What aliens and pooping during labor have in common

Guest post by Nicolette Stewart
Photo by DuncanCV, used under Creative Commons license.

When I find boredom creeping up through my limbs, I play what I call the alien game. To play, you look around and imagine how what ever is around you would look to aliens fresh out of the hatch. I imagine that it’s human procreation that would most baffle the aliens, assuming that they did’t happen to have a similar biological casing.

I imagine an alien returning home from an observation trip to Earth to give a lecture on what he/she/it/Zarlgdar learned and describing human mating rituals as he/she/it/Zarlgdar had understood them: “…and once they find a partner, they like to be alone to rub all their wet bits together.” The crown would gasp, or maybe just giggle and look at each other with raised eyebrows (unless of course they didn’t have vocal chords or faces or eyebrows). Think about any human custom long enough or describe it in an unfamiliar way, and suddenly everything we do starts to seem utterly strange and random.

Take leg shaving for example. Even though I did it myself for years, having given it up about six years ago has put enough space between me and the habit that I can no longer fathom what would inspire anyone to put so much time and money and effort into something that, to my eyes, looks so weird. I’m sure the aliens would be equally baffled. Which is why I sometimes find myself in situations where I feel like I might actually be the alien visiting Earth.

Like in my last birth class. Though I’ve been enjoying getting to know even more about my midwife’s philosophies and practicing relaxation and controlled breathing and positions on the yoga ball, classes have become a little boring. Conversations revolve around hospital issues — I am the only one in the class opting for a home birth — and I tend to keep my few questions about home birthing to myself knowing that they won’t interest anyone else and that I can talk about them with my midwife at a later appointment without wasting anyone else’s time. Not a big deal though; I figure the information could still be useful sometime and file it under “good to know.”

But during our last class and one of the many spontaneous question and answer sessions, leg shaving came up. A handful of women started chattering about how they wanted to make sure they had time to get their legs and bikini lines neatly shaved when the contractions started but before the birth really got rolling. Because they would feel uncomfortable being stubbly in front of the midwife/doctor/their partner. OK, weird priority from my perspective, I thought, but not surprising considering. Then came the topic of shit.

You see, when you’re pressing a baby out, there is pretty much no way to prevent a little bit of it coming along as well. It’s not the most pleasant thought, but hell, it’s not like anybody’s never dealt with the stuff before. And the way I imagine it, when you’re busy pushing an eight-nine pound baby out of your body, a little poop is the least of your worries.

More than a handful of my classmates were horrified. HORRIFIED. There were frantic questions and wide eyes. “Can you tell when it’s going to happen?” one woman wanted to know. “So that I could send everyone out of the room?” People nodded in agreement at the thought. “Or maybe I’ll just stop eating as soon as I go into pre-labor,” she went on. “If only there was some way to know when you were going to go into labor so you could fast for 24 hours beforehand.”

Great. Just before beginning one of the most energy-intense experiences of your life, something often equated with the exertion required to run a marathon, start fasting so you don’t end up pooping a little in front of your partner (who loves you no matter what, right?), your midwife (who frankly doesn’t give a shit, hardeeharhar), and some doctor (who you’ll never see again). In that moment I didn’t even need the alien game to find our customs — particularly the Western woman’s tendency to want to hide anything to do with her bowels or her body hair, though both tendencies I once harbored myself — pretty strange.

Comments on What aliens and pooping during labor have in common

  1. The poop! Yes! I knew as soon as it happened because even though I was very distracted by intense contractions the smell is unmistakable. I wasn’t really embarrassed because I knew it was normal but I still said something and my midwife tried to tell me that I hadn’t and it was just some ‘bloody show’. I called her on being a liar with a smile on my face and we all started laughing. I agree – it happens, what the heck is the big deal?!

  2. OMG I totally had no idea I had done it! My hisband told me later that our doula had scooped it out post haste with the little green net scooper provided with the birth tub. I think it is ridiculous when women freak about the poop. At that moment in the birth, you will not care. You will wish for 1,000 poops if it will just get the baby out. I assume it is different in the hospital though, with so many people around to watch you poo.

