Mother-of-three Anna Dawson-Jones says the arrival of her first child felt “like someone had dropped an atom bomb on my life.” But with help from the National Childbirth Trust she picked up the pieces and is now making a career out of the experiences of motherhood and encouraging others to do the same. HILARIE STELFOX reports
LIKE many new mothers Anna Dawson-Jones was surprised by how much her life changed after having a baby.
She’d been working as a university administrator and was halfway through a PhD in geo chemistry when her first son James, now seven, arrived.
“I’d always thought that I’d stay in academia but it was like someone gave my life a big shake up and then left me to it,” she said. “I loved being a mum but it was a real shock.”
Her second child, Amy, now five, came along a couple of years later by which time Anna from Holmfirth had become a full-time mum and volunteer with the National Childbirth Trust.
It was membership of the NCT that 41-year-old Anna says helped her to cope with the demands of parenthood.
“I did the antenatal classes and joined a post natal coffee morning group,” she said. “I was very grateful to the NCT for the support I got. When my son was a few weeks old I went to a meeting, became newsletter editor and haven’t looked back since.”
Today Anna – who used to work at Huddersfield University where her husband, Eddie, is an IT technician – has many roles with the charitable organisation.
She is a part-time paid employee, setting up a project in Yorkshire and Humberside helping families with asylum or refugee status, she takes antenatal and postnatal classes and also has a volunteer role.
And while her life is busier than it has ever been, she still found time to have a third baby, Henry, who is now two.
The NCT has trained women to become antenatal teachers for more than 50 years, believing that mothers-to-be need to make informed choices during pregnancy and childbirth.
In the past such teachers received informal training but today’s NCT practitioners, as they are known, are offered university-accredited courses and the chance to make a career working with women at a unique time in their lives.
Anna says it is extremely rewarding personally and fits in well with family life.
There’s also a financial reward. An antenatal teacher working part time and running three classes a week, for example, can earn between £150 and £200 a week.
The NCT recently joined forces with the University of Worcester to offer a unique course in parenting education and modules that will enable students to train for a number of practitioner roles – as an antenatal teacher, breastfeeding counsellor, postnatal leader, yoga for pregnancy teacher or NCT doula (birth assistant).
As the largest UK charity for parents, the NCT says there has never been a better time to become a practitioner.
NCT education manager Clea Harmer believes overstretched maternity services mean that women may miss out on much-needed support. It’s also the case that many mothers no longer see a health visitor on a regular basis.