Listen, every woman who has given birth has a poo story. Writing about it isn’t purely gratuitous. It has a serious element to it, namely, that most women worry about the poo issue when they think about giving birth. Of all the things to worry about, it does admittedly seem a little ridiculous to worry about poo but worry we do.
My husband and I are pretty open. The bathroom door is rarely closed but, when it comes to number twos, the door is shut, the lock is locked. That’s our boundary. We do not poo in front of each other. I think this is fairly standard amongst couples. Some don’t even wee in front of each other. Whatever your limits as a couple, rarely do people find it ok to poo in front of someone else.
So, when it comes to giving birth it’s natural that some women would start to wonder about the other things your body will eliminate during the process. I was intending to have a water birth and the idea of my husband holding my hand and stroking my hair while I popped out small turds that floated around was simply too much to bear. It did in fact become a bit of an anxiety. I even asked the midwife what would happen if I happened to let one slip during birth. She smiled and said not to worry.
But worry I did.
So, if you start from the point of view that I am 100% against the idea of pooing in front of my husband under any circumstance and I’d already built up a real-life, genuine anxiety about it during birth (the kind that gave me cold sweats when I thought about it) then when you read about what actually happened, you’ll understand why I had to watch each ounce of my dignity run through the exit door screaming and shouting.
I was lying down, epidural was happening, life was good. I think I was reading Grazia. Jimmy was napping. I suddenly remember something our NCT instructor had said, “Don’t, whatever you do, give birth on a full bladder. You can cause all sorts of problems for yourself – incontinence etc – so make sure you empty your bladder before giving birth.”
Me: Babe, I need to go for a wee.
Me: WAKE UP! I need a wee.
Midwife: Just do it on the bed sweetheart. I can clean it up.
Me: Erm, no, you’re ok thank you. Jimmy help me get to the bathroom.
Jimmy: [Sleepily] Just do it on the bed…
Me: NOW! Get me to the bathroom…do you want a wife with incontinence?
So, Jimmy helped my useless, drug-addled legs to the bathroom and sat me down. I sighed with relief. I was having a wee. I would not be incontinent, but wait…what was happening? ‘Oh no,’ I thought to myself. ‘Please God no. I will do anything you ask but please don’t let me poo. Jimmy is still here in the bathroom with me, waiting to pick me up and please, please, please don’t let me poo.’
Jimmy: Babe, are you doing a poo?
Me: No. Yes. I didn’t mean to. I couldn’t help it.
Jimmy: Well, I suppose you are having a baby…we’ll let it slide this time.
Then it hit me. My legs were not strong. My body was weak. I couldn’t reach around my body to clean myself up. I was going to have to stamp on the last shred of pride I had.
Me: Babe. I have a problem and I swear, I will never in my entire life ask you to do this again, or even speak of this moment, but…
I paused. Mortified.
…I need you to wipe my bum.
Despite Jimmy’s earlier flexibility regarding the poo rule we had kept firmly in place for so long, this instantly seemed a step too far.
Jimmy: You’re joking? Right? Do you want a midwife?
Me: No. I do not want a midwife. I don’t really want anyone else ever, in the whole wide world, to wipe my bum for me, but if I have to have someone then I’d rather it was you. So, I’m sorry. But please, please please let’s just get this over with.
He literally took a deep breath and held it. He scrunched up his face and he took to the task with such stoic bravery that I almost felt the need to high five him. But, as the seconds ticked on I realised this wasn’t the quick, in-and-out, jobs-done, task that I thought it would be.
Me: Babe, what’s going on? What are you doing? Hurry up!
Jimmy: Listen, while you are in the throws of childbirth and riddle with lord knows how many drugs, I am happy to step up to the plate and wipe your bum. But…
Me: But what…? There are conditions? This isn’t exactly an ideal situation for me you know.
Jimmy: …but, as I was saying, you have to stop shitting first.
If I’d thought I was mortified at the beginning of this poo ordeal, that was nothing compared to the complete shame I was feeling now. The epidural had rendered me totally incapable of managing my bowel movements and my sphincter was drunk on the chemicals. I’d had no idea I was still ‘eliminating’ when I sent my husband face down into the war zone. I was beside myself.
Me: Oh my god. Ok. I’ve stopped now.
Jimmy: No you haven’t.
Me: I have. I swear.
Jimmy: No you haven’t. Look…
…he brandished the loo roll in front of me…”Turd, see?” he said.
I did see.
In the end, we gave up. Once I’d started, I couldn’t stop. I hobbled back to the bed fully aware that I was still leaking and lay on the bed and gave in. The midwife occasionally and professionally swiped away a paper sheet and expertly replaced it with a clean one and no one mentioned it again.
Until it was all over of course and I had my baby in my arms. My first question? “Oh god, did I poo?”