If you’ve been following my blog, you’d know that I haven’t been impressed with the NCT antenatal classes so far (if you don’t know why, please do read my posts on what we did in the first and second sessions). Last week, my husband and I attended our third session, and again, we were disappointed. Honestly, we haven’t learnt anything at all. We talked about skipping the last 2 sessions, but when we thought about how much they cost (£200 for 5 sessions), we were like, “never mind, let’s just go”. That is until we attended one of the NHS antenatal classes, which made us realised that the NCT ones are a complete waste of time and money! I wish I had known better – I would have just gone to the NHS ones right from the start! I mean, we’ve only gone to one so far and already we’re finding it very informative, practical and useful.
Anyway, in the first session, we learnt about natural and uncomplicated labour (so things like: what are the signs of labour, how do midwives measure dilation, how will the baby descend, how and when to push, what can we expect after delivery, etc etc). There’ll be 2 more classes after this, which we will of course attend – in the second session, we’ll learn about painkillers and complicated labour (so things like: breech babies, inducement, assisted delivery (including c-section), episiotomy, and we’ll even be shown the ‘tools’ used in assisted births (forceps, ventouse, etc) – which I think will be very interesting); and in the third session, we’ll learn about breastfeeding. I can’t recommend these classes highly enough; I think they really prepare you for childbirth and beyond (unlike the NCT-run classes!). Plus they’re free and are actually taught by a midwife who will be able answer all of your questions (again, unlike the NCT-run classes!). So yeah, if you’re pregnant, do find out about the antenatal classes that are available at your local hospital. Even if you’re not convinced and prefer to pay for the NCT ones, you should still attend at least one of the NHS classes – it’s free anyway so you’ve got nothing to lose.
So, my husband and I had our second NCT antenatal class this week. You already know that we didn’t find our first session particularly useful, but we were willing to cut it some slack because it was the first class so it was kind of like an introductory session. I thought that the second one was definitely going to be better. Unfortunately, I was wrong. For me, it was a complete and utter waste of money and time (but mostly money). My husband didn’t enjoy it either. For 2 hours, we were split into small groups of 4 or 5 and asked to discuss among ourselves things like: what does it mean for us to be parents, what kind of parents do we want to be, what kind of things we think our baby would inherit from us, who does what at home at the moment and how do we think that’s going to change once the baby’s arrived, etc, etc… I mean, seriously? We paid £200 for this? Our trainer probably wanted us to bond with other prospective parents and what she asked us to do was a good bonding exercise – there’s no argument about that, but I just think that we could talk about these things ourselves outside the class over coffees or something (if we want to). What I expect out of a pretty pricey antenatal class is lots of useful and practical information that’s going to help me get through labour and birth and care for the baby. Leave ‘bonding with other couples’ out of it – we’re all adults, we’re all capable of talking to each other and staying in touch ourselves (again, if we want to); it doesn’t have to be forced on us. The trainer should have done most of the talking in class, not us. Anyway, we learnt nothing about labour, birth and baby care so far. And I thought that antenatal classes are supposed to shed some lights on these things. Oh well, we’ll see what happens in the third session.
Last week, my husband and I attended our first NCT antenatal class. NCT classes are supposed to be the queen of all antenatal classes. At least, that’s what people say online and offline. They say that NCT classes are typically smaller, so it’s easier to meet prospective parents in your area, and they’re also very informative. So despite the hefty price tag (we paid £190 for 5 sessions), we chose them over NHS. Are they worth it? Well, it’s too early to tell – if it was only based on the first session, I would say no, but I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and see if they get better.
