One of the most common questions I get asked by prospective solo mums is whether I would recommend attending an antenatal class alone.
I will admit, it is one of the things I felt uncharacteristically anxious about. In the UK, we have NCT classes and I had heard that they were mainly geared up for couples. I know there are similar classes around the world. The feedback I have received is many of them are still geared towards people in a partnership.
It left me wondering what the others in the group would think about me attending on my own. Would I feel left out? Was the course set up for those with partners? What would I do during the exercises with that required two people?
Despite my anxieties I decided to attend anyway. So many friends had told me they made such good connections with the other participants. They remained firm friends for years to come. For this alone I felt it was worth it. This was a great opportunity to build up my mum tribe.
For me, it was the best decision I could have made. I decided to take my mum because she was going to be my birth partner. We learnt a lot and it helped me prepare for the birth. I made some lovely mum friends and we’re still very much in touch now. It’s so nice to have friends with children at exactly the same age. It’s a source of much reassurance and comfort.
Our course leader was really lovely. She made me feel very at ease. She integrated me into the group nicely. When we did exercises in groups, she gave my mum the choice of joining the partners, or staying with the mums.
Do I think the course was tailored for single women? No not really! Did that have a huge impact on me? No, not really!
If you are currently trying to decide whether to attend an antenatal class, these are my top tips:
- Ring ahead
If you feel anxious, you can contact the course leader to say that you will be coming on your own, or with a friend or family member. This lets them know they need to be considerate of how to integrate you into the group. It also helps them understand that you are feeling anxious. This gives them the opportunity to put you at ease. If you get to chat to them before the classes start, hopefully they will reassure you all will be fine. If they don’t, this is your opportunity to change your mind.
- Proudly share your story
It can sometimes help to share your story at the very beginning of the course. Of course if you prefer not to, that is completely up to you. Sometimes it can feel like an elephant in the room if you don’t get the chance to explain why you are on your own, or with a friend. It is important to some to get the opportunity to clarify that you’ve made the decision to become a solo mum. Rather than the other people attending the course coming to their own conclusions.
- Consider bringing your birth partner
It is a really personal choice to decide whether to go alone, or to bring your birthing partner, if you have one. If you go alone, you may find it easier to make friends as you don’t need to focus on anyone else. If you go with your birth partner it might help you get better prepared for the birth and their role in it.
- Embrace making some lovely friends
It’s worth going to an antenatal class if nothing else to meet some friends who will have children exactly the same age as you. They can be your lifeline. Most classes start a Whatsapp Group so you have people on hand for all your questions and concerns. People who are experiencing exactly the same thing at the same time. On maternity leave, you will all be off work at the same time. Through attending this classes you have created a ready made friendship group of people to spend your time with. It can be lovely to see the kids growing up getting to know each other.
- Remember, you’ll all be in the same boat
Although others in your class may be attending the course with their partner, when you’re on maternity leave you’re all managing sol. You may find you have more in common with the other ladies than you might think. During the day, when most peoples partners will be at work, everyone is trying to figure it out alone. This can be when the support of a group can be really helpful. You might well find, you don’t feel very different from the others. Yes, they may have some help when their partners come home in the evening, but during the day, many will be in the same position.
- Consider attending women only classes
If you don’t want to be in a class with couples in it, you can look for a female only antenatal class. There are many of these classes around if you do a Google search. Often Hypnobirthing classes are just for women and if you live in London The Bump Class comes highly recommended.
I’d love to hear about your experiences at any antenatal class you have attended, wherever you are in the world. Did you have a positive experience, or do any changes need to be made? Are you glad you attended, or if you chose not to go, do you wish you had attended?
More and more I am helping support organisations to become more inclusive and giving advice on how to best support single women and solo mums. Many organisations have been very receptive to this support which I think is a hugely positive sign.
I have reached out to NCT to help them modernise their course with some simple changes and help educate how to be more inclusive for the solo mother. They did not want to accept that offer as they let me know that they were making these necessary changes internally. I look forward to hopefully hearing some positive feedback from the attendees in the future.
If you feel a course you have been on would benefit from some advice on how to cater better for solo mums, please do let me know. I will contact them to see if they will consider receiving some advice and support. Slowly, we will be able to educate relevant organisations on how to be more inclusive and cater to an ever changing audience.