There have been a flurry of people sharing their NCT stories – most of the ones I’ve read are from Practitioners (those who have completed training with NCT to be paid to facilitate NCT courses / run NCT drop-ins) rather than the majority of the NCT supporters who are parents or volunteers. I’m ‘just’ a volunteer so I thought it would be a good idea to share my story…
I became a parent for the first time over 10 years ago… the world was quite a different place back then as the internet was still fairly new, not everyone had access to email and most communication was still by telephone and post. So whilst I had heard of NCT courses on internet forums I had frequented my impression was:
- that the courses were probably more expensive than I could afford (reality probably not as there are discounts for low incomes and everyone can pay in installments)
- got booked up really quickly (reality probably true at the time but these days with courses organised by demand more courses are added if possible as they fill)
and perhaps the biggest barrier of all booking needed me to phone a local volunteer to book… as using the phone isn’t my favourite past-time I put this off and then told myself that I’d left it too late so didn’t phone (these days you can find out all the details and reserve your spaces online without having to phone a stranger!).
My son arrived after a c-section due to pre-eclampsia and we muddled through working out how to breastfeed but something was missing – I didn’t have any local ‘mummy friends’. After a few months I found a phone number for NCT and LLL and eventually I phoned up to and was sent a copy of the NCT ‘Open House Diary Dates’ where people opened their homes for other new parents and given the date of the next LLL meeting. I tried a few of the NCT Open Houses but they were badly attended and I was sat there with a newborn whilst people talked about pre-schools and it put me off – I nearly wrote off NCT as an organisation at this point. Then I went to an LLL meeting and met two new mums (who had done NCT courses) – one of them invited us both to coffee and we started to meet up regularly and then the other said she was hosting a NCT Open House to thank her (student) antenatal teacher for her support so I went along.
After a while I’d got into the habit of going along to Open Houses (and found that I’d just hit a run of toddlery ones) and then when my diary ran out I joined to get the newsletter and new diary dates (I didn’t realise then that you don’t have to be a member to attend any NCT events).
Life continued, I think I might have hosted a few coffee mornings myself (when the days of the ones on offer were all the days I was working) and then when newly pregnant with number two I received the invitation to the local AGM – I went along because I was a member and ‘that’s what members do to support the organisation they are members of’ and left a member of the ‘committee’. It all turns into a bit of a blur at this point but I know I had support from an antenatal teacher who provided me with evidence based information and helped me realise that I could make decisions and had the right to ask questions and express preferences when planning for my ‘birth after caesarean’ and again when pregnant with number three and considering a homebirth.
Over that three year period I got more and more involved with the local branch and volunteered for a number of roles on the committee ended up as Branch Chair – NCT had given me the chance to use my brain whilst not working – I had a purpose and was helping to make a difference to others who were feeling as lost as I had done. I attended some volunteer training and began to see more of the ‘big picture’ about what NCT was.
Just after the birth of number three moved away from the city to a small market town – I was lost – I didn’t have my NCT friends on the doorstep anymore, I’d given up my volunteer roles and my ‘purpose’… the nearest NCT branch activity was more than a half hour bus ride away and something that just wasn’t possible with two children under three, no car and the school run. Then into my email inbox popped an invitation for those who were interested in joining the region team (volunteers who support branch volunteers and act as a bridge between the staff at UKO and the grass roots) to attend a training weekend – I booked and with some trepidation took my four/five month old baby away.
At that weekend I found out what I already knew – there weren’t any region volunteers in my area which left our branch volunteers unsupported – and in a few short weeks I ended up as Regional Coordinator and my NCT adventures really began.
As a Regional Coordinator I have been given so many opportunities I’ve been on training weekends, I’ve delivered volunteer training, I’ve had the privilege to meet so many of NCTs fantastic volunteers. I’ve seen many changes (the gradual increase in staff to support our brilliant volunteers is one of the best ones!), I’ve stood on stage at NCT’s national conference (and one year even did a song and dance routine to the ‘Ghostbusters’ theme about ‘calling region’ – anyone remember that?). I’ve represented NCT at receptions at the House of Lords and House of Commons and been a recipient of NCT Star Awards. I sit on national level committees and working groups representing volunteers and love being involved with planning and strategy looking at where NCT will be in the future – a highlight was being one of the volunteers involved in a focus group as part of the interview process in the recruitment of Nick Wilkie as CEO last year.
Locally – I was instrumental in forming a new NCT branch in our market town and I am really proud that almost six years since we had our first meeting the branch now offers antenatal courses, two parent support groups (a toddler group and a Bumps and Babies group), Nearly New Sales and has had grant funding to train three cohorts of breastfeeding peer supporters (including me!).
NCT has helped me develop as a parent and as a person – I’ve been supported through some of the most challenging years as a parent, met some fabulous and inspiring people and I have gained skills in community and volunteer management which I’m sure are the reason I got my current job after my ten year ‘career-break’.
So where next in my NCT story? Good question… as my children grow up my time as Regional Coordinator needs to come to end and this year I need to start thinking about passing on the role to someone else… but one thing is certain – I’m sure that I will remain a supporter of the charity for years to come and will encourage my children to become involved if / when the time comes – as my eldest said once “NCT is really important because all mummies need friends who are mummies too”.
What is your NCT Story? Please share it or a link to it in the comments.