We started our first session by introducing ourselves. I think that’s pretty normal, but then we were asked to introduce someone else (anyone except our own partner) to the group. I get it that the trainer probably wanted us to mingle a little bit, but it kind of reminded me of school and the whole introduction thing took more than 30 minutes. I personally think that it wasn’t necessary. She then went on to explain what happens during labour – the three stages of labour, how to recognise that you’re in labour, how to count your contractions, when to call the delivery suite, when to go to the hospital, etc. Now that’s useful and I actually took a lot of notes (so did my husband). Unfortunately, the usefulness of the session stopped there. We then took 15 minutes break and when we came back, again we were asked to talk to other couples – this time, it was about our hopes and worries, and about baby names (whether or not we’ve chosen one; if yes, how did we go about it; if no, why not… what’s the problem, etc). The session then closed with a 5-minute breathing exercise and that’s it.
So, in a nutshell, out the 2-hour session, we got: 45 minutes of introduction, 30 minutes of useful information about labour, 15 minutes break, 25 minutes of ‘sharing session’ and 5 minutes of breathing exercise. Was it worth £38? Honestly, no! But let’s see what happens this week.
1. We’re scared (terrified in fact) and worried about absolutely everything: the pregnancy, the birth, the baby (when she comes). Please don’t say “you’re going to be fine” because that’s not going to make us feel any less nervy. Pregnancy is not just our thing, it’s also your thing (we won’t be pregnant without you!); so, we really want you to be there for us and support us – talk to us, listen to our worries, come to as many antenatal appointments as you can, and to the antenatal classes, and know what’s happening to the baby and us every week.
2. We can’t wait to meet our baby, but we’re terrified about childbirth, and we can’t make up our mind about it. We’ll want a natural birth because c-section sounds awful. No, wait, actually, c-section doesn’t sound too bad; at least, we’ll know what to expect. But we prefer to give birth at home; we’ll be in a familiar environment and it’ll help relaxes us. Although, we think birth centre is a better choice; at least, we’ll be near the hospital (just in case). Or maybe, we should just go to the labour ward. We’ll want an epidural anyway. Or not. The point is, we’re faced with a very difficult decision to make. We’ll make it eventually, but we’ll want to consider every possible option very carefully and make that decision ourselves. In the meantime, whatever it is that comes out of our mouth, please don’t say “I think it’s better that you…” or ask “are you sure?” – just agree with us and reassure us that whatever decision we make, you’ll be there to support us and be the best birth partner you can be.
3. Yes, our boobs are bigger (and they will get bigger), but don’t get all excited; they’re also sore and unusually sensitive. So, no, you can’t touch them, or if we let you, you have to be very gentle.
4. Wherever we go, whoever we meet, we’ll be the centre of attention (not you) – people will want to know how we feel, what our plans are and talk to us about ‘mummy’ and ‘baby’ stuff. At times, you’ll feel overwhelmed and you’ll get the urge to walk away from the conversation and leave us to face it on our own. Don’t! Trust us when we say that some of us too feel overwhelmed sometimes. If we have to sit through it, be supportive and sit with us. You should start getting used to this kind of talk anyway because…
5. When the baby comes, the baby and us will be the centre of attention (again, not you), and people will (again) want to know how we feel, what our plans are and talk to us about ‘mummy’ and ‘baby’ stuff. But hey, you should be used to it by then.
6. No, sex won’t hurt the baby (we know you want to know). Although, in some cases, it might be a good idea to check with the doctor or midwife.
7. Speaking of sex, we suggest that you take our lead on this one. Every woman is different and every pregnancy is different. But everyone agrees that you shouldn’t expect a lot in the first trimester (in between morning sickness and everything that’s happening to our body, we really just want to sleep). The best time for you to ask is midway through the second trimester. Some women will want to do it again much later into the pregnancy; but be careful – sex can induce labour (although, that’s probably our intention if we initiate sex at that point in time).
8. Food… this is the thing… when we’re pregnant, we must have what we want and when we want it. So, when we say we’re hungry, please don’t say “but it’s almost lunch time” or “it’s almost dinner time” – sure, we’ll eat at those times, but we also want to eat now. Otherwise, our pregnancy hormones will almost always take over and… let’s just say, it’s not worth the risk.
