The Five Stages of Dilation

by Nadia Venus
Originally Published: 

Stage 1: DENIAL. Mild discomfort starts to poke you where the sun don’t shine, as if you were having your period. Things are a little sore and tender, but it’s nothing to worry about. You get optimistic and hopeful, and even think your delivery will be pretty, even glorious. You know, like what childbirth might look like if the tampon commercial people were to film it. You consider the thought that it might not even hurt at all. Perhaps that mild discomfort is just your positioning. I’ll just adjust my legs over there. Or run through a meadow, Julie Andrews-style. Yeah, that’s the ticket!

Stage 2: ANGER. “WHATTTAAAF…” You’re lucky if you even finish the sentence. Contractions spike into a whole new motherfucker of intensity level. You aren’t – can’t be — prepared for this. Like when you eat so much, and so many different types of food, that it’s all going rotten in your intestines. You want to scratch the wall, your breath is shallow and you can’t wait to shit it all out, because a pain a hundred times worse than food poisoning creeps out and around you. It’s a migraine in your gut, all-powerful, all-consuming. One pain to rule them all. Frickin’ ouch, mother fucker.

To aggravate matters, after hours of begging, pleading, swearing and sweating, you’re told you’re only dilated about one centimeter. Nine more to go, sweet cheeks, but hold in there. You’ve never felt more desire to punch someone more than in this moment. Wait, did I say punch? I meant to say rip the beating heart out of the chest of an unsuspecting, innocent human being. You croak out, “Honey, could you come here a minute?”

Stage 3: BARGAINING. You start questioning the integrity of the measurements. They’re subjective, even lazy. They’ve gotta be. C’mon! How can two fingers put together know that you are barely one centimeter dilated? You demand a re-count. Those fingers are huge! They’ve gotta be five or six centimeter, at least. Get a damned protractor up there. A tape measure, something. The ripening pain in your abdomen makes you think that a fallopian tube just exploded. “I know I said I didn’t want drugs until the last possible minute. But yeah, I want ‘em. Gimme.”

Hopefully you are in better luck, unlike me. My midwife, she said I should wait until at least four centimeters. “WHAT DO YOU MEAN I CAN’T HAVE DRUGS YET?”

Demand a recount.

Stage 4: DEPRESSION. You’re not progressing as your delusional self thought it would happen. The pain keeps increasing, as if someone is reaching inside your abdomen through your vagina, trying to detach your uterus with rusty, jailhouse-sharpened spoons. Repeatedly. Every four minutes.

By now, you feel there’s nothing you can do, other than… wait. Squeezing your eyes might help. Those massages, that breathing pattern, those pressure points, are your onlyhelp.




Stage 5: ACCEPTANCE. You realize you’ve managed to make it for close to 12 hours under all that shitting-fallopian-explosion-uterus-extraction pain. You don’t know if your body has given up or gone numb.

You know help will come, you will only need to stay focused until that happens. Because it HAS to happen. It HAS to.

Months from now, you’ll hear stories about yourself. Stories that you have a starring role in. Stories that are vaguely familiar, but you don’t. Remember. Doing that.

Like when you release your husband’s ears and order him, on pain of death, to fetch the epidural guy…

Related post: Pooping During Childbirth: You’ll Survive It

This article was originally published on