When you are pregnant, it can seem like there are a million things you need to think about. Because there are. It’s very easy to get stuck worrying about all the practical issues you need to consider, like what to pack in your hospital bag, what you need for when you bring baby home and, of course, how to create a pinterest-worthy nursery.
But then someone may mention antenatal classes, which if I’m honest wasn’t something I had even considered but it turned out that every pregnant woman in the southern suburbs and Atlantic seaboard was going to them, so who was I to buck the trend?
What exactly are antenatal classes?
Antenatal classes are a set of sessions usually held once a week for about 6 weeks. They are offered by clinics, birthing centres or private practices. Couples are encouraged to attend the classes (yes, future dads are involved too) at 28 to 30 weeks of pregnancy to make sure the course can be completed before the birth. If you are thinking of attending antenatal classes bear in mind that the courses run on set dates and they are extremely popular so you need to book your places long before you reach the 30 week mark. We only managed to get into a course which finished when I was about 38 weeks so we cut it a bit fine but luckily Baby J only arrived in week 39. (Also, the best sessions are the last couple so you don’t want to miss them).
What do you do in antenatal classes?
The sessions I attended were 2 hours on a Thursday evening. The facilitator gave us A LOT of information in a lecture-style format. I was usually tired and it was usually hot and sitting for 2 hours was not ideal, plus most people came straight from a day’s work so they were tired, so it was not an easy 2 hours though they tried to make it better by giving us tea and cake half way through which works most of the time but not always. But basically it’s information overload session with a few questions at the end.
What do you talk about in antenatal classes?
signs of labour
different options for childbirth (with a not-so-subtle emphasis on natural, which I thought was a bit unnecessary)
how to bath and settle your newborn.
What did I think of antenatal classes?
It was all very interesting, to be sure, but when you look at the course outline you will notice that the course deals with the nine months leading up to the birth, the day of the birth and the first few days after the birth. That’s all well and good but since there’s not much I can do to control my pregnancy or the birth this isn’t the stuff I needed to learn about.
What I really needed to get to grips with was what happens when I had the baby in my house, under my supervision, without the nurses and the lactation consultant and the pain medication. Not just the first few days, but the 100 Days of Darkness that are about to follow. Not only how to bath my baby (because that slips down the list of priorities very quickly) but how to do everything else (because this little thing isn’t going to do anything for himself!)
How to make sure my baby did not die on my watch.
That’s the thing I was most frightened of and they didn’t mention this in any of the classes. So what I realised soon after I had Baby J was that we actually needed to attend parenting classes rather than antenatal classes. Parenting classes which would include:
how not to go crazy with boredom in the first few weeks
how to take off a babygrow without getting poo everywhere
how to use a baby thermometer
how to stay calm when your baby won’t sleep
how best to stimulate your baby in an age-appropriate way
how to co-parent with a husband while still being able to call him a husband
first aid (I had to do an extra course)
baby crying sensitivity training so you don’t freak out the first few weeks when your baby won’t stop crying
the different options for sleep training (controversial, I know, but there are a lot of options out there, many of then gentle)
and many, many other things.
Of course, you will get the hang of it after a few months so there’s no need to cover everything but a few helpful hints for the first few months wouldn’t have gone amiss and would have helped me feel more like I was swimming than drowning, or at least that I was kinda normal in feeling like I was in a deep, dark hole.
Would I recommend antenatal classes?
After all that, yes. Not for the classes, but for the support network. You may not become best friends immediately with the other couples in your group but when those babies start popping out, it’s sanity-saving to know that there are other people out there crying over spilt breastmilk at 3 in the morning. The whatsapp group from my antenatal classes helped me through my first few months with J like nothing and nobody else and our regular meetups were the perfect times to moan about our babies, ask the stupid questions we didn’t know who to ask and compare our babies to make sure ours were normal.
And drink champagne at 10 in the morning without being judged.
That alone made the antenatal classes worth it.