  3. Thanks for this post. From one alien to another, sometimes these earthlings seem to have their priorities all messed up!!! A wise human once said:
    “Shit happens.”
    True dat.

  4. I’m worried about this. I’ve always been super anxious about anything involving shit. I once farted in front of a boyfriend by accident, and promptly burst into tears and literally ran to hide in a corner. I run the faucet when shitting so that my husband can’t hear anything. I KNOW it’s ridiculous, but I can’t get out of feeling totally embarrassed by it.

    So yeah, the thought of shitting IN FRONT OF PEOPLE, including my husband, makes me super nervous. Fingers crossed the midwife or doula takes care of business quickly.

    • I bet if you asked them (or wrote a note in your birth plan if you don’t want to talk about it) they would make sure that they took care of it without you ever knowing.

      • Good point. I’m going to have a water birth, so I’ll be sure to tell them that all poop must be scooped out immediately and NO ONE TELLS ME A THING.

    • I’m like you. I’m terrified of pooping in front of people. I’m fine with being naked around people, comfortable with my body- but the thought of pooping in front of people horrified me.

      I didn’t even realize that I did it during the pushing. After the birth, I told my husband proudly “I didn’t poop!” and he said “Uh, yeah you did. They cleaned it up real quick, it wasn’t a big deal, there was a baby’s head coming out of you, it’s not surprising.”
      During the pushing, it’s the last thing on your mind.

      Ugh, just writing about that squicked me out. And I’ll talk about my birth all day long, it’s just that one tiny part that freaks me out.

      • It’s true. You don’t really give a shit (pun intended) in the moment. I kept saying to the midwife that I felt like I was going to poop and she kept telling me that’s good and to go with it. My laboring brain reasoned that if I did poop it would relieve some pressure and I’d feel better. I never did actually poop but letting my body feel that sensation completely meant I could get really into pushing.

    • Hey Jennifer!

      I say, if it’s an issue that really bothers you, just tell your doula or birth partner or whoever is going to be there at the business end of your birth that you have some issues with it before hand and don’t want to know about it, and I’ll bet she/he can accomadate you so you feel comfortable! (An old friend of mine was recently telling me that she had issues with this too, couldn’t even handle pushing until she had talked about it with the folks there, and that in the end she has no idea if she did or didn’t but felt great about the birth because her needs were addressed.)

      My midwife spent most of the rest of the class trying to convince these worried women that there usually wasn’t much poop, that it often doesn’t even get noticed, and that she cleans it up right away anyway.

      -Nikki, Click Clack Gorilla

  5. Hahaha! I am still one million percent embarrassed that I pooped during labor. But you know what? The release of pressure felt damn good! *Raises glass* To shit!

  6. meh, I pooped and didn’t know about it until I asked later if I did! wasn’t a big deal even with the 3 nurses (who scooped it away) and the doctor plus my birth mother counselor and my daughter’s parents. I figured they were seeing my junk anyways too late for get embarrassed later. I also downed some soup before I went into the hospital because there was no way I was going to starve for the next however knows how long (thankfully I had by after birth cold sandwich less than 9 hours later. ;p

  7. This is one of those things I’ve done at all but one of my hospital births and haven’t done at any of my home births (I’m married to the husband who would have totally told me and we’d be laughing our sick asses off about it to this day, hahaha), but I think it’s because I labored on the toilet until not long before the water babies were born and my body seemed to just let go of a raging poo while I was contracting on the toilet. I’m curious if anyone else has experienced this instead of pooing whilst pushing the baby out? And I love that this topic came up…it’s one of the big questions my grandmother had about my first home birth, lol

    There seems to be two schools of thought on this…one is panic or embarrassment or both, the other is shit happens, lol So I’m raising a glass with you, Liset!

  8. Unless my husband and doula are hiding something from me, I’m pretty sure I didn’t poop. The secret (possibly)? I had an enema in the hospital in early labor, per my doula’s recommendation! It felt weirdly awesome (it’s great not to be too full in there when you’re trying to push out a baby), acts as a fairly natural labor stimulant, and hey, who WANTS to poop on the delivery table? (I wouldn’t have really cared at that moment, but I wouldn’t exactly want my daughter to get poo-smeared when she comes out, either.)

