A dilemma which I am sure many parents-to-be face is what to invest in. . . No, I'm not talking stocks and shares, I'm talking about the thousands and thousands of 'essential' items of baby paraphernalia. I still remember vividly my first trip to Mothercare with my lovely friend Katie when I was around 6 weeks pregnant. What was supposed to be an exciting, light hearted trip to check out cute baby clothes ended in about 10 minutes with Katie turning to me and asking if I wanted to leave as she could see the look of sheer horror on my face. I was so overwhelmed with the amount of 'stuff' I was faced with, all claiming to be an 'essential' that I couldn't see straight anymore! Depending on where I've looked, I've found different estimates of what people spend on average on baby 'essentials' and this ranges from £1,600- £7,200!
As it turns out we ended up doing very little baby shopping and got most of Matilda's first outfits, moses basket, cuddly toys, books and bouncers either kindly handed down from family or very gratefully received at my (surprise) baby shower.
The one thing we did invest in and spent the majority of our baby budget on was antenatal classes. We booked on to an NCT course first of all due to having very little experience with babies and no close friends or family expecting babies at the same time. And secondly, after many a frantic google search, I booked us on to a Hypnobirthing course. Now 2, 12+ hour, in depth antenatal courses may seem like a bit of an extravagance and at the time I was fully aware that we had spent more on these 2 courses than we had on every single other baby purchase combined! But this is where the essential vs. extravagance debate comes in. . . I know it may seem a bit OTT to pay a couple of hundred pounds to have someone teach you something which is meant to come so naturally (motherly instinct and all that) but I can't describe how incredibly pleased I am that we invested so heavily. We met a wonderful group of other first time parents through NCT. I am pleased to say that that group of 6 other women who helped me through those 3am feeds and endless baby groups are still friends now and I know we will remain in the future. And we also learnt things which were completely essential (the different colours of baby poo for example). Honestly though, if it hadn't have been for the baby poo section, I think we would have had a major panic and been calling doctors out when our baby's poo suddenly turned green! And I expect you can guess how much we gained from the Hypnobirthing course. . . enough to convince me so much of it's importance that I became a teacher myself!
So why is antenatal education such an important thing and why do I think every couple expecting a baby should invest in it?
Because it creates confident, informed, empowered and excited parents to be! If you are not well informed of all your options and the pros and cons of every single thing which is being suggested to you, then how are you meant to make an informed decision about what is best for you and your baby? Women during pregnancy and birth should feel respected, involved and supported in their decisions, but many women unfortunately feel pressured in to action which they are not 100% happy or confident about due to influences such as hospital protocol, fear or not knowing that they have other options. Being educated about birth can have a huge effect on labour itself too. Knowing what our bodies and babies are up to during the birth process makes it a lot less scary. When you feel contractions but know exactly what you're muscles are doing at that moment, instead of willing it to be over, you can embrace it! Or during a caesarean section, knowing exactly what the process is and what to expect will take the unknown and fear out of it. Women who are well informed and have felt fully involved in every decision regarding theirs and their baby's care are also far more likely to feel positive about their baby's birth afterwards.
I know there is the idea that if baby is here OK at the end of it then that's all that matters. It's not. Why only strive for a healthy baby? Remember this is YOUR birth as well as your baby's and how you feel before, during and afterwards is just as important. Why just resign yourself to the fact that you'll have to endure birth but as long as your baby is OK then you will be too? Inform yourself, learn about labour and birth, ask questions and find out about all your options. Remember that birth can be amazing, wonderful, transformative and the most empowering experience of your life and antenatal education is the place to start and give yourself a head start.
Finally I'd just like to add that antenatal education needn't be expensive. There are many options which are completely FREE! Ask your midwife questions, find out and go to your local Positive Birth Movement meet ups, follow some amazing positive birth blogs and Facebook pages and visit the AIMS and Birth Rights websites.
Antental education- add it to your 'essentials' baby list!
Emma Batt, Hypnobirthing Mother of one and KG Hypnobirthing teacher.