I'm back. Safe and sound and still with the lovely, warm glow that comes from being surrounded by people - many of whom volunteers - passionate about their subject, keen to learn and, from my point of view, to become more welcoming and inclusive of us dads.
I'd be disingenuous to say I wasn't just a little bit nervous, faced with a hall full of women (and a few men). The last time I'd been in the company of so many females it was at a cookery demonstration some years ago given by James Martin at Vinopolis, in Southwark. And it was fairly obvious, on that occasion, that many of them weren't there for the cookery demonstration. I was lucky to emerge unscathed.
Yesterday was a completely different proposition - in turns: fun, serious, thoughtful, thought-provoking and inspirational. Who could fail to be inspired by Errol and his Leeds Dads? Or by the willingness to share good ideas, reflect on current practice and debate the best ways the NCT can better support all involved in the process of birth and childcare.
It's a good job there are organisations like the National Childbirth Trust. Other providers may be available, but they may not be as reliable. When I attended the NHS ante-natal classes at the local hospital before the birth of my first child, we - mums and dads-to-be - went along every Monday evening for several weeks for two hourly sessions that covered pretty much everything, allowed plenty of scope for questions and left you feeling about as prepared as it's possible to be. By the time my wife was expecting Charlie, the sessions had been condensed to a single weekend. By the time his little sister came along, it was one Saturday morning. If you could make it.
Fortunately, being 'experienced' by then, it didn't really matter. But I wonder how I'd have felt as a first-time parent, if that was the only support available. There are books, of course. (One *ahem* called Fatherhood: The Essential Guide by yours truly!) But there's no substitute for experience and expertise which - combined with enthusiasm - the NCT has in abundance.
Long may it continue.