Before I gave birth to my son, I'd heard plenty about pooping on yourself during childbirth. But truthfully, in the midst of labor, I wasn’t even aware of whether or not I was crapping myself. I mean, I’m sure I must have pooped while I tried to push my son out, but I have no idea when or how much. What nobody warned me about is how absolutely terrifying it is to poop after you’ve had a baby.
In my two days at the hospital post-birth, I didn’t poop once. Everything between my navel and my upper thighs was thoroughly traumatized and blown out by the experience of vaginal birth, and the thought of pushing yet another solid object out of my body filled me with horror. I had no idea what the state of my butthole was, and I didn’t want to know.
Once I was home, as I bled profusely from the crotch and tried to soothe my nether regions with the use of “padsicles,” made aloe and witch hazel on a menstrual pad, stuck in the freezer (for details on how to make a padsicle, check out Romper on Facebook), I corresponded with my friend Joanne on Facebook, a mother and neighbor. “How are you doing?” she asked. “A body that has just given birth is a very strange and sometimes awful thing to inhabit. Let me know if you need anything.” I asked her if she could bring over a lawn chair so I could sit outside and enjoy the sunshine, my front yard’s wooden bench having been rotted away by rain and time. She said she’d bring it by that night.
“Also,” she said, “really weird, but very important question. Have you pooped yet? And if not, are you worried about it?”
I was overcome with relief and gratitude. “I haven’t pooped yet and I am worried about it!”
“I’ll bring something over that literally saved my ass.”
But later that night, I looked at the box more closely and did a double take. Wait. I'm supposed to shove this up my butt?
She and her husband stopped by that night with the lawn chair, a bag of produce from their CSA, and… laxative suppositories. “So, when I got home after having Taylor, I was so scared to take a crap that I was like, ‘I’m just gonna have to go back to the hospital again’ because I just refused to go,” she said as she handed me the box. “But my friend gave me these suppositories, and literally within 20 minutes of taking them, I was good.”
I didn’t really understand the concept of suppositories. I didn’t understand a lot of things at that moment. I just thanked her and said good night. But later that night, I looked at the box more closely and did a double take. Wait. I'm supposed to shove this up my butt? Oh, hell no. No, no, no, no, no. I was already freaked out enough about something exiting my butt; I certainly didn’t feel up to anything entering it anytime soon. Even if it would help me poop. No sir, no way, nope nope nope. So much nope.
Much like love, poop finds a way.
So I didn’t poop. I waited another day. By this point I was four days post-childbirth and I certainly was feeling the, um, urge to purge, if you will. But any time I felt that little push in my butt, I would just ignore it. I couldn’t bring myself to put myself through another intensive pushing process. I felt like it would bust me open.
But the thing about poop is that it can’t stay in your body forever. Much like love, poop finds a way.
As I sat down to pee, a full 96 hours after giving birth, I felt that little push again, and I tried to ignore it. But my poop would not be denied any longer. Despite my best efforts to hold it back, my poop came barreling out of me, all four days’ worth of it. It totally hurt. But not as much as I feared. The worst part, actually, was the wiping.
See, the thing about pushing out a child is that it uses the same muscles as pushing out a turd, and at the end of my labor, I had pushed for three hours. As a result, my hemorrhoids were raging. I was sporting an outie back there where I’d once had an innie. It was like a little rose. An inflamed, painful rose that squirts out poop.
I had to be so careful and so delicate that it took me about half an hour just to wipe myself clean.
I opened up the witch hazel wipes that the hospital had sent me home with and gently, gently swabbed my puffed-up butthole. I had to be so careful and so delicate that it took me about half an hour just to wipe myself clean. Then it was another week before I felt comfortable wiping with toilet paper instead of witch hazel wipes. Very slowly, though, my butthole returned to normal. I continued pooping without incident, and thankfully have continued doing so to this day.
My advice to any new mother freaked out about postpartum pooping would be:
1. Embrace the fact that you’re gonna poop one way or another eventually, no matter how you try to hold it back.
2. Go slow and wipe gently.
3. Hydrate! Hydrating will make your poop softer and easier to move.
Looking back, I wish someone had warned me about postpartum poop before I gave birth. Sure, most mothers have other things on their minds in those first few days home, but "am I going to rip open my butthole pooping?" wasn't something I had even thought to wonder until it was upon me. We should all be talking more about the hideous, gross aspects of babymaking, so that everyone can be prepared!
But at the end of the day... don't worry too much, y'all. Your butthole's gonna be fine.