Almost seven weeks ago, I gave birth to my third daughter at thirty-five weeks gestation. Before the day of her birth, I had a nice ten-day stay at the hospital, far away from my husband, older children, and pets. Birth sometimes doesn’t go as planned, and that’s okay. These are humans we are creating, not soulless automatons, and they have a way of trumping all of our plans with the one they’ve been plotting in utero for the better part of a year when it comes to how they enter this world.
Since I had such a long stay before she was born, they were able to give me medication that would enhance her growth before her early arrival. That’s why, when she was born at just 35-weeks via cesarean, she was able to go home with me two days postpartum. She was healthy in every way- eating well, filling up diapers, burping, sleeping, alerting us when she had needs- she passed every test.
I passed my tests, too; including the “pass gas” test, in which a nurse will ask you every single time they enter your room whether or not you have farted that day. When you tell them that you have, they actually celebrate. You cannot go home until you are consistently passing gas, because a doctor was elbow-deep into your innards mere days ago yanking a baby out of your womb, and it’s important to know that said innards have gotten over their shock and are in proper working order. It also leads to an even more important conversation: the postpartum bowel movement.
“It will be so much better for you in the long-run if you can get that first bowel movement over with.”
OH REALLY. You don’t fucking say. You think you want me to poop more than I want me to poop, Patrice? I assure you, you do not.
“Here’s your Colace! It will help make that first bowel movement much easier to handle.”
YOU LIE. You. Are. A. Fucking. Liar. Nothing makes this process easier. Nothing. In nine years and after bringing three children into this world via c-section, Colace has never made the first poop after baby easier to handle in any way. It has been the worst part of my postpartum recovery in every single pregnancy. The only difference between this baby and my first is nine years. Okay. That’s actually a pretty long time and now I just feel old.
My second daughter was early, too. She was born at 33 weeks at six pounds, one ounce (she was likely born at 37 weeks due to an incorrect due date, but I digress). I stayed in the hospital three days after she was born, but she lived the first seven days of her life in a special care nursery. When she finally came home from the hospital one week later, I found myself at home alone with my four-year-old daughter and the baby. The first poop was later than normal this time around thanks to an irregular schedule split between being at home with our oldest daughter, and being at the hospital with the baby. My husband went out to get dinner, and because my body is a comedy of errors, it chose that exact moment to do what nurses had been begging me to do for a week. I sat down to do my business and, wouldn’t you know it, the baby who had been sleeping soundly through the four-year-old singing with gusto to Mickey Mouse Club House and me cleaning and thumping around mere seconds ago, started screaming in her crib. I asked the four-year-old to try and give her her binkie but, of course, baby was not feeling that shit at all at that moment. Four-year-old is four and also not this poor baby’s mother, so I did my best to move this fucking poop along so that I could go mother my children and move on with my life.
Except… the poop didn’t come. I knew it was there and it NEEDED to vacate but it would. not. budge. I tried to push through it, because, well, what else was I going to do? The poop had actually compacted because of what my body had been through and sometimes our exit holes are just not that big, but it HAD to come out. [And, yes, I DO appreciate the irony of that statement, considering this is childbirth we’re talking about here].
The process had started, there was no stopping now. I had to power through and do something I’ve taken for granted my entire life because it should NEVER be this hard to poop. After ten minutes of laboring over this godforsaken turd, my mom walked into my house to visit with the baby and was immediately bombarded with the horrifying sounds of a newborn baby crying in earnest, and the traumatized screams of a four-year-old whose entire world had been effectively turned upside down. Throw in the grunts and moans of a woman trying to pass the unpassable poop, and you’ve got one desperately concerned grandma.
My mom took one look at me and grabbed the baby to soothe her while simultaneously tucking the four-year-old into her impossibly large love-cocoon and got the house back into order, but not before my husband walked in to the screams of his children and the pale face of his mother-in-law with his wife nowhere to be found. The poop finally made its way out, but that night will live on in vivid detail in our memories forever.
After this last baby was born, I finally made my way home after 12 days in the hospital. We all settled into a routine and our lives shifted into their new normal over the next few days. There were times of chaos, of course, but it didn’t take too long for our family to find its new groove. That meant it was time to focus on the poop. I had been religiously taking the aforementioned Colace (a stool softener) but, once again, it failed me.
This time I was at home with the baby, my aunt and her granddaughter, who had come to meet her. I asked my aunt if she would sit with the baby while I went to the bathroom, and she stayed there with her for the 40 minutes I sat on the toilet and tried to push this poop out. I finally called my husband in a panic and asked him to come home with suppositories and enemas. He went to Walgreens, got me what I needed, came home and administered it for me, then relieved my aunt and took over. The best advice I could ever give someone is to definitely try and find a partner who will give you an enema and joke with you about it later. Poor guy. In my defense, though, at least he didn’t have to give birth and actually try and pass this human-sized turd.
The enema did absolutely nothing. Nothing. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve only had c-sections, and never progressed to the point of pushing during my births. But after this experience, I feel like I’ve gone through it all. Four days prior, I brought a child into this world. My uterus had been cut open and sewn back together, and my organs had been temporarily displaced and rearranged. I honestly think it’s a miracle that I didn’t bust open my incision site with all the pushing I was doing, and my husband and kids knocked on the door several times to see if I was okay because of the noises I was making.
I finally hollered out to my husband and asked him to bring me a couple of sandwich bags and the Aquaphor- it was time to take matters into my own hands. Errrr… fingers. I could FEEL the poop down in the butt hole region. It was such a hilariously huge turd that it was painful just sitting up there, not moving, teasing me with its bulk and its stubbornness. I put a baggie around my finger and dunked it into the tub of Aquaphor. Then I took several deep breaths and reached around and stuck my petroleum jelly slathered finger up my own butt hole to loosen the compacted shit that got stuck on its way out the back fucking door.
EUREKA! After what turned out to be about two hours, I had finally passed my first postpartum bowel movement. I then went into my bedroom and promptly fell asleep for three hours.
Later that night when my husband and I were talking, I looked him in the eye and told him to remind me of this moment if I ever even hinted at wanting more babies. The early labor, the hospitals stays, the overall plight of the pregnant pales in comparison to the postpartum poop. While the joy my children have brought me far outweighs the trauma of the postpartum poop, it’s a big enough deal that I’m not willing to experience it again. Ever.
I just can’t put my butt hole through that again.
Dani Strehle, Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder, is hoping to reshape the narrative to leave behind a better world for her daughters, so that they may sustain, rather than battle and rebuild.