9. Still on the subject of food… ours are off-limits to you. And yes, we get the bigger and better part of everything. There’s a baby growing inside us, so hush!
10. When our nesting instinct kicks in, please don’t tell us “but it’s still early days” or that we’re “behaving irrationally” – it will not bode well with us. Either stay out of our way and let us get on with it or help us out. Whatever you do, don’t comment on or un-do the thing we’ve done. We get very possessive over our ‘nest’. You won’t go and mess up a lion’s nest, will you? We thought so!
11. We’re hormonal. There, we’ve said it. So, we may be a tad more emotional and moody (okay, we admit that ‘a tad’ is an understatement); we may scream or cry over absolutely nothing and go berserk every time you do or say something we don’t agree with. It really is the hormones. But, whatever happens, never ever say that we’re hormonal. Just act as though we’re right and completely normal. Otherwise, you might have to face more of those hormones.
12. Please don’t point at our belly and say how big we’re getting. Yes, yes, we know that belly of ours is supposed to get bigger. It’s only natural that it gets bigger. And when you say how big our belly is getting, we know you don’t mean we’re getting fatter, but say it often enough and it’ll mean the same thing to us.
13. Do think twice before using the word “we”. Like, “we” prefer to deliver the baby at the labour ward or “we” didn’t mind you coming over to visit us as soon as we have the baby. When it’s really us (and not you) who will have to endure the worst part of the experience, using the word “we” is an absolute no-no.
14. When anyone, and we mean anyone (yes, that includes your family), tells you that we shouldn’t be doing this, we shouldn’t be doing that, and gives you pregnancy, childbirth and parenting advice, don’t glance at us with that “you should listen to this” look or tell us that we’ve been doing it wrong all this time. We’re already feeling vulnerable and patronised enough (especially if we’re a first time mum). Don’t be one of those people who make us feel that way. Besides, everyone has their own preferences and everyone does things differently. So, trust us, be on our team, stand by our side, and support our decisions (even if we get defensive from time to time, and we will!). You know we’ll ask for advice if and when we want or need it.
15. As our pregnancy progresses, our brain will also shrink in size (yes, it’s medically proven). Please be more understanding if we become more forgetful. And no, please don’t say “can you please remind me to…” because we will certainly forget.
16. We love to build a fortress (made of pillows) around our sleeping space. You see, it’s not easy finding a comfortable position to sleep when your belly feels like it’s stretched in every direction. And as it gets bigger, it’ll need to rest on something fluffy and soft. We’ll also need support for our back, legs, arms… The point is, we need to be as comfortable as possible, so, just give us the space and don’t invade.
17. We know we’re pregnant and we can’t or are not supposed to do certain (particularly strenuous) activities. As much as we appreciate your help in, for example, carrying the groceries, picking up heavy objects, etc, we won’t appreciate it if you constantly treat us like a princess in need of a rescue. But, come to think of it, if you don’t do anything at all, we won’t be happy either. Oh well, you can’t win either way – we’ll bitch if you treat us like a princess and we’ll bitch if you don’t! Just do it moderately (a bit more than usual is okay, but don’t go overboard), and we’ll be fine.
18. Pregnancy makes us feel tired… not lazy… tired! Please don’t say “you’re not doing anything, how can you be tired?” The truth is, pregnancy is hard work, it really is – we’re not doing nothing; in fact, we’re doing a lot of things (backstage), like, growing a life inside us. You can’t imagine how hard our body is working to make sure that the baby is developing well; we couldn’t imagine it ourselves before we were pregnant.
19. Pregnancy also makes us feel awful – the morning sickness, the backache, the headache, the leg cramps, the indigestion, the heartburn, the constant need to pee, etc… etc… It will probably make us whine a lot, but if you ever feel annoyed at our constant whining, know that we’re also annoyed at all the pregnancy symptoms we’re experiencing. So, be supportive and look after us…
20. And yes, we’ll want another massage, and another massage. Please don’t moan…
21. In fact, please don’t moan and complain about anything. We’re in pain looking after a tiny little life inside us; we just want to be looked after too.
