How Losing My Dignity After Childbirth Gave Me Perspective

I told a friend a while ago that I was going to write a post on dignity and she said, “yeah great, go for it! In fact, I can wrIte it for you, ‘Dignity, I have none, the end!'” I giggled to myself but the stark reality was she was completely right! What else is there to say on the matter? When you push two massive babies out of your vagina, your outlook on dignified matters in life changes dramatically.

The pre pregnancy me was quite prudish, believe it or not. I felt quite uncomfortable talking about issues such as farts, periods, boobs and sex. All of which are completely normal and natural parts of everyone’s lives, so why was it that I felt an overwhelming sense of embarrassment when it came to these things? They are obviously all quite personal and private matters so was it that they really were things that only I needed to know about, things that just didn’t need to be shared with the whole world? Or was it because, like most people, I had siblings who would find any opportunity to ridicule me for a laugh (and vice versa of course!) or maybe because I was very young when I started my period and still quite vulnerable at age 10? Maybe it was because the beautiful women on tv had lovely big bossoms whereas I had size AA boobs and many clothes that I bought were too baggy around my chest. Or maybe it was because I had parents who scared the living day lights out of me when it came to discussing anything even close to intimate details? Either way, all these little private details about myself that created a sense of pride and dignity has now officially left the building!

It all started in my third trimester of my first pregnancy when I was walking home from work with a tear in my eye from the excruciating pain coming from … my bum! I told my husband and he said, “Hun, I think you’ve got piles!” Err, Are you serious? How do I test that and what do I do about it? I replied. Clearly not knowing much about them! “Just have a feel and push them back in,” he said. I was absolutely mortified and sobbed in him arms that evening! Looking back now after everything I’ve been through since, I laugh at that pre-birth me with my dignity still intact, pah! If only she knew what was about to come!

My prudishness even extended into my birthing plan in which I had written ‘no vaginal examinations unless absolutely medically necessary’. I mean, seriously, when is it ok to poke around inside my vagina, just to have a feel?!? I didn’t care how open my cervix was, I was holding on tight to my dignity if it was the last thing I did! Needless to say, one of the first things that happened when I arrived at the hospital was an internal examination. “This will hurt just a little, would you like some gas and air?” the midwife asked. ¬†Great, now not only was my dignity being slowly ripped to shreds but I was then going to be tortured in the process, just brilliant! I was told I was ready for my induction but to save me another examination, as well as to kick start things a little, I could have my waters broke there and then. I agreed and within seconds an explosion of brown poo stained water came gushing out splashing all over my legs and forming a pool around me. GROSS!!! I was horrified! My baby had poo’ed inside me (which isn’t a good sign!) and the midwives were quick to hurry me to the birthing suite. I pleaded to have a few minutes to wipe myself up but they were adamant that I got going. So there I was walking wide legged along the corridors dripping poo juice along the way. The look of pure dismay on my face was matched by the onlookers as I walked my walk of impending doom. (Yeh, yeh I know, at the end of it I would have a gorgeous bonny baby, but right at that moment all I could think about was that same bonny baby needing to come out first!)

Fast forward to post birth (I’ll spare you those details!) and the piles I had earlier experienced weren’t even worth talking about! I never thought that my best friend would be replaced by a tube of anusol! I was absolutely terrified of doing the first post-baby poo but honestly, it was the most comfortable place I had sat all that week! I also never thought that I would ever have the confidence (or is it apathy?) to share these details with everyone, but now (yes it’s apathy) I don’t give a shit! I worried so much before hand about poo’ing, tearing and potential stitches until the contractions started. In fact, I think that was the moment that dignity no longer played any part in my life. My pelvic floor was now non existent and uncontrollable wee and flatulence became my new friends! Oh, by the way, to all the dads out there, if your missus happens to cut the muffin in an almighty balloon farting fashion or pisses her pants after a simple cough or sneeze then keep the shock, the laughter and the smart Alec remarks to yourself and offer something reassuring. A simple, “don’t worry, everything will be ok,” will suffice and, believe it or not, will also go a long way and score you some good hubby points! Throw in extra nap times and cups of tea and your laughing. Plus, of course, some housework! Anyway, I divert, back to (lack of) dignity!

