Poop is all over my life right now. It’s true! As a mother of a 6 year old who is trying out “curses” and silly ways to say things, I’m hearing a lot of “What the POOP?” and “Oh my POOP!” and as the mother of a 2 year old who is refusing to sit on the potty (like ever), there is a lot of poop diaper changing and then of course his adding to the chorus of their favorite word of the moment. It’s poop. All the time. I apologize in advance if you aren’t into talking about it.
When I meet with families preparing for birth, it’s nice when we can all “let loose” about poop talk (there may be more disturbing poop puns here, y’all, I’m just warming up). Many people have fears about pooping in the labor bed, pooping in the birth tub (you probably will and no one will care), feel awkward when pushing is described as oh, “the largest and most beautiful bowel movement you’ll ever have.” But the more we can relax and accept poop as a normal part of life that isn’t weird to talk about, the easier it will be to accept birth as such. Our bodies are pretty good at getting things out when they’re ready to!
My potty-phobic toddler only poops when distracted by play. He steps right up to the play kitchen or the art table, gets to work on something, and then gets to work on something else. If he catches me watching him, or if I ask him if he’s pooping, it’s all over. He’ll either say, while straining, “I not poopin’…” or be the victim of an unfinished poop until he catches his next quiet moment.
Remind you of birth? Just as nobody really likes pooping with the door open (okay, except my 6 year old) for fear of interruption or judgement, we need peace and privacy for our labors to progress. Being asked by a nurse every hour to “rate your pain,” or to please get out of that comfortable position you were just in to “strap in” to the monitors in bed, or being told to lay down and spread your legs because they need to check you internally to believe your labor is progressing are all surefire ways to tighten up–everywhere.
It may seem crass to compare the sacredness of birth to the mundanity of a bowel movement, but in believing birth to be a normal body process that just works, you can’t help but want to chisel out a little rustic wooden sign for your outhouse wall preaching the words of Ina May Gaskin’s “Sphincter Law.”
The body’s reproductive and excretory openings are different in many ways but in my experience attending births, Ina May’s statements on their shared properties hold true:
- Sphincters Do Not Obey Orders
- Sphincters Function Best in an Atmosphere of Familiarity and Privacy
- Sphincters May Suddenly Close When Their Owner is Startled or Frightened
- Laughter Helps Open the Sphincters
Words as helpful for many laboring mamas as they are for my bashful-boweled boy. They are reminders for me as we keep on the journey out of diapers, and hopefully for you as you begin your journey toward birth. Loosen up, do it when you’re ready, pick a peaceful place, let only gentle loving visitors near, be able to laugh about all of it, and most importantly, trust that just as you breathe without trying, your body knows what to do–let it.