22. Finally, when the baby comes, we want your help and we want you to want to help. There’ll be a lot of crying and feeding at ungodly hours, and we can’t do it on our own, we need you on board. We know we’re probably going to be on a maternity leave and you have to go to work in the morning. But please don’t ever think that when you’re out at work during the day, we’re having a leisurely time at home napping. Caring for a baby is a 24/7 job and it’s hard. Please don’t ever say “it’s okay for you, I have to go to work in the morning!” and let us do it all on our own; if you do, you might soon have to deal with not 1 but 2 grumpy and crying people at home.
When people find out you’re pregnant, that’s it… all social conventions and boundaries magically disappear. Everyone suddenly becomes an expert in pregnancy and childbirth (yes, even those who have never had kids or been pregnant!) – they love telling you what to do, how to do it, and they become more critical and judgmental of your choices and decisions… because “it’s what’s best for you and your baby”. It’s as if you (this smart and responsible adult) are not capable of making your own choices and don’t know what’s best for you and your baby.
So, anyway, here’s my list of the 12 most annoying people you’ll meet when you’re pregnant:
1. Those who love giving unsolicited advice
“You shouldn’t be eating that!” “You shouldn’t be doing that!” “You shouldn’t be touching that!” Or worst: “You shouldn’t be standing (or sitting, or lying) that way!” (Yes, I actually get these statements thrown my way). Listen, I’m not ill, injured or incapacitated. I’m pregnant. And I’m not an idiot or an irresponsible being. I’m a smart and responsible adult who knows what’s right and wrong. From time to time, I will make a decision you don’t agree with (and that’s fine, you don’t have to agree with me), but I know what I’m doing and I’m careful; so, respect my choices, don’t be judgmental, and move on!
2. Those who think your bump is too small or too big (in my case, it was the former)
“Are you sure you’re eating enough?” “You must be dieting… you know it’s not good to go on a diet when you’re pregnant?” Yes, I’m eating enough, and no, I’m not dieting (don’t just assume I am!). In fact, I eat a lot, and I eat a lot of carbs (rice, pasta, etc); I’m just not eating more than I normally do (hey, it’s a known myth that you have to eat for two when you’re pregnant). Besides, there’s this thing called an “ultrasound” where they take your baby’s measurements and weight, and check whether your baby is developing well. So, should we just give this belly size discussion a rest? Oh, and yes, I know that it’s not good to go on a diet when you’re pregnant (thank you very much!).
3. Those who think it’s okay to ask personal questions
“Was this planned?” “How long have you been trying for?” “Have you decided where and how to give birth?” “Are you going to have an epidural?” “Would you consent to an episiotomy?” “Do you plan to breastfeed?” “So, when’s the second one?” Seriously?!
4. Those who are overly concerned
Literally every 5 minutes they go: “How are you feeling?” Or every time they meet you they go: “How are you sleeping last night?” Or with a sympathetic look they go: “That bag is really too heavy for you to carry!” Yes, yes, they mean well, but I’m not sick, bedridden or dying… I’m pregnant… and no, that bag is really fine, it’s just a handbag!
5. Those who think they know best when and how you should announce your pregnancy to the world
“Just tell people you’re pregnant, what’s the big deal?” “You should tell work now, why wait?” Or worst: “Why don’t you just announce your pregnancy on Facebook?” Excuse me for not wanting to share my personal life with any Tom, Dick and Harry out there, or bare it all on the social media. It’s my pregnancy, I will tell people the way I want to, when I want to!
