My very clever friends Marina Fogle and Dr Chiara Hunt have just launched their first book, which is literally a bible for pregnancy. Titled The Bump Class, the book is really just an extension of their fantastic pregnancy class, one that helps mothers with all aspects of pregnancy, from medical to pain relief, bottle feeding and returning to work.
Sisters Marina and Chiara started with their classes with the main aim to provide professional advice to women throughout pregnancy. The classes with so incredibly well received, each being full to the brim with expectant mothers. Although it wasn’t on Marina’s mind, a book was the next natural step. Marina and Chiara spent six months creating this The Bump Class, a guide filled with information, stories, tips and advice, and I was so happy to see it arrive on my desk a couple of weeks ago. It’s a brilliant, witty, and honest book, and without question, a must-read for anyone embarking on the beautiful journey of motherhood.
The email when it arrived took me totally by surprise. It was on a balmy summer’s day, sitting overlooking the sea that I read an email from a publisher who had recently read an article about The Bump Class and desperately wanted to publish a book. I have to admit I was floored. A book had never been on my radar – but my sister, Dr Chiara Hunt, and I had just started The Bump Class, giving women honest, practical and impartial advice and from the beginning, it had been a run away success. We had women from all over the world wanting to take part in our classes and those that we ran in London were heavily over-subscribed. So maybe a book was the answer?
There are a lot of pregnancy books out there – I found ‘What To Expect’ was useful for its methodical, encyclopaediac approach, Jools Oliver’s personal and honest account of her pregnancy made great reading and ‘The Rough Guide to Pregnancy’ had me in stitches. But nothing quite embodied the values that were making The Bump Class itself so popular.
Professional advice had always been a key part of our plan. The moment people find out that you’re pregnant, they’re always desperate to tell you exactly what to do. Advice is full of “nevers” and “absolutely musts” and is often based on their own experience and a misunderstanding of facts. So, we collected a group of midwives, doctors, physiotherapists and breastfeeding specialists who would teach facts and give advice – but advice that wasn’t based on their own experience, what happened to their sister or what a shell shocked husband had told them over a bottle of wine – but rather based on years of professional experience.
And then there’s the content. The moment you find out you’re pregnant, you have a million questions – but you also don’t want to shout to the world you’re pregnant at such an early stage in your pregnancy. So where do women go? Dr Google. And while they’re frantically googling away, many don’t realise that the Internet is unregulated. Anyone can publish anything. And they do. A lot of the “studies”, advice and stories, particularly around pregnancy are inaccurate and even dangerous. By the end of the first year of teaching classes I had lost count of the amount of times that a girl would ask about the “considerable risk of paralysis with an epidural’ (the answer: vanishingly rare). Information is key when you’re pregnant but it’s vital to trust your sources.
And then there’s the guilt which often starts as soon as you’ve peed on the stick (the agonising realisation that you got drunk last week before you knew you were pregnant). This guilt, just gets worse and worse, particularly when your bump starts showing and people ask you about your birth plan and start judging you. Chiara said one of the things that angers her the most is when she sees patients postnatally who feel guilty because they didn’t ‘achieve’ the natural birth they had so set their heart upon. What has this world come to? The surgery they feel so guilty about has often saved their baby’s life. In the fog of early motherhood there is no room for guilt – but rather positivity. At the core of our course was the belief that we should prepare women not only for the births they were wanting, but also the medical intervention that might happen. And the feedback was extraordinary. One girl who was adamant to give birth in the birth centre emailed us after her emergency Caesarian saying “you were right, the moment you meet your baby is extraordinary, whether you’re in a birth pool or on an operating table”. And quite frankly I think it’s unfair of anyone to suggest otherwise.
But all of this is very well but who wants to go back to school for 16 hours, when you’re exhausted enough by work and life? This is exactly why it had to be fun – our classes were filled with stories, conversation, hilarious anecdotes. Rather than dragging themselves to a series of classes, our participants became addicted, often lamenting at the end of the course that they didn’t want it to end.
“So can you get all of this into a book?” Asked the managing director of the world’s biggest publisher? No mean feat we thought to ourselves. But we’re always up for a challenge, so over the next six months we found time in the day when there was none and inspired and enthused by the women we were meeting on a daily basis, encouraged by their praise for what we were doing we put our heads down and transcribed the information, the stories, the tips, advice and above all the positivity that had made our classes unique.
We soldiered on. And when the first copy arrived it took our breath away. But what would everyone else think? You Magazine wanted to serialise it and last week we nervously opened the paper to see their verdict. “fresh, witty and reassuringly down-to-earth” it gushed.
The Bump Class; An Expert Guide to Pregnancy is available from Amazon and all good bookshops for £18.99 The Bump Class offers antenatal courses in Parson’s Green and South Kensington TheBumpClass.com.