Whether it is nobler in the mind to bear the slings and arrows of well-meaning but really quite dull parents in your local area…

As soon as my wife and I announced our engagement, she had a religious epiphany and declared that she’d been a Roman Catholic all along and that we’d have to get married in a Catholic church. This was certainly news to me; as far as I was concerned, aside from weddings and funerals, we had no business being in a church. “Are you aware of the hoops they make you jump through?” I asked in vain. Anyway, like any sensible fiancé I quickly learned to acquiesce and we soon found ourselves jumping through one particularly large hoop – a day-long marriage course at a local community centre, all for the princely sum of £200.


The venue for our marriage course – imposing soviet era vibes

Snacking on M&S sandwiches (so that’s where the budget went) and sipping instant coffee with 15 other couples of all shapes, sizes and nationalities when you have a banging hangover is no fun. It wouldn’t have been much fun sober, let’s face it. Eight hours of earnest/state the bleeding obvious/quasi-religious/splitting into groups/workshop hell made us delirious. When we eventually did stop for lunch, after what seemed like eons, many of the group had already made friends and were busy chatting away furiously in little groups. We slunk off to the car park, avoiding eye contact whenever possible.

So, as you can imagine, the idea of NTC classes was an anathema to two misanthropes like us. We’ve got enough friends thank you very much. Kneeling on yoga mats with other gormless blokes trying to rub our partners backs so they didn’t feel discomfort was one thing, but inevitably there would be some person who’d pipe up, “shall we go to the pub?” and you were trapped forever. Plus you had to pay for the privilege. And everything you needed to know about the birth (contractions, breathing, the placenta, the blood, the horror…the horror) was explained to you during another day-long class run by the hospital, which was free. So we never did it.

However, a few months after Martha was born, my wife started questioning the decision. We only have one set of grandparents (my parents are dead/erstwhile) and they don’t live that close to London. Plus, at 31, my wife was the first of her friends to have a baby, so the truth is we were missing a local support network.

Why NCT classes might work for you:

• You’re new to the area
• You don’t have a network of friends around who have babies themselves
• Your family lives more than an hour away by car
• You enjoy meeting new people (heaven forbid)

I met some friends for lunch in the pub the other Sunday and I spotted an old work colleague sitting among a huge group of new parents with their newborn babies – a proper bunfight. He seemed delighted to see me and peeled off from the group immediately. I asked if it was an NCT thing and he nodded gravely. He explained that he’d just moved to the area and didn’t know that many people. I asked what they were like and he shrugged his shoulders and said under his breath, “They’re okay…”

He didn’t need to say anything else.

Image courtesy of nct.org.uk