  9. I’ve never given birth. (And frankly, I’m kind of thinking this whole pooping in public thing is something I would have rather not known ahead of time.) BUT your idea of looking at the earth like an alien made me think of one of the first things we read in an intro anthropology class I took years ago. It was called “Body Ritual Among the Nacirema,” and it actually satirizes anthropological papers by looking at American culture through an outsider’s lens. Our professor used it to make a point about how, as outsiders, we can never understand the “others” we are studying like they understand themselves. In the years since, I’ve enjoyed stepping back and thinking, “What would the Nacirema article say about this?” It’s always an interesting viewpoint to consider, and it makes me feel less guilty about abandoning some more mainstream ideals.

    (For those who aren’t familiar, Nacirema is American spelled backwards.)

    • You beat me to it, I was going to post about the Nacirema too :-). I still think of them particularly with wedding planning currently….

    • I was thinking of this too, only in my case it was the Snaidanac. It was a lesson that has stuck with me over the years, for sure.

  10. I’m not going to lie.. I’m really nervous about this. My fiancee and I split up and haven’t been living together for a couple months now, I’m due in May and that will be the first time seeing him since December 0__0 I’m scared that I’m going to get embarrassed if this happens at the birth because we haven’t been around each other in so long! GAAAAH! But, really, I’m more concerned about getting the baby out safely and I’m sure, in the moment, I won’t care as much. But I’d be interested to hear how others have overcome this fear.

  11. See, I’m in that “horrified” camp. And when it happened during labor, I was horrified even more than I thought I’d be (though I was walking to the labor ward at the time… Yeah, my labor was kind of a major fuck up).

    Customs or not, if fasting or shaving helps you feel better about your labor, go nuts. It’s all about being confident in your own skin.

  12. I was on a birth center tour and giggled LOUDLY to my husband, “Oh my gosh, is that a POO SCOOP ladle??” My midwife just rolled her eyes at me, and everyone was … horrified. I found it amusing that they’d come up with such a practical solution to poo in the tub. I was wondering who the first person to decide a ladle was, and wondering if other less effective poo removal devices had been used before hand. This was all pretty funny to me.
    I’m happy to say, I went on to poo in that very tub. I did care, I found it a bit gross, and wished people would get to ladling! quickly! They actually didn’t notice I pooped right away, because they were all excited about me pushing out my baby. Go figure!

  13. Love this. I had a water birth and one of the best things about it was that propped up next to the tub was this little green net, just like the ones for scooping goldfish out of a tank. I saw it and started giggling uncontrollably – it was a poop net!

  14. I’m a doula and midwife’s assistant. Let me tell you… most women poop. It’s no big deal. Baby’s head is squeezing your colon. If there’s something there, it’s coming out. We wrap it in a choux pad, grab it, scoop it, whatever. Unless the mama notices, she never has to know about it. We realize it could be embarrassing, so we don’t make a big deal about it, and deal with poop as quickly as possible.

  15. I am loving all of the “pooping during birth” stories that this post is generating. Seems like the more we all talk about it openly, the less anyone will feel like they need to feel embarassed about it. It’s natural! Even if you wanted to stop it cyou couldn’t! Everyone will love you anyway! It might end up being hilarious! And your baby will make it all worth it anyway. 🙂 Thanks for all the feedback guys.

    -Nikki, Click Clack Gorilla

  16. I was ready the article thinking “Wow, never heard anything about that”(which is no surprise since im due in many and it’s my first baby). Then I got done reading and was trying to recall if any of the birth stories i’ve heard could have had something about pooping case. I couldn’t recall that, but realized there was something else. And that something was an enema! Here in Russia it’s actually a must before you give a birth. Which is why we don’t have an issue with pooping, but rather an issue with having an enema done, since to many girls that seems gross. So indeed different cultures diffirent problems.

  17. If you find bodily functions/fluids gross (I do), birthing is EXTREMELY gross. I’ve accepted this fact (with the mantra “Shit’s gonna get all fucked up.”) and I think it has helped me keep focus on the important aspect of the process. Priority 1: Bring baby into the world as safely as possible. Priorities 2-37495: Everything else.

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