Impending arrival? Check. Now it’s back to (baby) school to learn how to be parents and make new friends for our Anonymum.
Another week and it’s time for another part of the parenting rite of passage – choosing which kind of classes you’ll attend to learn about what to expect in labour and beyond is another decision that no one really mentions until you’re staring down at the two faint lines confirming that you are indeed up the duff.
Like the hapless baby ignoramus that I clearly am, when I first found out I was pregnant I went on the assumption that a few months down the line nearer our due date, we would find a local NCT class. However, a newly babied friend who I had confided my very early pregnancy in gently informed me that if I wanted to attend a class in seven months time, now was the time to get my skates on. Apparently, these days birthing classes are more competitive than private schools because if you want in, you’ve basically got to book on at the time of conception. After a hasty google of local options and a mild panic, we manage to secure the final spot on a course near us. In January. For a class that starts in July. Yeeesh.
Of course, we’re there to learn but as any new parent will confirm, many choose to sign up to classes in the hope of also expanding their social circles. And while you can’t see who you’re signing up to meet, hope springs eternal that you’ll make at least one or two baby friends at the end of it.
Finally, July comes round. Drafted in via WhatsApp before the classes start, we all awkwardly introduce ourselves in the group chat a week before, making platitudes and exclaiming how excited we all are to meet. I try to study the tiny profile photos in order to decipher who our people will be. Will it be the cheery blonde who cracks jokes that I’ll go for coffee dates with? Will my husband bond with the slightly balding older dad who proclaims a love of craft ales? I can’t help but feel a slight anxiety I haven’t had since the first day of university when my mum dropped me off in the car park with a cheery wave and a bulging suitcase or three.
At last, our first face-to-face meeting looms and like the keenos that we are, my husband and I are the first through the door. We take up a set of socially distanced seats from which we can watch the arrivals as they troop in two by two, like animals boarding Noah’s Ark, awaiting a ride into the great unknown of babyhood.
After awkward ice breaker introductions, we split into small groups as part of an assignment from the midwife running the group. Is it terrible that already I’m ruling out the perfectly pleasant but slightly boring couple we are paired with? They say that you know within 20 seconds of meeting someone whether you’ll like them and never has that statistic rung truer. Yes, I’m probably going to hell but mentally I strike them off my list. Next!
During the class break, while some choose to go for fresh air or dash/waddle to the loo, we stay put along with two other couples. Slowly, everyone stands up and gravitates towards the centre of the vast room to stretch. One woman comments on how she’s hungry and the rest of us nod. There is talk of could we get pizza delivered? Amen, good vibes from this small group. Sheepishly, I produce some carrot sticks that I brought along (pregnancy snacking desires are REAL) and offer them around.
‘Oh, you’re so healthy!’ exclaims one mum-to-be, rubbing her bump.
Oh shit, have I made an error? Do they think I’m a goodie two shoes? Quick, say something funny! I crack a joke about how this is a public persona: really, I’ve been living off white bread and ice lollies, honest! They laugh collectively, helping themselves to my rabbit snacks. I sigh with relief internally – it’s okay, I’m still in the running. I have not made myself into a baby friend pariah. At least not this week.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m usually great at small talk. After years of attending industry parties, conferences and dinners where I’m often sat next to a virtual stranger for several excruciating hours, I could make conversation with a house plant if pushed but this feels different.
First, the aforementioned house plant won’t potentially be a lifeline when I’m sleep deprived and desperately in need of reassurance about poo colours and other baby related topics or seeking camaraderie and coffee with a screaming baby as my plus one in just a few short weeks.
Secondly – and please don’t judge me here – I am trying to make these connections totally sober. Without the lubricating addition of a glass of prosecco or two, suddenly establishing connections is decidedly harder. Even the house plant can end up being interesting enough to swap details with after a glass or two of wine; looking back, no wonder we find the first day of school so anxiety inducing as children.
As the instructor announces the session is over, there is the dance of whether to stay and chat or leave. Thankfully, the others quickly disperse and we make our exit without any socialising FOMO.
There’s always next week, right?