Some of you will know this about me already. Many of you won’t have had a clue as it’s not really something I broadcast or announce everywhere I go…
Don’t worry, I’m not going to confess to being a national spy. It’s much less sexy than that :p
I’m the Branch Secretary for my local NCT committee. Really. I know. You’re stunned & alarmed. You’ll never speak to me again.
Ok. I’m being facetious. Sorry :p
But seriously. I actually do, like, Branch Secretary type *work* for a charity. Although, to be brutally honest, I don’t do an awful lot for most of the time. I attend monthly meetings to discuss how our local activities are going & what can be improved (or as I call it: Meet with other humans & practice my grown up conversation skills while eating cake). But mostly I lark about on Facebook, do the odd update for the [somewhat neglected] group/fan page & very occasionally I also tart up our page on the main NCT website (although I am desperately trying to find someone else to do this…. ;p). I even run a [very self-serving] Parent & Child playgroup at the Children’s Centre near our house.
I don’t do much, but as with all volunteer/charity work, every contribution helps as it lightens the load overall. You could argue it at least looks good on my CV… hah.
Truthfully though, I volunteered for the role because I wanted to give something back to the organisation that I feel became my salvation as a new mum…
Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve noticed a growing group of online voices expressing discontent with their experience with the NCT this year. I read this blog post, which disheartened me along with the subsequent comments. I got the impression that people perceive the NCT as a militant pro-natural birth organisation, or the “breastapo.”
Well. Not to totally rock the boat, but I haven’t found very much in the way of negative impressions when it comes to my local NCT. Which is why I wanted to write this post. I never did the antenatal course due to the cost, which quite frankly scared me and caused my hubby to shudder and mutter something along the lines of “I don’t think we need anything like that..” A common reaction, I think you’ll agree. I suspect this would go some way to explaining why the typical (actual? perceived?) demographic of NCT fans or members is middle to upper class and white. Probably both working. Maybe over 30. Possibly a bit hippy. I am none of the above.
Infact, the only course I did (the postnatal Early Days) was actually a case of misinformation where I thought I was turning up to a Mother & Baby group, only to find, 30 minutes later, that I had joined a facilitated discussion group. Yeesh. You can imagine the dawning terror I must have felt.
But as I packed up my baby and ginormous bag of baby paraphernalia at the end of the session to go home after my first proper outing with my baby, alone, I realised I felt different. Less alone. Less anxious than I did that morning when I left the house praying that I would find the methodist church, unlike the previous week where I drove around for 1.5 hours before finally giving up and coming home, dejected & feeling like a failure. I had spent the session surreptitiously stealing glances at the other new mums in the room while discussing our expectations of parenthood. I realised that I wasn’t the only one flailing, wondering if I was doing everything wrong or if everyone else was coping better than I was. It hit me like a brick wall: All new parents are in the same boat.
I continued with the course – it became the highlight of my weekly routine. Infact, long after I’d participated in nearly every session of Early Days in the drop-in format, I continued to attend, like an addict, to discuss issues I had already covered! I remained good friends with the mums I met on my first session, and then made even more good friends in subsequent sessions. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t click with every new mum I met. There were some I just did not click with. Some who came across downright strange (!). But it’s to be expected in any new social situation isn’t it? Anyway. The course became the oasis in my week, infact it was the oasis in my new life as a new mum-of-one. When I think back, I don’t even know how I coped for those first 3 and a half months prior to discovering the NCT where I struggled, scouring the internet for specific baby advice, reading baby books when I should have been resting and listening to advice (both solicitied and UNsolicitied) from family (my dear mum…. omg, let’s not go there just yet…), friends and even strangers, when I should have been enjoying my baby. I recall it being a very emotional/hormonal time, filled with self consciousness and anxiety that maybe there was a better way to be doing all the things I was doing for my child. I just didn’t understand that I alone was the mother of my child and, actually, I know a lot about him and what he needs. My instincts were never far wrong and I actually had a lot of knowledge about how to take care of him. And the big feather in my cap was: I was GOOD at breastfeeding.
I couldn’t believe it. I was GOOD at something and I was GOOD at my job as a Mummy. Why the hell couldn’t I see that before? Was it the hormones? Was it the shock of birthing a baby? Was it the pethidine? Was it the epidural and stitches?? Maybe it was all of the above. Or maybe, it’s just totally NORMAL to feel this way as a first-time parent… *sound of the penny dropping*
I’ve been pretty lucky. I have a pretty amazing husband who took 2 months paternity leave from his freelance work to support me at home after baby arrived. He fended off my mum, relatives, in-laws and various visitors when I couldn’t deal with them and he reassured me repeatedly that I was doing a fantastic job. He was everything you could wish for in a new dad. But there’s only so much pressure you can put on your partner in life before it becomes unfair. I’m so grateful for that day when he gently pushed me out there looking for support from another source as I never would have found the NCT. I never would have found Helen, my lovely postnatal leader. And I never would have found all the wonderful, fabulous and amazingly supportive mummy friends who I’m proud to know and spend time with, whether with or without our children in tow. Granted, not everyone meshes well with their coursemates. And granted, not everyone will mesh well with whatever personality they find in their post/antenatal leader/teacher. But regardless, the support that the NCT provided me (and also the friends I have since recommended the course to) has been invaluable. It sometimes makes me nervous to think about where I would be now as a person, as a wife and as a mother had I not taken this course. I’m sure there are plenty of people who are amazing parents who never needed such a course, and I probably would have found my way on my own – eventually. But all I’m saying here is: It worked *very* well for me; It shaped the parent that I have become.
So for that, I will be eternally grateful and I will continue to volunteer for my branch, and recommend the courses, as long as I still feel the benefits. So there.