So call me naive but I don’t think I thought about the physical consequences of childbirth when I was pregnant. I mean, I was aware that I’d be stretched in an area that you don’t really want to be stretched, and I knew about haemorrhoids but hadn’t really considered what they they would feel like.
Each morning and afternoon on the labour ward a trolley comes round offering pain relief. They were pretty surprised the first day when I said that I didn’t need anything. I’d been given some pain relief on the labour suite only a few hours before but it didn’t actually occur to me to ask for anything else. Later it occurs to me that I sit rather gingerly and have trouble walking. I’m asked at every check up about blood loss, urine and bowel movements. (The NHS is obsessed with bowel movements, it turns out.) The first two are fine but there are frowns when I say “no” to the last. “It will come” says a midwife lightly. Not to worry.
But I do.
On getting home I decide the only thing to do is to take a look at what’s happened down there. I fetch a mirror and lie on the bathroom floor.
Readers who grew up in the 80s may recall the Frankie Goes to Hollywood song Two Tribes? It has a siren at the beginning: “When you hear the air attack warning, you and your family must take cover…” This noise is the soundtrack to my exploring, suddenly popping into my head as I stare at myself. It’s the bodily equivalent of post-war Coventry or Portsmouth down there.
That explains a lot. At 5’2″ and of slim build, it’s hardly surprising that giving birth to an 8lb 10oz baby has wrecked me a little. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before. But this leaves me with a dilemma: I still need to have a bowel movement.
They tell you that childbirth can be scary. Let me tell you this: the terror you may have over childbirth is nothing – NOTHING – compared to the terror of contemplating having to pass anything through that area again. I consider the options: I could try and eat only enough to provide nutritional breast milk, live off my fat reserves and not eat at all, or just clam up a lot. I know someone who refuses to do more than wee in any toilet other than the one in her own home, even when on holiday. This has always struck me as ridiculous before but now sounds like an appealing option.
In the event, of course, I’m healing. It’s amazing how much relief you can find in an ice pack between your legs (remind me not to use it for picnics again…)