I live in Chelmsford and our local Hospital, Broomfield, falls under the Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust. They offer Parentcraft (or Antenatal) classes to expectant parents and when mentioning I was going to an NHS class I got ‘Oooh it’ll be full of chavs!’. I know the NHS classes are often sneered at by the NCT crowd, but I was pretty pleased with Parentcraft when G was born, so knew what to expect.
We were able to choose either three evening sessions, each two hours long spread over three weeks, or one six hour long Saturday slot. We went for the Saturday as it would be nice to get it done in one hit and not have to pay the extortionate hospital parking fees three weeks in a row, so today was the day!
I must admit it was hard work dragging ourselves out of bed and to the Hospital for 9.30am on a child-free Saturday (Ha! That’ll change soon!) but we did and we made our way to the Training Room. After everyone assembled I was pleased to see 14 normal looking people (not a chav in sight!). We did an ice-breaker exercise where our name stickers were swapped around and we had to find the corresponding person. We then had and ask two questions:
1) How far along are you/is your partner?
2) What’s the best thing about being pregnant?
One of the other dads-to-be had my name sticker. I told him we were 35 weeks and the best thing about Loz being pregnant was I could get pissed and she could drive me home! I then had to find ‘Laura’. Laura was also 35 weeks and the best thing about her pregnancy was feeling the baby move, which incidentally is what EVERYONE said, apart from the now alcoholic-looking me. I know how to make a first impression.
After that we sat down and went through a series of pictures showing exactly what giving birth looks like from inside. The midwife leading was great at going through all the details and it was actually quite interesting. Me being me, I couldn’t resist to throw in some silly comments along the way (I am a child). During the later images showing the baby coming out she looked around the room and said; “Now, most of you wouldn’t have had something this big before…” I sniggered, looked at Loz and said “…Well!..” I don’t think the midwife heard, I just can’t stop my mouth sometimes.
During the images she was explaining exactly how the pregnant women would be feeling and when the right time to call the labour ward would be. Apparently it’s when the contractions are every 3 minutes, or when they are unbearable. If your waters break she also advised calling the labour ward due to the increased risk of infections. The midwife was brilliant and answered lots of questions from the group as we went along.
After a short break we then went through the pain relief options available. Divided into groups, we were asked to write down what we knew about the three main options. She then collected what we’d written and we went through it all together, discussing each option (its positives and its pitfalls) and how it is administered. As two of the birthing partners were mothers of the pregnant daughters, it was nice to hear first-hand experiences! Again the midwife was great at answering questions and leading the conversation forward.
The midwife was keen to talk about the ‘pelvis opening’ and the baby dropping down. This was demonstrated with a plastic pelvis and a scary baby dolly (as seen on Psychoville). Loz had joked about getting a picture of it so when I ended up on a birthing ball – and handed the scary dolly – we got a cracking image!
We stopped for lunch for an hour and it was nice to get out of the training room and stretch our legs a bit. The hour flew by and we were back in the room before we knew it. One mum-to-be and her birthing partner had to leave so missed the afternoon session which focused on feeding.
I remembered from the Parentcraft classes we took with G the feeding part was essentially ‘You should be breastfeeding’ and that was it. I know the NHS Trusts do have to encourage breastfeeding, but the format of the discussion this time was more balanced and we discussed the positives and negatives of both. The midwife was very honest about her experiences as both a midwife and a mother of four, and whilst breastfeeding was encouraged it wasn’t as forced as I’d found it last time. When the midwife was listing things to avoid during breastfeeding such as alcohol and some medicines, I chipped in with ‘drugs…’ A few of the other parents snickered; the midwife heard, but thought I was agreeing on the ‘medicines’. I should have said ‘Heroin’ – I’m an idiot!
I suggested it’s a great bonding experience for dads to feed their babies and I strongly believe it is. Some of my nicest memories of G being a baby was feeding her in the middle of the night. Doing things like that really help a dad bond and feel closer to their children. The midwife suggested that it might be best to wait approximately six weeks until breastfeeding is fully established before trying to express milk and let dads do a few of the feeds. Fingers crossed!
After that we split back into groups and had to do an A-Z of Birth and Newborns: ‘A’ for ‘Amniotic Fluid’, ‘B’ for ‘Breastfeeding’, ‘C’ for ‘Colic’ etc. We did manage to get words for most of the letters, apart from the last few of the alphabet! We then collectively went through the lists and discussed each word, even some of the sillier ones! When we got to ‘L’ for ‘Lullaby’ the midwife suggested to me that perhaps I should be in charge of singing lullabys when I couldn’t help with the feeding. Without thinking the words “Well, that’s a bit gay” fell out of my mouth. There were a few gasps and giggles. I really shouldn’t be allowed to meet new people…
After we covered the A-Z we discussed a few more topics in the ‘newborn’ area and then it was time for the session to end. I was hoping the midwife would suggest the group perhaps exchanged contact details so we could keep in touch, forging new friendships with other new parents. This didn’t happen, but Loz (being Loz) went around the group collecting names so we could maybe all connect on Facebook and see what happens. It would be nice to keep in touch because the best support for children comes from those who are going through a similar experience. Everyone was very nice and handed over their details, so hopefully we’ll get to meet up again!