Pooping During Childbirth: You'll Survive It, Really

by Rita Templeton
Originally Published: 
Image via Shutterstock

I’m scared of zombies. I’m scared of cockroaches. I’m scared of opening cans of biscuits. (Seriously, if that sudden pop! doesn’t startle you, you’ve got nerves of steel.) But those are all things I can usually avoid.

However, there was once a fear – worse than a zombified roach catapulting from a biscuit-y cannon – that I was forced to stare straight in the eye.

Or more accurately, the brown eye.

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Because when I was pregnant with my first son, I was frightened, petrified, of one thing: pooping during childbirth.

Sure, I was worried about what birth would do to my lady parts. Isn’t everybody, especially when you’ve never done it before? You just have to imagine the logistics. And to me, it looked a lot like shoving an overstuffed pillow through the neck hole of a sweater.

But oh, the blissful days when the vag was my only concern! Because after it occurred to me that holy mother of mortifying moments I may actually shit on the birthing table, I lost a lot of sleep. I had read a line in one of my pregnancy books that said, “Your doctor may ask you to push as though you’re having a bowel movement.” And so I thought, “So what stops you from actually having a bowel movement?”

And then, with a chill, I realized that nothing stops you. Whatever’s in there – baby, placenta, last night’s turkey sandwich-turned-turd – it’s all coming out. Until that moment, the possibility had never occurred to me, but suddenly it was all I could think about. It was like one of those dreams where you show up somewhere naked … except then you take it to the next level of mortification and crap yourself.

I called my mom in a panic. “What if I shit on the birthing table?” I wailed.

“Well, I mean … it happens,” she said. “Sometimes it’s unavoidable. But I promise it’s no big deal.”

No big deal? NO BIG DEAL? Bare-butt pooping in full view of a roomful of virtual strangers – not to mention my husband, who I hoped would someday want to have sex with me again? That, my friends, is a very big deal. I fully trusted the hospital staff to save my life, and my child’s, if things went awry during delivery. But when it came to watching me poop, I couldn’t possibly imagine them taking it lightly. I mean, I heard someone fart in my Zumba class once and nearly had to leave the room because I couldn’t stifle the laughter, and I consider myself (mostly) mature.

I created an entire horrific scenario in my head and replayed it over and over: I’d be lying there with my knees to my chest, my goods on full, glorious display under a glaring spotlight, with a plethora of medical personnel standing around (including a student doctor who looked just like the timelessly hot Jake Ryan from Sixteen Candles). And suddenly … *cue rumbling fart noise* … it would happen. Everyone would immediately begin to look shocked and horrified. They’d gag and plug their noses and exchange disgusted looks. There’d be a poorly-suppressed snicker here and there.

My logical mind, of course, poo-poohed this theory (get it? Poo-poohed?). “They’re professionals,” I told myself coolly. “I’m sure it happens all the time.” Despite my forced confidence, though, I couldn’t quash the nervousness. The medical staff may well have been pros, but that didn’t mean I was eager to take a helpless, wipe-less dump in front of them.

But here’s something about giving birth, especially for the first time: you’re so busy, so distracted, so caught up, that even a paralyzing fear such as public defecation takes a backseat to the task at hand. When it was time to push, the only thing on my mind was meeting the baby I’d been nurturing for nine months and dreaming about for years.

“Give it a go,” the nurse told me. “Push through your bottom.” My epidural had rendered me sloppy drunk from the waist down, so I wasn’t feeling a thing – but I dutifully followed her directions. That’s when I noticed her wiping efficiently downward, then discreetly folding and disposing of, one of the big absorbent pads underneath me. And the realization dawned on me: oh my Lord, I must have pooped.

My nightmare had come true … but only part of it. Because there was no laughter. There were no expressions of revulsion. (And no Jake Ryan lookalikes.) Nobody even thought twice about it. In fact, I wasn’t completely sure I had pooped until my husband graciously confirmed it.

(By the way, we had three more children after that, so he apparently wasn’t all that grossed out either.)

So take heart, would-be pregnancy poopers. It isn’t actually as bad as you envision it’s going to be. Believe it or not, it isn’t a big deal! Would you prefer not to deliver a log along with your baby? Of course. But does it matter if you do? Absolutely not. They really are used to it. If they do find it hilarious or revolting, they’re complete pros at the whole “poker face” thing, because nobody bats an eye. Or wrinkles a nose.

And anyway, girl, you’re having a baby; enjoy everything you can about the experience. Poop is the last thing you should have to worry about.

… At least until it comes to your first postpartum dump.

But that’s a story for another time.

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