The United Kingdom gets a lot of things right when it comes to having a baby: One-year maternity leave, in-home midwife visits after baby arrives, health visitors who are focused on making sure you are hanging in there… I could go on.
But by far the most valuable thing that the United Kingdom has over us here in the states is their approach to prenatal classes.
Here in the United States we are all about efficiency. How quickly can I tick that box and be bombarded with a crash course in labor and delivery, get it over with and move on to the more fun aspects of having a baby, like designing a nursery?
Trust me, I get it! The thought of sitting in a room and hearing all of the gory details about what is about to happen to you and what you have spent most of your nine months trying not to think about isn’t anyone’s idea of a fun weekend afternoon.
There is a better way with prenatal classes. And it’s done in the United Kingdom.
There, they looks at prenatal classes as an opportunity. I had my boys living abroad, far from family and friends with kids. I was told to sign up for the National Childbirth Trust—a class which sorted participants by neighborhood and due date.
It was where I would “meet all of my mommy friends,” I was told. As it turned out, that was true: Over the course of four classes, my hubby and I made a tight-knit circle of friends—all with babies born within a month of each other.
After our son was born, I had a standing coffee morning on the books to get me out of the house, friends to take walks with and friends who would just stop by for a cup of tea on their way to the grocery store. We also had BBQs and weekends at the playground as families, which were great ways for the husbands to socialize, too.
As pregnant mothers, we are all so vulnerable, excited and terrified about the changes that are about to happen to us. That vulnerability makes us open to connections with people who are going through the same things.
It’s hard to make friends as adults—as evidenced by the onslaught of mommy-Tinder apps designed to help connect us as new parents. But with pregnancy as the common thread, it’s so much easier.
With our class, we developed our modern-day village—a support network of couples that helped each other through illness, loneliness, marital problems and the usual baby drama. We also provided each other with companionship during those sometimes endless and monotonous days with a newborn.
Over time, as we all started going back to work or moving away, some of the friendships faded. But, to this day, even with an ocean between us, some of my best friends are from that experience.
What most expectant parents here do is kick that can down the road and figure they will make their mommy friends when they are already mommies. That can work, too, but not for everyone.
I know from my experience if I had waited until my baby arrived to seek out mommy friends, I would have been so preoccupied with my baby—worried about them getting sick, if I was feeding correctly, if they were getting enough sleep—and being sleep deprived, not feeling myself.
By not having to worry yet about any of that, I was able to focus on connecting with people that that when my baby arrived I didn't have to try so hard. Those friends were already there for me.
That’s not the story I hear time and time again here. Many friends have spent the first couple years of their babies life so lonely and isolated and it impedes their ability to enjoy those early months with their baby because they themselves aren’t happy.
Instead, let’s follow the Brits’ lead on this one and start building our villages before baby arrives.