Signing up to NCT classes was – for us – among the best money we’ve ever spent on parenthood.
This isn’t because of the graphic photos that put the fear of God into everyone in the room (including the Dads), or even the bum-change practice with pretty realistic dirty nappies (English mustard and pesto are ruined for me). No, the reason why I’d pay for them again and again is because we met people going through exactly the same thing, at exactly the same time and now have friends for (I hope) life.
When Bear was 4 months old, our NCT tutor joined us on one of our weekly coffee/therapy sessions and chatted to each of us about our labours and births, and all the gory details that you don’t need to know while eating your tea (or ever). I explained that after 13 hours of contractions every 4 or 5 minutes, I was still quite a long way off (again, if you’re eating your tea you don’t need me talking about ‘dilation’ and the like do you?) I asked for an epidural, and only then – with both Bear and me on a constant trace – did the midwife realise that Bear’s heartbeat was going up and dropping down dramatically. This could have been going on for any length of time, so I was rushed to theatre and she was born by caesarean section.
Now, the fact that the NCT is pro-natural birth is not new information, and in an age when we’re encouraged to eat, drink and breathe ‘natural’ and organic in everything we do or buy, the NCT’s encouragement of the same wasn’t something I even noticed at the classes. But after telling the tale of Bear’s rather rushed arrival in theatre, I was told – sympathetically – that with number 2 “…there is no reason why you couldn’t have that natural birth.” That natural birth – like it’s the holy grail of labours. I couldn’t help feeling that, if this was an exam, I would have been marked down.
In my wider circle of friends, a large number gave birth by c-section – what I went through was by no means uncommon. Was it what we all hoped and dreamed for when we fell pregnant? Probably not. Do we regret it? No way. A labour is a labour, and a birth is a birth – surely? And surely the most important thing is that we have healthy babies – whether they arrive naturally or via the sunroof?
Before I get shouted out, we did cover the various interventions of labour – from drugs and induction through to the various gadgets (including a ventouse, which isn’t actually a Parisian burlesque dancer – who knew?). But by no means were they touched on in anywhere near equal measure when compared to going through labour with gas, air and good breathing skills. And yet, the majority of my NCT group alone needed at least 1 thing from the midwife’s bag of tricks.
I appreciate that, decades ago, the risk associated with a caesarean operation was higher than it is today. But in the same way that modern medicine has progressed to reduce that risk significantly, should the NCT (and other organisations) be more balanced in their attitude towards labour and birth?