As I prepared to give birth vaginally after a previous C-section, I was especially interested in crowning, also known as the process of your baby's head emerging from your vaginal opening. I was intrigued for three main reasons, the first being: "OMG the baby's head is just sticking out of your vagina while the rest of them is stuck inside? That's amazing!" Secondly, I had never experienced it, so I wanted to know what crowning actually feels like. Lastly, I'd heard from a few sources that the crowning is the worst part of the whole labor and delivery ordeal. In other words, I wanted to be prepared.
As it turns out, nothing can completely prepare you for childbirth, at least not in my experience. I actually don't know if I would consider crowning to be the absolute worst part of childbirth. At that point, at least I felt like I was doing something useful, as opposed to just sitting there like a constantly contracting dummy up until I hit 10 centimeters. (I really, really hated labor.) But oh wow, you guys. Oh. Wow. Like, I can describe it to you vividly, in terms you would understand (because, frankly, it feels like you are taking a massive, painful poop), but unless you experience it yourself you're never going to understand the intensity of it all. Because it is so intense.
I asked other moms to describe their experiences and, for the most part, we're all pretty much on the same page:
"Like death. It felt like grim death."
Writer's note: I mean... yeah, kind of. It's pretty astounding that a massive baby popping out of such a tiny space doesn't kill you.
"So much pressure! And the release of that pressure when [my daughter's] head was out made me yelp! When I think back on it the champagne bottle emoji comes to mind."
"All of the sudden I felt like I needed to take the biggest sh*t of my life."
Writer's note: But, before you know it, that big sh*t becomes your little sh*t and you love them in spite of all the pain they put you through.
"I don't know why but even though I felt everything everywhere (thanks for wearing off, epidural) the most pressing sensation was in my butt. I literally moaned to my midwife and said, 'My asshole hurts!'"
The sensation was different each time, but it ranged from relief (the worst contractions were finally over) to feeling like my pubic bone was being split in half ... [but] it was not the worst part of labor/delivery for me, by far."
[Writer's note: dear God, Jillian, feeling as though your pubic bone was being split in half wasn't the worst of it?!]
"It felt like 10,000 tiny razor blades slicing me simultaneously, but then immediate relief."
"Like all nine rings of the burning fire of Hell had become my butthole and would consume me within moments. Thankfully, once the ginormous head was out, it passed."
[Writer's note: fun fact! According to Dante's Inferno, the deepest circle of Hell is frozen. I know, right? Go figure. This pedantic moment has been brought to you by the four years I spent studying medieval literature in college.]
"The most intense fiery pain I've ever felt in my life."
"I felt fullness. My self hypnosis-anesthesia truly worked. I felt no pain."
[Writer's note: Monica, I am jealous in the best possible way. Also: how?! My vagina has a million questions.]
"Like this gif. Actually, this is probably way too dramatic, but you know. It felt like my entire vag was on fire, but once the baby was out, so much relief!"
"You mean when the doctor pulled my daughter's head out of my sliced open stomach? I felt nothing. Thank goodness."
[Writer's note: OK, not exactly the question, but a good point! C-section or vaginal delivery, there's absolutely no fun way to do this.]
"I was crying, both in pain and because, in my heightened emotional state, I was convinced I was breaking my vagina beyond repair. I felt that I was for sure going to split open, but I only had a minor tear. That's the cool thing about vajayjays: they stretch."
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