It's a small, cramped room, the bland walls punctuated every now and then with a poster showing a grinning woman breastfeeding. I sit with my wife, surrounded by a dozen more couples all pulling the same pose: the woman sits uncomfortably, shifting from buttock to buttock, blowing out her cheeks as her hands rest on a large pregnancy bump; next to her, a man, who – if he isn't asleep – is on the verge of sleep.
The little old lady at the front of the room has just finished jamming a plastic doll through a replica of a pelvis, and goes on to demonstrate with her fingers just how dilated 10 centimetres actually is.
Welcome to the antenatal class.
Antenatal classes are useful, I find, but only if you listen; which is a difficult thing to do, especially for men. We leave it up to the mums to take in the information – after all, it's their pelvis the baby will be jammed through, isn't it?
It's why we throw away the instructions when we open up the flatpack furniture box, and make it up as we go along (which is, incidentally, also why a chest of drawers ends up looking more like a desk). It's why we refuse to ask for directions when going on a long journey, instead just assuming that all roads lead to Rome, instead it's not Rome we're looking for, but Bournemouth. And it's why, when mums ask us to dress our newborn baby, we stand stock still, babygrow in hand, looking utterly confused.
The main problem is that antenatal classes are very much tailored towards the mum. I remember one class my wife and I attended when she was pregnant with our eldest. The midwife was so desperate to get dads involved that she made us all stand up and rock from side to side for five minutes.
Dean Beaumont attended antenatal classes, and felt much the same way; but after his wife gave birth to their son, he felt that his lack of knowledge and preparation had let her down. "I realised that childbirth education is tailored to women," he says, "and that there was very little information for men, tailored for men, as they prepare for their role in birth and beyond."
Unlike most men, Dean actually did something about it, and set up DaddyNatal, a course of antenatal classes aimed solely at expectant fathers. He is the only fully qualified male Antenatal Educator in the UK, and hopes that by getting dads together to talk about their fears and to prepare them for life as a father, he can help boost their preparation for the rollercoaster ride that lies ahead. His courses have so far been very well received, with Peterborough Hospital piloting a series of DaddyNatal classes.
As well as being pre-programmed to ignore instructions, us men are a stubborn lot, and when we feel that we are ill-prepared for something, we hate to admit it. This pride, says Dean, makes men hesitant to join DaddyNatal, but the feedback he has had from those with the courage to admit their fears is encouraging.
"Feedback so far has been 100% positive." he states. "Nothing better than getting an email from one of my dads, telling me about their positive birth experience."
So perhaps it is worth listening when we are dragged along to antenatal classes. Take note the next time the midwife tells you how to breathe during labour - once you realise how under prepared you are to be a father, you might need to start panting yourself.
Five questions dads want to ask but won't
Ten centimetres?! Does it ever go back to normal? And how quickly?
If I pant like a dog during labour, will the midwives think I'm weird?
Is it wrong to gloat that men don't have to go through childbirth?
Can I have a puff on the gas and air if I feel a bit nauseous during labour?
I have no idea how to rock my baby. Can someone show me please?