As a woman who one day hopes to have a baby, I absorb information about pregnancy and childbirth like my life depends on it.
I’m equal parts terrified and in awe of birth – but just as I feel like I’m starting to understand what the experience must be like, I hear something that reminds me I simply have no idea.
This was the case this week, as I listened to Mamamia’s Hello, Bump podcast, hosted by Monique Bowley and Rebecca Judd. You see, the 12-part series chronicles every step of pregnancy and birth, from conception to caring for a newborn. In the final episode, ‘The First Six Weeks,’ the hosts, along with midwife Cath Curtin, discuss the post-birth experiences women rarely talk about.
Almost immediately, they turned to poo.
“You have a big poo after you’ve had a baby, and everyone worries about that and it’s not something people talk about,” said Cath. “Everyone gets very concerned that, you know, what’s going to happen?”
While Rebecca outwardly agreed with Cath, Monique, who is yet to have children of her own, felt slightly bewildered.
"Why is the poo such a big deal?" she asked.
Oh. Lucky for Monique, she was alongside two people who weren't afraid to provide a very honest answer.
"Have a think about it," said Rebecca. "You've just pushed this thing, this baby that's the size of a watermelon out of your vagina, and a lot of the time, you've got stitches in there, you might have had an episiotomy [a surgical cut in the area between the vagina and the anus], you feel like your insides are going to fall out of your vagina, or you feel like your insides are going to fall out of your c-section scar."
"Every time you stand up you can actually feel your insides kind of drag, and it is so painful."
Listen to Bec Judd, Monique Bowley, and Cath Curtin walk through the process of giving birth from start to finish. Post continues after audio.
"After I had Oscar [Rebecca's oldest son], I couldn't even sit down," she said. "I couldn't sit on my bottom, because it hurt so much. Then, you've got to do a poo, and you've got to push that out of your stitched up vagina. Because it's all the same muscles, it's frightening."
In case it wasn't clear enough, Cath added, "women worry they're going to re-tear".
"And all you mums out there, you don't. What you do need to do is take something that softens your poo, so it actually comes out soft in the first few days. The longer it goes, the harder it is, and the bigger it is."
Cath also explained that while the vagina "bruises," and feels "inflamed and sore," it's also "a very forgiving area".
"You do heal," she said.
She does, however, have a major tip for new mums.
"Do not look at your vagina."
"What we see as medical professionals... we're used to seeing a vagina as it's healing. But if you look at your own vagina... I've had people ring into emergency because their partner looked at their vagina."
My respect for women and their incredibly resilient bodies grows literally every day.