Imagine you were required to take a poo in front of an audience.
You are naked from the waist down and are expected to assume various awkward and immodest positions, most of them with your bum poking out so that everyone can get a better view. Those in the room with you are not politely averting their eyes and humming to cover any unfortunate toilet sounds. Instead, your audience, some of them positioned less than a metre away from the action, keep their eyes fixed squarely on your nether regions, some of them positioned less than a metre away from the action. Hell, your partner might even be videotaping the whole thing.
If you don’t find the picture I’ve painted discomforting then congratulations, you may move straight to the birthing suite. But if, like most well-socialised human beings, this scenario fills you with horror, then you’ll empathise with how I felt when I discovered the horrible truth about labour.
As your baby enters the world, so too will your poo.
This little-discussed fact changed forever the way I felt about giving birth. My greatest fear was no longer of death, disablement or labias so distended that they forever flapped in the wind. My healthcare professionals had reassured me that I could be sewn up if I tore and given blood if I hemorrhaged. And, according to the nice lady on Extreme Makeover, labias can be cosmetically trimmed if one is so inclined. But when it came to the possibility that I might lose control of my bowels during labour there was no similar reassurance. Worse still, when I pressed my doctors and midwives, they admitted that there was indeed a very high likelihood that I would defecate as I gave birth.
Yet every midwife and obstetrician I spoke to dismissed my concerns as neurotic.