Tomorrow's parents, today

CRAIG CLIFF
Last updated 05:00 01/12/2012

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Craig Cliff

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OPINION: The first rule of antenatal class is you don't talk about antenatal class. It only gives the people with kids permission to talk about their birth horror stories, or deliver their questionable parenting advice ("Trust me, they'll only stick their finger in the socket once").

The second rule of antenatal class is you don't talk about antenatal class. If you're conversing with someone without children, their eyes will just glaze over.

Me: "They call it breastfeeding, not nipplefeeding, for a reason."

My colleague: "Uh-huh. Can I use the photocopier now?"

Don't take it personally. The brains of the childless have been shrink-wrapped so that no information about babies can be absorbed until it's almost too late.

The third rule of antenatal class is you must be nervous. Not only do you or your loved one have to push something with a head the size of a rockmelon through you-know-where in a couple of weeks, then care for it and bankroll it until 2030, minimum, but there's no right way to do anything.

Words like "bottle-feeding" and "co-sleeping" are to be whispered in coffee breaks - in the same hushed tones we used to get asked if we wanted to get high - lest the course co-ordinator hears you and stands you up in front of the class. "This person doesn't care about the risk of smothering their baby! They're not ready to be a parent!"

The fourth rule of antenatal class: You must watch THE VIDEO.

The fifth rule of antenatal class: Someone will always "drop out" before the six weeks is over. That someone will be a baby and it will drop out of one of the pregnant women.

One evening you'll all look around and realise someone's missing. Panicked looks will be exchanged.

It's like realising you're in a horror movie and the slutty girl just got murdered.

Newsflash: There are no virgins in antenatal class.

The killer called parenthood will pick you off, one by one, until every eye is bloodshot, every bank account drained.

The sixth rule of antenatal class: You will forget everything that matters. How far apart contractions should be before you head to the hospital? Gone. Which lift to take to the delivery suites? Whoosh. This is nature's way of making space for all the new things you'll have to worry about when baby arrives.

The seventh rule of antenatal class: Make friends. These will be the members of your coffee group. Sure, you start out with nothing in common apart from the fact your due dates are scattered across the same three signs of the zodiac, but you're about to be parents, stop thinking about yourselves.

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And remember, everyone's nervous. That person who makes a joke of everything? Nerves. That silent, finger-wringing couple? Nerves. That dude who lingers by the Gingernuts, looking intently into his cup of tea, waiting for his wife to return from the bathroom (for she's always in the bathroom): that's me when I'm nervous.

But nervousness fades. And you'll need someone to talk to about babies, because the first rule of parenthood is you don't talk about parenthood.

- Craig Cliff is a writer coming to grips with antenatal class. He writes a fortnightly column.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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