6. Those who think they know best when you should go back to work
“Why are you going back to work so soon?” “You should spend more time with your baby!” “Take at least a year off.” “It won’t be the same when it’s your own, you’ll change your mind.” I find it really annoying when people think I don’t know my own mind. Look, I don’t think motherhood is beneath me. On the contrary, I think being a mother can be very fulfilling. But it doesn’t mean that I have to sacrifice my career and be a stay at home mum to be a good mother. I’ve worked tirelessly to get to where I am and I’m not willing to let it all go and change my whole life for a baby. I don’t care what people say. I happen to have a dynamic and stimulating career, one which I love and one which I can’t wait to go back to. It’s not like I don’t have any arrangements in place for childcare and it’s not like I’m just going to leave my baby in the hands of some stranger; as a matter of fact, I already have a very good arrangement in place for childcare. So, stop being judgmental and mind your own business. I’m certainly not going to stop you from giving up your career to be a full time mum if that’s what you really want.
7. Those who, for some odd reasons, only have negative things to say
“You’re so gonna balloon up!” “It’ll take you forever to get back in shape!” “You know you’ll never sleep again, right?” “You should sleep (or go out or have fun) now while you still can!” “You’ll never have time to yourself anymore.” “You’ll have to bid farewell to childless holiday!” Honestly people, is your life that miserable that you also want me to be miserable? You know what, don’t worry about me! I’m going to be just fine. Besides, I’m sure you’ve got plenty of other things to worry about already.
8. Those who think they know it all and should police everything you do (there are 2 categories of people in this group: those who say you can do everything you want and those who say you absolutely can’t do anything)
“You know you can drink right, I drank when I was pregnant and my baby’s just fine!” “Don’t you worry about caffeine, my mum literally lived on caffeine when she was pregnant and look at me!” “No, I don’t care what people say, you should avoid alcohol and caffeine altogether!” “You really shouldn’t be eating that, you could get food poisoning and it’s bad for the baby!” Whichever way I do it, I can’t win, can I?! Why don’t you just leave me alone and let me make my own decisions?
9. Those who love sharing their experiences (in the most annoying way)
“You’re not supposed to be that tired (or sick, etc)!” “I was never that tired!” “I was never that sick!” “My labour was hard, you can’t imagine…” “You know, if they cut you down there…” (and then go on to tell you about every single thing that can go wrong in labour and delivery!). Thank you, I’m feeling better and more confident about childbirth already (*sarcastic tone*).
10. Those who think that natural birth is the only way to go
“You really should be giving birth naturally at home, women have done it for centuries, don’t go against what’s natural!” “You don’t want an epidural, the side effects are just not worth it!” “You don’t need it anyway, your body is made for childbirth after all!” “Seriously, a c-section? You do know it’s a major surgery, right?” Look, I don’t have anything against natural birth. But I take no stand in which “birth method” is right or better. I think, every woman is different and every pregnancy is different. We all have the right to our preferences. If you think that natural birth is the only way to go, great, go for it. But for better or for worse, people have learnt so much about childbirth and we now have a number of medical intervening methods that could help ease labour. Whether you agree with them or not is beside the point, but under no circumstances should you judge those who prefer some or full ‘assistance’ when it comes to giving birth. What’s important is I’m healthy and my baby is healthy. Don’t tell me where and how to give birth! The right to make that choice belongs to me and me alone!
11. Those who are extremely pro breastfeeding
“You ARE going to breastfeed, aren’t you?” “It’s truly best to breastfeed your baby!” “I’m sure you know of the consequences if you don’t breastfeed.” “You must do it for at least a year!” Hey, let me get it straight… I’m also pro-breastfeeding and I’m aware of all the benefits (not just for the baby, but also for me). But I don’t think formula-fed babies are any less healthy. If you disagree, tell that to those women who are not lactating! At the end of the day, it’s again my baby, my body and my breasts you’re talking about. Have you ever heard of the right to personal autonomy?
12. Those who think they can touch and rub your belly without permission
Keep your hands off my bump, people. It’s creepy!