My NCT Story: Why I wrote a book about my parenting journey

When new mum Carolyn Lochhead wrote a book about her experiences of parenthood, she chose to donate the proceeds to NCT. Here, she tells us why

Mum Carolyn, from Glasgow NCT branch, decided to write about the whirlwind of emotions she experienced as a new mum, and the result was a collection of essays, Three Toothbrushes (and Other Essays on Motherhood, Mindfulness and Making Sense of it All).

Because of the support and friendship she received from her local NCT branch, she has generously determined to give all profits from the book to our charity. We find out more about her story and what made her choose to support NCT.

1. How did you find being a mum at first?

Eilidh was born in 2013 (her little sister Kirsty came along in 2015). Those early days were both amazing and overwhelming. I remember feeling like the world was suddenly a happier, warmer, friendlier place, but also that I had gone from being a fairly competent person to having no clue how to do the most important job I would ever have. It was a real rollercoaster.

2. Did having your NCT friends help in the early days?

Carolyn and her NCT group: L-R Claire, Laura, Elaine, Jessica, Carolyn and Carol

I don’t know how I would have got by without them. We were company for each other in the days when we’d started mat leave but not had our babies yet. We rejoiced for each other on as, one by one, we gave birth.

We had an endless Facebook message thread, which we peppered with questions about feeding, nappies, sleep, and everything else that preoccupied us. And we met up every Thursday afternoon for the year of our mat leave.

I knew their babies almost as well as my own, and I knew I could ask them anything and they’d do their best to help and never judge me.

3. In your book, you talk about how it was hard to get the hang of breastfeeding, did you manage to get support?

The babies in 2013! L-R Cameron, Thomas, Hannah, Cleo, Nancy and Eilidh

Yes, but it wasn’t easy. I was lucky to be part of a pilot in Glasgow called Build Your Baby. This meant that I got a bit of extra support with feeding when I was in hospital and, crucially, that a lovely midwife phoned me every few days to see how feeding was going.

She didn’t really give me any advice, she was just encouraging and supportive, but what a difference it made.

I vividly remember almost bursting into tears on the phone to her one day, when I’d been trying for what felt like hours to get EIlidh to latch on and she said, “Oh sweetheart, you’re doing so well!”

I also got help from Margaret, our lovely local NCT breastfeeding counsellor, whose calm approach and never-ending practical tips were hugely valuable to me. It took about eight weeks before I felt I’d got the hang of breastfeeding – I wish I’d known it could be so difficult.

4. What surprised you most about being a mum?

It changes everything. The simplest task becomes a challenge – how do you go for a shower when you’re in sole charge of a tiny baby? How do you go for a pee? Never mind get on a train, or conduct a serious phone conversation.

But I also didn’t expect it to be so much fun – these days Eilidh and Kirsty are a constant source of surprise and hilarity. And sometimes frustration, but I try not to focus on that…

5. And what was the most difficult thing?

It’s 24/7 – you can’t log off and go home. Those early days – when Eilidh didn’t distinguish between day and night and there was never a break – were hard.

6. Why did you decide to write your essays?

I’d kept a blog for years, and when Eilidh was born, it was natural to write about her. Recently it’s been hard to find the time to keep a blog going, so I decided to shut it down. But some of the posts about Eilidh’s early life were really special to me and I couldn’t bear for them to just disappear into the internet ether, so I decided to pull them together into a collection of essays.

7. You're generously giving the proceeds from your essays to NCT, why is that?

When I think of being pregnant, and of Eilidh’s early days, I think of NCT. I remember my wonderful NCT teacher Anna, and my irreplaceable NCT friends Jessica, Laura, Elaine, Claire and Carol. It just made sense that I’d choose NCT to receive the proceeds of Three Toothbrushes.

8. What advice would you give other new mums and dads?

Oh, crikey. Try not to panic. Wallow in the first few days of parenthood, but then leave the house as soon as possible – it’s so important to get out and about. Get a thermos flask, or you’re never going to have a hot cup of tea again.

Invest in a really good raincoat, because you’re going to be out in all weathers, and you can’t hold a brolly while pushing a pram. And ask for help – especially if you have a lovely bunch of NCT pals on hand.

“There are three toothbrushes in the mug. The cup is chipped, and the bristles on my partner’s toothbrush are discoloured, splayed and loose. And some days, that’s what I see. Those are the days when life overwhelms me with the volume of tasks that I need to complete, when every thought I might have about something pleasant or inspiring is instantly drowned out by the clatter of an imaginary ticker-tape list, spewing out items that ought to have been dealt with by now.

…“Thankfully, there are other days.”

So begins one of Carolyn’s essays entitled Three Toothbrushes. Recounting the highs and lows of juggling a new baby, an ongoing battle against the household upheaval they create and a job, Carolyn reminds herself – and the reader – that time is precious. The message is to ignore the mess, play and count your blessings (and your family’s extra toothbrush).

Support NCT and read Carolyn’s beautifully insightful essays about her journey into motherhood here.

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