In preparation for childbirth, I did a lot of research. I watched birthing videos, I read up on the different stages of labor, and endeavored to keep an open mind about the experience. One of the things I knew I needed to keep my mind most open for was the possibility of pooping on the delivery table. I discussed this possibility with my husband and friends. I looked for advice, but the only women I knew who had recently given birth had not pooped during delivery. But I had a gut feeling that I would not be so lucky. And I was right.
But when it actually happened, when I pooped on the delivery table, no one would admit it to me and that sucked because it made something totally natural, something that happens to a lot of women, seem a little bit shameful.
At first, I was embarrassed at the prospect of pooping while I gave birth but I tried to be accepting of it because, to be quite honest, if someone was going to poop on the delivery table it was going to be me; embarrassing stuff always happens to me. I was the girl whose tight, light-wash jeans were stained with period blood in the eighth grade. I was the girl who sweated so profusely through her royal blue shirt during a job interview that it turned navy. I was the girl who told her friend that princess ball gowns were the worst before she told me she was getting married in a princess ball gown. Suffice it to say, I'm quite familiar with awkward things happening to me and hardly anything can make me blush anymore.
But being awkward and accepting one's awkwardness still does not fully prepare one to actually take a number two on the delivery table. When it happened, I had just gotten an epidural so pushing was an exciting, pain-free, if not tiring process. And even though I couldn't feel anything from my waist down, as I started to push I could feel a pressure... in my butt.
As I pushed and pushed and felt more and more sure that, yes, there was poop coming out of me, I turned to my husband and asked, "Am I pooping?" I didn't ask out of embarrassment. In that moment, I wasn't worried that he would think less of me. I knew I had married a man who would never judge me or be disgusted by the idea that my body might function normally and defecate. I was simply curious. I wanted to know.
It is a very strange feeling, pooping in front of other people. Pooping on the delivery table is not the same as — to be frank — taking a dump in a public restroom. It's not the same as squatting in the forest or a field. It's not even similar to keeping the bathroom door open while your husband tells you about his day. Because in all of those circumstances, there is still a modicum of privacy, whether it be a closed bathroom stall or a bush to hide behind. Or the simple fact that even if you are pooping with the bathroom door open, you are sitting on the toilet and therefore your husband can't see the poop coming out of you. That is not the case when you are pooping during childbirth. My husband had a front row seat to my defecation. Not to mention the fact that a complete stranger — my OB nurse — was in the room with us and was also witness to my poo.
As I pushed and pushed and felt more and more sure that, yes, there was poop coming out of me, I turned to my husband and asked, "Am I pooping?" I didn't ask out of embarrassment. In that moment, I wasn't worried that he would think less of me. I knew I had married a man who would never judge me or be disgusted by the idea that my body might function normally and defecate. I was simply curious. I wanted to know. I was even a little bit excited — here I was, giving birth, having the total experience. When people asked me later, in giggled whispers, "Did you poo?" I could say, unabashedly, "Yes."
There's this pervasive idea that women don't have the same bodily function as men. Apparently, we don't sweat — we glow. Women don't pee or pass gas. And we certainly don't poop. Because God forbid our butt holes be used for their actual biological purpose and not just men's sexual fantasies. Not being able to acknowledge my poop during childbirth felt a little like that, like my body was doing something it wasn't supposed to be doing.
But before my husband could answer, the nurse very quickly jumped in and said, "I don't know what you're talking about, right, Dad?" And, then she gave him those eyes. The kind of eyes that say, Shut up. Don't tell her she's pooping while I stand here and very obviously wipe the poop away. And my poor husband, caught between answering his child-birthing wife and trying to be nice to the woman helping his wife give birth, didn't know what to say. So, he said nothing. I kept asking if I had pooped. But they wouldn't acknowledge it. At one point, I even accused my husband of holding his breath so he couldn't smell the poop. But it turns out he'd been holding his breath because I'd been holding mine. It was solidarity asphyxiation.
Of course, a few minutes later, the doctors came in and took over. Pushing began in earnest as they could see my daughter's hair and then her head and then she was here. And I forgot about the poop. But when I thought back on it in the days and weeks after, I realized I was a little disappointed. I know my OB nurse was trying to be helpful and kind. I am sure she'd worked with a lot of women who were self-conscious about the idea of pushing out a poop in the midst of pushing out a baby. I imagine she thought it was best for everyone if we just ignored it and pretended like it didn't happen. But the thing is that, well, sh*t happens. People poop. During childbirth and also, basically every day, so long their digestive systems are working properly. Poop isn't actually a big deal. But by not talking about it, by ignoring it, it felt like a big deal.
Not everyone has to be like me: accepting of their poop, when they give birth or otherwise. There are plenty of people who don't want to talk about feces or who do feel embarrassed about pooping on the delivery table and that's OK; I'm not going to tell them how to feel. But there's this pervasive idea that women don't have the same bodily function as men. Apparently, we don't sweat — we glow. Women don't pee or pass gas. And we certainly don't poop. Because God forbid our butt holes be used for their actual biological purpose and not just men's sexual fantasies. Not being able to acknowledge my poop during childbirth felt a little like that, like my body was doing something it wasn't supposed to be doing. Like my body wasn't feminine enough during childbirth. And that's sad because I can't think of a more feminine thing for a woman to do than give birth. Who cares if I pooped on the table? I just gave birth to a baby.