When I was reading and researching and asking questions in preparation for labor and delivery, one small yet somehow relevant detail kept haunting me: pooping during labor. I knew there was a high probability I would push out some poop (and in front of strangers) during labor, and I was not about it. Not. At. All. However, it is pretty inevitable, so instead of keeping any and all fecal matter inside my body while pushing a baby out of my body, I went through the emotional stages of pooping on the table during labor. In the end, there was nothing I could do about it. My body was doing what it needed to to bring my child into the world, and I was just along for the journey (poop and all).
Of course, not every woman's labor and delivery experience is the same and I do know of some women who didn't poop during labor. Now, they're either fibbing because they find poop to be that embarrassing, or they really are magical creatures who were able to push with every ounce of their being, and not produce a little poop in the process. Either way, those stories do exist and maybe you're one of the few that can claim ownership of them. I applaud you, because I am not one of those women. I pooped (more than once) during labor. Hey, there ain't no shame in my pregnancy, labor and delivery game.
While every woman is different and every birth story is extraordinarily unique, one thing does bind us laboring women together: the poo. I'm not mad about it, as I find solace in solidarity and I'm so glad there are so many women who know what it's like to poop in front of doctors and nurses and friends and family. You haven't lived until you can be cavalier about fecal matter being passed somewhat publicly. So if you're currently pregnant, here's the emotional stages you're more than likely to experience when it comes to pooping during labor. If you've been there and done that, let's enjoy this nostalgic journey of contractions, pushing and poop, together, shall we?
Stage One: Denial
I'd argue that most pregnant women already know that pooping during labor and delivery is a very real, very normal possibility. I would also argue that most pregnant women go into labor and delivery completely convinced that while it does happen, it will definitely not happen to them.
I was so, so sure that I would be that one woman we collectively — as informed pregnant women — always hear about (and end up holding up as #laborgoals) that avoids defecating in front of relative strangers. I just knew it wasn't going to happen to me. Absolutely no way. Poop would not be part of my birth story. Nope. Hard pass, thank you very much.
Stage Two: Determination
As my contractions started to intensify and I felt an immense amount of pressure on my uterus, and on my bowels, I retreated to the bathroom and contracted over a toilet. Yes, I kid you not. I didn't have an epidural so I was free to roam around my room and/or the halls of the hospital, try my hand at a birthing table and use a birthing ball, and when I felt like I had to poop I hovered over my private bathroom's toilet and did just that.
If there was going to be poop during this labor and delivery process, it sure as sh*t wasn't going to happen in front of people. (FYI: those bowel movements were some of the most painful bowel movements I have ever had in my entire freakin' life. Pooping while contracting is the seventh circle of hell, I am absolutely convinced.)
Stage Three: Slight Tinge Of Fear
As my contractions continued to grow stronger and closer together, I started feeling like maybe, just maybe, I was going to poop in front of people and there really was nothing I could do about it. It was a fleeting thought, mind you (I was also starting to realize there were other, vastly more important things to focus my attention and energy on) but it was there and I started to fear that pooping on the table was going to be a thing I just did.
Stage Four: An Inkling Of Inevitability
As my labor progressed it became increasingly obvious that so much of what was going to happen was out of my control. My body felt like it was taking over and I was just along for the ride. So, not only did I fear that poop really was going to happen when it came time to push, I feared that there was nothing I could do about it.
I was going to go down this road, my friend, and I was going to encounter some poo along the way.
Stage Five: Renewed Sense Of Resolve
Then again, I am an empowered woman bringing another human being into the world and I'll be damned if I'm not in complete control of any and all situations. After all, I grew an entire human being inside my body. I am assisting that human being in exiting my body. My body.
I am goddess of the universe, as far as I'm concerned, and if I can push a baby out of my body, I can keep some poop inside my body. Shouldn't be that hard, right? I can do this. I can so do this. I am going to do this. Yep.
Stage Six: Absolute Exhaustion
After 10 long hours of drug-free labor, I waved my white flag and asked for that epidural. I was so damn exhausted (not only from the contractions, but back labor and puking from the pain and standing for hours on end, as that was the only way I could manage my contractions) that I just didn't care anymore. They could have thrown me in a vat of poop; I would't have minded. They could have told me in order to get this baby out of my body, I would have to poop in public for a year; I would have agreed, and rather emphatically. If poop was the worst thing to happen, so be it.
[Editors note: not every woman goes 10 hours without an epidural, and not every woman gets an epidural at all, so this stage will vary depending on the woman and the labor because, hey, we're all wonderfully different.]
Stage Seven: Absolute Indifference
When it came time to push and I felt like I had to poop, too, I just didn't care. In fact, I wasn't thinking about anything other than getting my baby out and the entire labor and delivery process being over.
All I knew is I needed to push in order to meet my son, so push I did.
Stage Eight: It Actually Happens
I did it, you guys. No, not birthed a baby; pooped in front of strangers. It happened. It happened more than once.
Stage Nine: Plausible Deniability
Funny story: I had no idea that I had pooped in front of the doctors, nurses, my partner or my two best friends who were in the labor and delivery room with me. I honestly had no idea. I had to be told by my partner, a few days later, that I did poop during labor. When you're pushing someone out of your body, you just don't care and you just don't notice and you have far more important things to focus on and deal with.
So, until I was told I had pooped during labor, I honestly believed I didn't. Those were a beautiful few days of blissful unawareness, my friends.
Stage Ten: Complete Realization
Then, of course, you realize that you weren't that unicorn of a woman who didn't poop during labor and delivery; you're just like almost everyone else. I guess you could feel embarrassed (and I'm sure some women do), but really, you just don't think twice about it. Not when you have your beautiful newborn in your arms. If a baby is the end result of a little semi-public pooping (and 40 or more weeks of pregnancy and many hours of labor and delivery) #WorthIt.
Stage Eleven: Not Giving A, Well, You Know
I don't know about you, dear reader, but I have laughed at myself more than once for caring about pooping during labor. I was so worried and scared and I tried so hard to make sure it didn't happen. Then it happened, and it wasn't a big deal. Like, at all.
In fact, if you're giving birth in a hospital, there will be a nurse whose entire job is to clean up your poop so quickly and discretely, you probably won't even realize what has happened. It's not a big deal. I promise.