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MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Wed 06-Aug-14 11:39:23

Guest post: 'In the Club' - what were your antenatal classes like?

The BBC's new drama In the Club aired last night, and apparently it's 'Call the Midwife for the Mumsnet generation' - but did you recognise its depiction of antenatal classes? The programme must show that the relationships between mothers-to-be are about more than shared circumstances, argues MN blogger Aileen Few.

Aileen Few

The (mal)Contented Mother

Posted on: Wed 06-Aug-14 11:39:23


Lead photo

The BBC's new drama 'In the Club' began last night

I don't know what I would have done without this group.”

“I don't what I would have done.”

“I don't know either!”

So came the semi-drunken chorus around the table of a trendy bar at midnight. I was out with the group of mums I'd met at my antenatal class and, though the evening had been pretty fizz-fuelled, we were all very earnest in expressing how important the support of other women had been to us.

Last night, I watched In the Club - a new BBC drama following the lives of six pregnant women who meet through a ‘parent craft’ class. (Yep, ‘parent craft’ -feel free to vomit at that name and then come back once you've cleaned up.) They are a bit different to my group though. None of us is a 15-year-old who’s told no one she’s pregnant, for a start. And we’re missing the woman going through a nasty divorce whilst bunking up with her new toy boy. And the one who has just found out our husband had been secretly unemployed for 5 months. Nonetheless, it got me thinking about the way expectants mothers - thrown together in church halls and hospital rooms and assumed to have some instant bond - form relationships.

In the episode, we learnt that the expectant mothers had met no more than four times. And yet they seemed to have become very comfortable with each other. During the cup of tea before the class, Jasmine (an endearing newlywed) confesses she is worried she won't love her baby. Later, in the pub, the dads discuss the details of their sex lives, despite most of them having only met that very evening.

Their candidness is something I recognise – but in my experience, it takes a bit more time. My group are a great bunch of interesting, friendly, funny women and I expected we’d become close, but that doesn't mean I instantly felt able to divulge my deepest fears. Frankly, that would be weird. The fact that all of our wombs had residents didn't automatically make the eight of us into an instantaneous sisterhood. Instead, we chatted about the things normal human beings talk about, like what we did for a living.

The fact that all of our wombs had residents didn't automatically make the eight of us into an instantaneous sisterhood. Instead, we chatted about the things normal human beings talk about.

When we started meeting up we were all still pregnant. One of us would disappear into the new born haze for a couple of weeks and re-emerge to share knowing looks with the other mums who’d already been through labour. I'm not sure any of us were 100% honest about just how hard it was. We hinted at it. We said: ‘God, it is bloody hard, isn't it?’, and I remember saying that I didn't feel the ‘instant rush of love’ I expected (which others agreed with, phew!) but I also remember holding it together, not saying what was really on my mind at certain points. I'm sure we all did.

And that's because the bond that women form as new mothers doesn't just appear by virtue of shared experience. Of course that is a massive part of it; the middle-of-the-night text conversations definitely played a part in keeping us sane - but that wasn't what sealed the deal on the safe space my friends and I created for each other.

In those early days there were a few mantras: ‘They’re all so different!’ and ‘It’s just what works for you’, were oft repeated phrases. But both were said with heartfelt sincerity and not the slightest hint of a raised eyebrow. I worry about what people think of me a lot, but I soon felt that these women provided a place for me to come and chat, eat cake and be supported. So much so that when I went into hospital with postnatal depression these women, who I’d only known for a matter of months, were some of the first people I told.

What really matters in those first, guilt-ridden, advice-laden days of parenthood is being open to the parenting choices of others and not feeling judged about your own. It’s being able to laugh about poo and cry about sleep. The last thing you need is to feel you should be presenting yourself as a ‘perfect’ mum. Some babies in our group have been breastfed on demand; some were bottle fed with a routine from early on. Some have been weaned using the ‘child-led’ method and some were given yummy purées first. They are all fab little people and we’re all supportive of whatever choices each of us have made. I feel very lucky.

As for the women In the Club, I fear that things will get worse before they get better. Well, it would be a pretty crap drama if they didn't. What I hope for the show is that their motherly bond isn't taken for granted, and instead shown to be cultivated by the women themselves rather than their shared circumstances. This bond is a lot more subtle than a spur-of-the-moment bank robbery (yes, that actually happens) and, if handled sensitively, it's what will set the programme apart.

Want to know what to expect when you're expecting? Then come along to Mumsnet's inaugural Bumpfest - a one day event on all things birth and baby-related. Find out more here.

By Aileen Few

Twitter: @AAFew

Wordsmith Wed 06-Aug-14 13:19:36

Didn't really meet anyone at antenatal classes. But am still great friends with most of the post-natal group 14 years later.

