I chose to use the word ‘surviving’ here because let me tell you, there will definitely be a moment at some point following your pregnancy when you feel like you may not. Survive, that is.
There’s only thing harder than pushing a baby out of your hoo-ha (or having them lifted out through the sunroof)... and that is contemplating the idea that you will, in fact, have to poop at some point after giving birth....(yep, even if you did a poop DURING labor - it’s more common than you think!) sounds ridiculous, but let me tell you, it’s horrific.
With my first child, I suffered a perineal tear during labor which was so deep, I almost re-named my undercarriage a ‘vag-anus’. No joke. If it weren’t for the amazing skills of the consultant on call that afternoon I’d have probably accepted my fate and spent most nights crying into my pillow singing “when 2 become 1” by the Spice Girls - but a million stitches later, independent boundaries were re-established. Thank god for that. *phew*
I’ve lost count of the number of midwives, nurses, doctors and porters who talked to me about ‘poop positions’ post-labor (that last one mainly because I thought she was a midwife and asked her to explain it to me again!) It’s like a secret club you only get to join once you give birth!
NOBODY tells you how to poop properly before this moment. Not once in my entire adult life did anyone sit me down and explain the ergonomics of effective pooping - and they certainly didn’t demonstrate the appropriate position to me.... and yet there I was. Wincing on the edge of a hospital bed, newborn baby in my arms, watching another female shove an Argos catalogue under her feet (for added heel height) and bend forward with her elbows on her knees. It reminded me of the day I had to teach my reception class how to wipe their bums when the headteacher decided to come and observe my lesson. I’m not sure which felt weirder!
I was filled up with lactulose and fibrogel to ‘soften things up’, and told that I would have to remain in hospital until I’d had my first poop. Wait. What?!? I thought this was just the rule for babies?
Speaking as a human being who finds it almost impossible to poop on a toilet that isn’t my own, this was a terrifying thought. I’ve had ENTIRE holidays away where I’ve allowed nothing but the odd fart to escape from my backside, so I sure as hell wasn’t about to shuffle 10m down a corridor to the ONE shared toilet in a ward of post-birth mothers and keep it occupied whilst I practised my deep breathing and sphincter muscle ‘relaxation’. Oh hell no. HELLLL NO.
Well, actually I did shuffle down there a couple of times just to see if I gave less of a crap about pooping in public since my whole vaganus had been on show to countless people by this point. I wanted to familiarise myself with the surroundings just in case they really were going to keep me locked up in the hospital until evacuation had occurred.
On the first attempt, there was a cleaner pottering around outside the door waiting to change the sanitary bin. This was the moment that I realised my pelvic floor muscle may still exist in some form as it forbid me to even urinate whilst another person could hear. The shame!
On the second attempt, I was shuffling along when I heard the familiar sound of a child from the class I taught…I then heard her mother calling her name, followed by the cry of a baby. Yep, I was right next door to a parent and child from school. Not ideal.
This brings me onto my first survival point: They can’t make you stay in the hospital, so if you will be more relaxed at home, go home and report back once evacuation has occurred.
Despite going home on day 4, I didn’t muster the courage to actually go until after day 7 (and hey, I still lived to tell the tale!) which brings me onto survival point 2: Make sure your knees are higher than your hips, pop your elbows onto your knees and lean forward. This makes it easier – trust me.
Survival point 3: I did joke about ‘breathing’ above, but seriously – in the same way, you’re supposed to ‘breathe out your baby’, you kind of have to do the same thing when pooping. Basically, don’t push or strain, just let it come out on its own.
Survival point 4: Ask Dad or a friend to take the baby downstairs and shut the door. No one needs to hear you poop, but equally, you don’t want the pressure of having to rush it. I had many a failed attempt when my child started screaming for milk and I then had to breastfeed whilst sat on the toilet. Not the most sanitary of locations… They’re just going to have to wait this one out I’m afraid.
Finally, survival point 5: Get yourself a sitz bath. Nobody wants to be wiping down there unnecessarily after having a baby. You can add a bit of salt and tea tree oil too if you want to…or just hop into the shower. Great excuse for a bit of 'you' time…and almost makes it more bearable that you’ll have to do it all over again in a day or two!