NCT Classes: Come For The Biscuits, Stay For The Friendship

Overall I found my experience of NCT classes much like donating blood: painful and draining but with free biscuits. My bleakest memory of that time was the requirement to wipe a dollop of French mustard from a doll’s bum. It’s not even my favourite type of mustard. Presumably French mustard was selected as it most closely colour-matched the real thing, although with the experience of my own sons’ output I can tell you that an entire Pantone chart of colours is possible, covering all the mustards: English, American and most dispiritingly, wholegrain. Lurid yellows, greens, blacks and obviously browns, browns beyond the comprehension of the human eye.

The doll experience provided scant preparation for cleaning up my sons’ bottoms. The mustard didn’t expand and loom like a B-movie monster appearing from a lagoon. And the doll didn’t gyrate its way through a variety of yoga movements with the seeming intention of smearing the mustard down into the crevices of podge up the back and on the thighs, knees and arms.

I found that NCT was scant preparation for anything. I was mainly enticed by the prospect of free lemon squash and of course custard creams. And to support my wife obviously. It’s expensive. Our course cost £320, which worked out at £40 for a two-hour lesson. £40 which could have been spent on a cheap dinner out or a cinema date with popcorn and pick-n-mix or preferably just a really really big bag of pick-n-mix.

It May Not Be These Actual Biscuits
It May Not Be These Actual Biscuits

Our course leader was a Dutchwoman who railed against national stereotype by being stridently anti-drugs. Anti-anything to do with hospitals actually. I think if she had her way all babies would be delivered not only entirely naturally, but in a lovely forest by squirrel-doctors and badger-nurses administering only dock leaves for pain relief. Like a suggestible cult member I actually got slightly caught up in all this ‘midwives-are-evil’ nonsense, writing up a laughable birth plan which planned to preclude my wife from taking anything stronger than an aspirin for her pain. With the benefit of hindsight it is bizarre that I should have any opinion on this other than wishing for the safe delivery of my baby and whatever my wife wanted.

The NCT course has an unhealthy preoccupation with labour, given that it represents on average about 0.0002% of the time it takes to raise a child. Six of our eight lessons were given over to the birth, meaning that for a lot of students learning about the event takes longer than the event itself.

One of the other lessons focused on breastfeeding which happened on the evening I was due at Excel to watch the Olympic boxing tournament, the only Olympic tickets I had managed to secure. On another occasion the discussion became so involved, so heavy, so vaginal that all the menfolk were corralled off to the pub to talk about cars and the footy and birds. This suited one man in particular, who earlier in the course had hit upon the winning strategy of turning up half-cut after an afternoon session on the lemonades. He spent the most of the lesson in a grinning stupor, the sinister teachings of our leader just bouncing off him.

At the beginning of the course I took stock of my male colleagues, who between them gave off a heady combo of fear and diffidence. One guy appeared to have started blushing before the word ‘breast’ had even been mentioned. It later transpired that his wife was employing a doula to support her during her labour which made total sense given his apparent total discomfort at anything to do with fannies.

As a kind of icebreaker the Dutch lady asked each couple to conceive a way in which the dad could offer physical support to the mother during the birth. To my surprise a variety of vaguely tantric positions were rolled out with gusto using walls, floors, a chair and a fire extinguisher. My wife and I unfurled your everyday common-or-garden hug. Both through a lack of imagination and because fundamentally that was what I really needed at the time.

A few weeks after my son was born, perhaps as some sick practical joke, my wife revealed to me that she had agreed for us for speak to the students of the next course to talk them through our experience of childbirth and to show them what a baby looked like. I informed an increasingly aghast semi-circle of men that most of what they had learnt up to this point would probably fly immediately out of the window the minute their partners went into labour and then within a couple of days become completely obsolete.

And after all this we found our NCT classes indispensable. A lot of friends have said to us that their classmates the course went on to form a slightly synthetic, yet nourishing community of comrades alongside whom to go into parenting battle.

By a geographical quirk our course was held in salubrious Notting Hill so our course was mainly constituted of French and American financiers, who were all transient workers with light affluent tans and talk of private maternity suites. Most of them have left this country now.

Happily there was one couple who looked normal and relatively poor. We naturally gravitated towards them and have remained friends ever since. They are our community. And yes, obviously it was the drunk man.


Any good?

28 thoughts on “NCT Classes: Come For The Biscuits, Stay For The Friendship”

  1. Nick you are just so naturally funny!! This post had me nodding along the whole way, although we never did the NCT thing. It does sound like you’re basically paying for new friends at the end of the day, which I guess is no bad thing. A few weeks after having my first daughter, I would have paid anything for some friendly company. Having said that, I don’t like the thought of the whole no-drugs brainwashing ‘situation’.