Buffy81 Wed 06-Aug-14 13:26:06

I only had 3 classes and with each class the group got smaller each time as they were not turning up. Never got the chace to bubs makes their apperance, we can make friends with parents and other bubbas after

Madlizzy Wed 06-Aug-14 14:18:55

Only did a couple of classes. I was a bit gobsmacked at the lady only finding out it was twins at a 35 week scan. That would have been pretty obvious at the 20 week scan.

zukiecat Wed 06-Aug-14 14:26:58

I only went to a couple of classes too, 23 years ago, didn't keep in touch with any of the other mums.

Madlizzy The lady who was having twins hadn't had any scans, she was pregnant 8 years earlier, but miscarried the week after her 12 week scan, so she didn't have any scans with this pregnancy fearing it might be bad luck.

OpiesOldLady Wed 06-Aug-14 14:30:33

She didn't have 12 or 20 weeks scans though - she declined them.

I only ever had one antenatal class - I was 28 weeks with twins, and the class was about premature delivery... I went into labour the next morning and had y boys a couple of days later.

When I then was pregnant with my daughter it was presumed I knew everything as I already had children, but tbh I hadn't got a clue what late pregnancy felt like.

Madlizzy Wed 06-Aug-14 15:10:20

Ah, I see. Someone talked over that bit. In my house, I meant, not on the programme. wink

Abilly72 Wed 06-Aug-14 17:43:24

Oh Dear Oh Dear yet another BBC 'Dirty Sink Drama' A set of characters with not an ounce of joy between them,no joy in their lives and certainly no joy to pass on to the unfortunate babies they are to have.Why must we have a continuing TV presentation of groups of selfish,ill mannered and hopelessly inadequate people.Just not a representation of the majority of people in real life.UGH

startwig1982 Wed 06-Aug-14 18:23:52

We had 8 pairs of parents in our antenatal classes. We met up a few times pre babies and then once we'd all had them, only 5 of us stayed on touch. Then 1 more dropped out.
So now the four of us meet up every week/fortnight for lunch, gossip, support. We've all had or are having number 2 and still going strong. I'm very grateful for meeting them, for although I would have described them as not my type of people, we've become good friends.

mignonette Wed 06-Aug-14 19:00:32

I avoided all kinds of ante natal classes and avoided the post natal toddler groups. And I will most certainly avoid this show. I would rather eat my own hair than sit there with a group of other men and women blathering on about pregnancy and babies.

pettyprudence Wed 06-Aug-14 20:55:51

Our NHS classes are also called "parent craft" - I skipped them both times! I did do a hypnobirthing course and vaguely stayed in touch with the mums I met there, but mostly I made new friends at a BF group. We were united by our common experiences and quite frankly the loneliness of maternity leave (esp if you don't have family around). Its awesome to meet other women going through what you are going through at the same time. Chat can be VERY baby/child heavy, but 3 years on we still meet most weeks to save our sanity :D

CecyHall Wed 06-Aug-14 21:01:09

We went, nobody spoke to anyone else and then we all went home.

They've been axed in our area now as apparently everyone is getting their info off the internet.

1944girl Wed 06-Aug-14 23:03:39

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

trolleycoin Thu 07-Aug-14 00:40:28

Haha parentcraft. More like parentdaft. I hated the sessions and stopped going as it was like they were talking to us as babies. It was hosted in the hottest room ever, with no opening windows - (for pregnant women in summer it was awful). They went on and on about BF, demonstrating with a knitted boob - it had a green nipple! and stuck tiny straws in cut up oranges to demonstrate inability to drink if not positioned/latched properly.

The best bit was the tour of the maternity unit, that I enjoyed and helped me prepare visually and mentally.

bellabelly Thu 07-Aug-14 01:36:14

I really liked my ante-natal group (nct) and only regret that I didn't show up more for the post-birth meet-ups. I had twins and no car and found it quite hard managing bus or tube on my own - bus took AGES and tube stations had millions of steps to negotiate. I was also (I think, with hindsight) having a touch of pnd and was finding it hard to get out of the flat, generally.

7 years on (SEVEN! Eek!), lots of us have moved out of London and our contact is through fb rather than face to face but it's still lovely to keep up to date with news and hear what everyone's up to. My nhs multiples "group", on the other hand, didn't extend beyond turning up for a one-off session where the lactation specialist informed us that she'd be on holiday when I was due to give birth. That is genuinely all I can remember about the session - total waste of time.

I enjoyed watching last night but it didn't seem terribly realistic.

CatFaceCrayola Thu 07-Aug-14 01:59:29

I'm guessing these things aren't made to be realistic.

As a first time mum I'll take it with a pinch of salt.

I plan to do the free 4 week birth, bump and beyond course (despite so many people telling me that spending £200 on an NCT course is "totally worth the money"

Gen35 Thu 07-Aug-14 10:24:27

I did antenatal classes in the US and found them a total waste of time and scare mongering about interventions, epidurals etc. I won't be doing classes for dc2 but I will join post natal groups to get out the house.

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