OK, hands up. Who among us has ever uttered these immortal words: “Yeah, I’m having a baby. But motherhood will never change me.” My hand is firmly in the air.
When I was pregnant with my firstborn, I swore I wouldn’t be one of ‘those mums’ who would change everything – their job, their house, even their outlook on life – just because a baby was coming along. And yet, I did.
But I didn’t know I would, or I didn’t believe I would, when I was pregnant. I told my boss I’d be back within six months. Fast forward seven years and I’ve long left that job and now running my own baby photography business.
Back then, as a busy, stressed-out City journalist, often working 10-hour days, I occasionally Googled ‘things to pack for the hospital bag’ or ‘how to breastfeed’ before the little man was here, but was often met with a whole host of preachy, smug advice that put me off wanting to know more. I felt alienated before I’d even begun. Worse still, on some networking sites I’d come across mums belittling other mums just trying to do their thing. It was all a bit of a minefield and I didn’t have the patience or the willpower to navigate it properly.
A fresh start
Cue: the Bump & Baby Club, born in 2013. Boy, is it a breath of fresh air. No smugness. No matron-style must-dos and don’ts for Baby. No judgement. And crucially, at last, some fun.
A quick look at the antenatal group’s glowing pink Neon logo will tell you that if you don’t want to take yourself too seriously as a mother, but benefit from the social side of sharing your ups and downs with like-minded local mums and dads, then you’re in the right place.
As Alex Kohansky, its founder, points out: “Having a baby is really the first time since you’ve been to uni where you have to essentially put yourself out there and make friends again. Especially when your partner might return to work, what you really want to find is a group of people to share the experience with.
“We focus on the social side just as much as the informative side – sure, we offer some really invaluable nuggets of information in both preparing for a baby and when babydom arrives – but it’s also about having fun and making friends.”
Before running the Bump & Baby Club, Alex spent 10 years making documentaries on TV. She began the antenatal networking classes when her first two babies were small, and now has three children. “When you have a baby and you’re at home much more than you were previously, and your life has changed (it will change – get used to it people!), the area you live and the people around you suddenly become really important. That’s why I feel passionate about connecting local parents-to-be.”
What they offer
Every little detail has been thought through with the Bump & Baby Club. Of the 59 locations across the UK it now offers, most of the meetings take place in exciting “dream venues” from ice rinks, beaches and mini golf courses, to great pubs or pop-ups, keeping the vibe fresh and raw.
Each of the antenatal instructors has been personally vetted by Alex, to make sure they fit into the Bump & Baby ethos of relaxed, friendly, passionate and above all, relatable. There are no instructors talking at you for half an hour, and they are there simply to facilitate friendships and knowledge-sharing.
“We’re not stuck in the dark ages, using old-fashioned ideas and teaching you much of what you already know. Our emphasis is on the practical, and our teachers draw on the very latest evidence-based research.”
Courses in London cost £250, but range from £175-£200 outside London.
Life after birth
Of course, it’s not all about birth. The clue’s in the name – the Bump & Baby Club also takes you right through the first year or so of Babydom in all its glory. “People are quite obsessed with labour when they are pregnant. Our antenatal instructors can make an enormous positive difference to your journey up to birth, but it’s also important to remember you’ll need a network of people when Baby arrives too. Especially as you may be at home alone with a new baby for some time. Our events, on feeding through to sleeping can really help mums to get out and feel normal again, as well as learning key things.”
The Bump & Baby Club started out humbly in Muswell Hill and now covers 59 locations across the UK, stretching as far as Leeds and Bristol. There are hundreds of courses running each year. How can Alex make sure the quality of teaching and social vibe of courses remains consistent?
“The teaching is everything,” she says. “The ones I hire are so passionate, they’re people you’d want to be friends with. They’re really nice, smart, brilliant at getting across key bits of info while making it fun.” Many of the instructors are midwives, so they have valuable first-hand experience on the front-line of birth.
Alex remembers the early days of babydom being “really tough”. “I had a really different experience to other new mums, it seemed, I struggled quite a bit. My life had changed and I needed a group of like-minded people to share it with.”
So what it is about babies that Alex loves so much? Her face lights up. “Oooh when you asked me that, I just get all happy thinking about that lovely baby smell. It’s the cuddles… the snuggles with a newborn. I can’t put it into words,” she giggles.
Well, if Alex cannot put it into words, she’s certainly put it into action. Thank goodness motherhood changed this woman and the path she is on.
To find out more visit bumpandbabyclub.com