    Welcome to the wonderful word of parent blogging!! I hope you love it all as much as I do xxxx

  2. Ha I loved reading this! I found our NCT classes the same, it was all geared towards the ideal birth with no pain relief and I actually wrote a really nice birth plan. My birth experience was far from it. But I am so glad we did the course as I now have a group of amazing friends. Claire x

  3. Reading this, I think my husband and I made the right decision in not doing the NCT classes! We went to a couple of the free classes at the local hospital and didn’t feel the need to pay for anything more. I do know that lots of people do make really good friends at their NCT classes though, but it just seemed like an expensive way to make friends to me! x #KCACOLS

  4. Lol, my NCT leader was a dutch woman with similar values! 🙂 Our classes were more on birth than caring for a child but i led that as i had experience with looking after them but not giving birth to them! We were lucky that we stayed in contact with 6 out of the 7 couples and the ladies are some of my closest friends, we’ve add a few more to our group from NCT Bumps and Babies group too. I joke i paid from friends rather than the knowledge! #KCACOLS

  5. Hi!This my first time stopping by your blog..loved this post. I never bothered with NCT classes but they sound like a bit if a waste of money could buy so much baby stuff for £300! my husband and I would have made friends with the drunk guy too haha xx #KCACOLS

  6. I know just what you mean! Our course didn’t prepare us for the real thing at all (although we didn’t have the mustard).however we formed friendships I’m sure will be lifelong #KCACOLS

  7. Hi, First time visiting you I believe. Welcome. So I am from Canada and had to figure out what “classes” you meant. I had to laugh at your description the doll definitely doesn’t help or even come close to a squirmy child covered in poo. Thank you for sharing the laugh.#KCACOLS

  8. I think my brother was the drunk man, but maybe in a different class. He’s gone on to be the most amazing stay at home dad of 4 with lots of NCT friends. I went to none and was pretty shocked to find out what constituted being a mum, so maybe I should of:)

    Mainy – myrealfairy


  9. Quite a funny post to read! I haven’t done any NCT courses and reading your post i now think phew! That’s surprisingly expensive! I assumed it was free on the NHS haha! Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday.

  10. My NCT were lifesavers those first few months. Other people have been a lot luckier with theirs than we were in terms of lasting friendships though…#KCACOLS

  11. I never did NCT classes, just the ones offered by the hospital. They gave us all we needed and some of the mum’s also ended up at the same baby groups as me so I ended up with a few friends.

  12. and this s EXACTLY why I didn’t bother with nct. everyone told me I should and said d make friends etc but I thought it was sooo expensive. instead I did a pregnancy yoga course and attended lots of the chilrens centre groups after! #KCACOLS

  13. I think we all agreed in my group that we basically paid a shed load of money for some new friends!

    Ours was also very focused on the birth which was anti drugs and pro birth pools. My own birth plan followed suit and I ended up fully dilated with not even a bit of gas and air before I’d even made it to the birth pool (turns out the midwives were evil that day, but only for not believing me when I said I was ready to have this baby!) the whole birth pool idea was sold to me at NCT by the being the best possible option for natural pain relief, calming birth for baby and less chance of tearing…. That last bit as it turns out was total bollocks and my midwive and consultant told me after the birth that had I not chosen a birth pool I probably wouldn’t have needed to spend longer in surgery than I did in labour getting put back together. The classes fell short in many ways but id pay it all over again just to have met the friends I did. #KCACOLS

  14. We never did NCT classes, the first time round we were in East London and the NHS course scared the life out of us! Second time round we just didn’t think it was worth it. But I have heard that its a good place to meet other couples, and it would have been great for my other half to have met a friend. #KCACOLS

  15. Haha squirrel doctors and badger nurses. I work In a maternity hospital, I don’t think I’ll look at any of them the same way again! Thanks for that haha ##KCACOLS

  16. These posts worry me. They suggest that the NCT classes have either no structure or consistent approach or that there is one and it’s just being ignored.

    Ours as nothing like yours. It was balanced, realistic and inclusive. It covered everything and for some of our group gave them more detail about what was involved in a c-section than their own doctor!


  17. This made me snort into my ham sandwich and brightened an otherwise dull Monday lunchtime. I howled at the bloke who went red. I wonder what he is doing now! It also took me back to my own pre-birth days, no NCT classes for me, none available so in search of some friends and company I trucked up in true Norman style to a baby massage class. I could only stand at the time due to a pregnancy related condition as the other mothers sat with their babies mingling. I stood behind a table, really standing out when all I wanted was to blend in. I also had the screamer that couldn’t be massaged so I got to use the doll to practice on. The one reserved for losers. For some reason, this ensured my membership to a baby group and mums and dads I am proud to say are still around as we have just celebrated 10 years of parenting. I clearly stood out for all the wrong reasons!! Poor me! Fabulous post which has inspired me to write about those awkward parenting times on a day when I was looking for something light-hearted and easy. #KCACOLS

  18. What a fantastic post – you write so well! Had me giggling all the way through, especially the vision of squirrel-doctors and badger-nurses!! We didn’t do NCT but we made some invaluable parenting friends via other groups. #KCACOLS


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