On January 7, 2014 by Kunle Barker

For those of you who have not heard of it NCT stands for the National Childbirth Trust and was established in 1956 by Prunella Briance to offer advice and help to expectant couples. I know what you’re thinking, “Wow, that Papa Bean knows his stuff, what a great husband and father.” At this stage, I feel it only fair that I am honest with you, I only know this information as I ‘Googled’ it ten minutes ago because I was writing this post. When I turned up to my first six-hour NCT class, one wintery Sunday morning, I had no idea what NCT stood for, much less what to expect. Quite frankly, apart from my next prostate examination, it was literally the last place on earth I wanted to be. That might seem like a little bit of an overreaction but I was not relishing the idea of sitting in a room full of strangers, discussing my fears or revealing my lack of knowledge regarding childbirth. All of a sudden reading those pregnancy books didn’t seem like a bad idea. I had agreed to attend as I thought that it would be a good way for Mummy Bean to meet other local mothers and because one of my good friends had kindly pointed out that as I didn’t have to pass a mango through my penis I should probably shut up and go. So I did.

As we walked into the meeting room, my hangover began to kick in and I really just wanted to go home, but the Havana Club coursing through my bloodstream was not the only reason for my reticence. I guess it’s time I let you into another little secret, I’m a little shy, always have been, so the idea of a NCT group meeting makes me a little anxious. It’s not a huge problem, I’m not agoraphobic or anything but given the choice I would normally choose to be in an environment with people I know. Mummy Bean knows this and has always handled it very skillfully; weeks before, as I begin to question the benefits of attending the NCT class, Mummy Bean says, “I know you are shy, darling, but don’t let that stop you from meeting new people.” To which I rebuke, “What! I’m not shy, why do you say that, I’m fine meeting new people, in fact I love it.” Mummy Bean smiles and says, “Well, that’s settled then, I’m glad you are looking forward to it.” We both sit there in the silent knowledge of what has just happened, Mummy Bean knows that although I am shy this emotion is superseded by my unwillingness to accept that I am in fact shy. Mummy Bean is cunning, very cunning, we are going to the NCT classes.




We had arrived a little late for the class and so were forced to walk into a room filled with equally anxious men sitting quietly next to their partners. There are eight couples in total, and we awkwardly acknowledge the people in our immediate vicinity and in soft voices exchange names, which of course we have no hope of actually remembering. Almost immediately, my worst fears are realised as the leader of the group asks us all to introduce ourselves and explain what we hope to get out of the class. This is why I hate these types of group encounters, and as everybody introduces themselves, it reminds me of an awful ‘Blind Date’ audition that I drunkenly agreed to go on in 1992. When it’s my turn to speak, I revert to type and try to make jokes, which get a few laughs and a stare from Mummy Bean. However, my biggest laugh was totally unintentional, when one of the class was discussing Hypnobirthing I asked, “So what, you don’t actually get hypnotised in Hypnobirthing?” I think some of the class thought that was an intentional joke, it wasn’t, I actually thought that you were hypnotised as the name blatantly suggests. I get another stare from Mummy Bean, but shrug my shoulders as if to say, “Come on, you can’t blame me for that one.”

Very quickly, the atmosphere in the class becomes much more relaxed and we all begin to enjoy the interactions and discussion, plus we seem to be learning a lot. It becomes apparent to me that what NCT classes really do is educate and guide couples through their transition from expectant parent to parent as smoothly and with as little fuss as possible. Immediately I sympathise with this organisation as it seems to me that their aim is pretty much impossible. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait to be a father, but even I know that in the years to come when I’m speaking at Kidney Bean’s wedding it is unlikely that, ‘smooth’ will be the adjective I use to describe the way she came into our lives. I’ve heard too many stories, of long labours, rips, tears and stitches where stitches should never be found.




As it happens, I really enjoyed this first day. NCT classes work and are useful in more ways than I had thought. It was actually very informative and the couples we met were all really nice and seemed like people that I could and would socialise with again. There was practical help relating to what we should expect through the whole birthing process and Betty (our NCT coach) was knowledgeable and engaging and made the whole process fun. However, by far the most valuable thing I learnt at the course and the reason I would recommend expectant fathers to attend an NCT class is that I learnt the extent of my role as a father through the birth process and how important it is. I had always assumed that the relatively new phenomenon of fathers attending births was just part of the increasing metrosexualism of our society, but this is not the case, no longer is the father there to simply hold his wife’s hand and give morale support. The NCT class made me realise that I’m going to play a big part in the entire birthing process, in fact a massive part, and I hadn’t realised that. I am excited about this prospect and the fact that I’m going to take on many roles including, masseur, disk jockey, lighting engineer, interior designer, trouble shooter, junior doctor, and if the time calls for it, enforcer. Obviously, I always intended to be at the birth but this NCT class made me realise that my involvement can really help Mummy Bean and so Kidney Bean; after all, I know how it feels when I’m woken up suddenly, it’s stressful, so I can only imagine how Kidney Bean will feel when she is violently expelled from the warm comfort of Mummy Bean’s belly into the cold world of the big faced giants. I’m really excited and pleased that I’m going to have a big part to play in the birth of our child and I can’t wait to help bring Kidney Bean into the world.


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