So now, 3 years later, some friends and I were talking about the embarrassment of jumping on our kids trampolines without receiving a little warm treat in our crotch. The great thing about this conversation is that I learnt I was not alone! The other great thing about having open and frank discussions with fellow mum friends is that there is always one or two who offer up some great advice in overcoming these unsociable habits we are confronted with after childbirth. The tip being to whack on a super strength maternity nappy (you can call it a sanitary towel if you will, but the size of these things are immense) and jump your heart away. I laughed so hard as I imagined this mum having a whale of a time bouncing with pure delight whilst simultaneously emptying her bladder on each impact. Just relax and enjoy the moment and why the hell not?? So I gave it a try and, I must admit, there was something incredibly satisfying letting nature take its toll and completely surrendering in that moment of youthful joy. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a long term solution and after doing it once, I wasn’t feeling compelled to try again. I have recently learnt though, that tampons are far more beneficial in this circumstance as they prevent the bladder from pushing down on the ‘wee receptors’ on each jump. So buy yourself some lube ladies and get jumping!

The next thing to mention are those pesky periods! Menstruation, what a bloody pain! As if they weren’t incredibly annoying before kids but now you have to just keep on going, and smiling, and being …happy! There’s no time to stop and rest. No time to sit in front of six hours of pride and prejudice, still in your pjs with a hot water bottle and a stash of biscuits. If I had known then what it would be like bleeding for almost a week whilst looking after my kids I would have definitely cherished those slobby blobby times a lot more. The thing is, not only do you have to complete all of your chores for the day, (you know like dressing and feeding them then redressing them and constantly cleaning up after them etc etc) but you also need to use up your last little bit of strength to fend off the abuse being hauled at you from your 3 year old. Because, for some unknown reason you ARE to blame for absolutely everything! “Waaahhhhh waaaaahhh I wanted to watch the song at the end of the programme, waaahhhh!!!!” He cries. So why did you turn it off?” I ask. “Because you told me to, you’re a naughty mummy!!!!” He screams back. “No, I didn’t?!” I say as nicely as I can muster with him screaming in my ear. “YOU DID! It’s all your fault!! WAAAAHHHHHH!!” He screams in response. In normal circumstances, you might think it best to calm your child and discuss what happened as a learning experience, but when you’re head is pounding, stomach in knots and globules of goo is exiting downstairs, you just want them to stop fucking screaming. Fine, I’m to blame, I apologise, turn the tv back on and QUIET! Don’t even get me started on bedtimes! But, the next stage to all of this is when of course you’re kids follow you to the toilet (as is always the case) and ask a million and one questions about 1. Why am I wearing a nappy?? (Sanitary towel seems far too long a name nowadays) and 2. Why is it covered in blood?? Dignity…it just does NOT exist when you have children!

Now, boobs! I’ve heard all sorts of things about boobs after having kids. Breastfed or not. I’ve heard about sagging boobs, different sized boobs, leaky boobs, hard as a rock boobs, painful and/or infected boobs and I’m sure the list goes on. I was fortunate enough to actually acquire some after having my kids and I was one of those mums who couldn’t care less about whipping out a breast for my son’s to suckle on in public. I was quite proud of the fact that not only was I able to breastfeed and continue to feed long term, but that I actually had some breasts to whip out at all. I remember as a teenager receiving a hand made card from a school friend who had drawn a cool looking pop out chic (girl/woman) on the front. I was a little confused though as she had drawn a vertical line in the middle of her chest just above her top. I was so confused in fact that I asked one of my big bro’s about it to which he laughed and kept saying, “you know…it’s the …line!!!” Wtf, was all I thought at the time as my dad joined my brother in hysterics. THEN, 20 odd years later, 3 days after giving birth, I looked down and, instantly, I understood! I had the fucking line! Now that deserved a fist pump! Three and a half years later and after breastfeeding 2 kids (still going strong with my youngest) I’m afraid to say, the line has now gone and my little pancakes are back for good. I have to admit though, as nice as it was to actually fill a bra, I did miss them! They’ve served their purpose incredibly well and are now starting to get back out of my way.

Now, finally – sex. If you’re lucky enough to not only still be awake the second your head hits your pillow but actually also have the energy to move….then good luck to you!

See, the things I’ve learnt since having my kids is this: without sex, they wouldn’t exist. Without my boobs, I couldn’t have fed them natures intended milk. If periods didn’t happen (and at some point in the near future this WILL be the case) there would be no egg to fertilise and I wouldn’t have any children at all. And finally, all the horribly undignified experiences I have faced through pregnancy and beyond are all daily reminders of the absolute power, strength, tenacity and determination that I have within me that enabled me to give birth naturally to two big beautiful boys. (I also know how lucky I am that I was able to do this with no complications, as I know for many others, family and friends included, that this isn’t always the case.)

I am a firm believer that we should all embrace and love our bodies through the good the bad and the ugly. Be proud of what we as women have, can and will achieve in the future. Know that we are capable of achieving our goals and so much more. For gods sake, if we can push a baby out of our vaginas or endure the pain, frustration and immobility whilst still continuing with childcare after a C-section then, truly, there is nothing that can stop us!

Happy international women’s day (albeit a little late!)


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