own further research into the topics we’d discussed. Despite the claim to give ‘impartial information’ there was a definite lean towards natural births with minimal pain relief, however debate and discussion were welcomed through various activities. Our course leader was extremely knowledgeable and able to answer every question, no matter how strange (or stupid!) Over the ever-popular biscuits, we also gradually started to get to know the other couples. Towards the end of the course, we set up the ubiquitous WhatsApp group – originally for all the parents, then we created a ‘mum chat’ splinter group to prevent the dads getting jealous of all our plans for maternity leave meet ups! Little did I know that this WhatsApp group would be my saviour time and time again.

Each of us shared our birth story in the WhatsApp group as they occurred – not one went the way we had wanted it to, and we were dismayed. Our disappointment was shared by the only people who could honestly know how we felt – each other. Our struggles to feed our babies were endlessly discussed and supported. Tips, help and links to information or helpful purchases were shared. Meetups were planned on at least a weekly basis, plus info on mum and baby classes we were attending. Some days the messages would creep towards the hundred mark. As we had heartaches, down days, and triumphs, we went through them all – together. I shared the most intimate details, thoughts and fears of being a first time mum with these women – now my best friends.

A newly pregnant friend recently asked me what the most useful thing was I’d bought for my baby – my reply: NCT Signature Antenatal Course. Best money I could have spent.

What was your experience of NCT antenatal courses?