That Shit Is Normal

By Michelle Gilley, CPM, BSM

The physiological processes of pregnancy and birth have everything to do with space and movement. Before a pregnancy is even well established, hormones alone cause shifting of organs to begin creating space for the uterus to grow. As pregnancy advances, the spine curves, intestines move out of the way, diaphragm moves upward, lung space shrinks and the structure of the pelvis relaxes. All of this movement is part of a process of spatial rearrangement in anticipation of birthing your baby.

Leading up to birth, pre-labor hormones sometimes causes gastric emptying which prepares for birth by making space and slowing digestion so the body can reserve metabolic output for labor and birth. In labor, spatial adaptation continues as baby shifts, rotates and adjusts to fit through the pelvis. Labor hormones cause further give to the pelvic bones and the sacrum expands as pressure builds from fetal descent.

Often it is when birth is impending that the urge to have a bowel movement happens. Sometimes that urge is from the immense pressure from baby’s head moving downward. Sometimes it is the need to have a bowel movement. And sometimes it is from both.

“What if I poop?” - “I’m sorry I’m pooping” - “I’m embarrassed, I know I pooped”

These are comments we hear occasionally as providers. But not to worry! Having a bowel movement during labor and birth is incredibly normal and can even be a sign of progress. None of your birth partners or team should judge, shame or make you feel badly about it. If someone has ever shamed you during birth about this before, we’re so sorry that happened because it’s not okay.

How can we normalize something like pooping during birth? It may seem trivial, but many people feel embarrassment or judgement about it. Pooping is a productive and physiological part of birthing so we should treat it as such. Here are some ways you can help change how this part of birth is viewed and talked about:

  1. Normalize the process. If you hear someone teasing or shaming someone about pooping during birth, speak up! You’ve read this and now you know how to explain why shit happens.

  2. Provide reassurance. If someone seems embarrassed about it, reassure them it’s normal. If you are a birth partner and are feeling worried about it, you can rest easy knowing it is a sign of progress. Be supportive by normalizing it instead of using negative comments or reactions.

  3. Don’t try to prevent it from happening. There’s no need to take stool softeners, use enemas or other methods to try to prevent it from happening. If it happens earlier in labor you can sit on the toilet for a while if you want or you can stay right where you are if that position is working for you at that time. Whether in land or water, your provider can easily remove the poop from the space. No big deal.

  4. Expect respect from your team. Birth providers are used to being around birth and that includes poop and other body fluids. We aren’t worried about it. So as a point of validation to anyone who is wondering: there is absolutely no justification for a provider to make a big deal about it.

7 Simple Hydration Tips

By: Michelle Gilley, CPM, BSM

  1. Prevent dehydration by knowing how much water you need to drink daily. An easy rule of thumb is that your daily intake at minimum should be half your body weight in ounces. Make sure to compensate for exercise, outdoor activities, being in direct sunlight, and dry environments by drinking extra. During pregnancy, add an additional 10-15 ounces each trimester.

  2. Replace electrolytes. You can do this by drinking bottled water with electrolytes, eating fresh fruit, and salting your food to taste with a good quality sea salt, Himalayan salt, etc.).

  3. Avoid products marketed for hydration / rehydration which include dyes and processed sugar, glucose, corn syrup, sucrose or sucralose.

  4. Make fruit infusions. Start with a quart of filtered water, add lemon, 1 cup of fruit, veggies or herbs of your choice and a pinch of salt. Allow to sit for several hours before drinking.

  5. Brew herbal teas. You can drink these hot, cold, or room temperature.

  6. Keep water accessible by carrying it with you, having drinks available in multiple parts of your home and keeping extra bottles in your car.

  7. Having trouble getting in your quota of water? Try drinking with a straw and setting reminders on your phone.

Your Birthing Space Is An Energy Field

By Michelle Gilley, CPM, BSM

Effectively holding space for someone during childbirth requires invitation, communication, observation and adaptation to what is needed moment by moment. Holding space could be the presence or absence of any number of actions. For example, a support person may be sitting silently nearby or they may be providing hands on support. Either scenario may be equally supportive depending on the desires of the birthing individual. When you think about who you are inviting to hold space for you during birth it can be helpful to visualize it. One option is to visualize yourself or the birthing space as having an energy field. 

Ideally someone entering your energy field is guarding, contributing, and energizing that field with what is helpful to or desired by you, the owner of the space. When this functions well, you can picture the energy field or circuit of energy flowing powerfully. When the space holder is not a match for that role you could envision the field of energy being disrupted, stagnant, overshadowed, or disorganized in some way. You can use your imagination to create a picture in your mind that makes sense to you. Maybe the energy field is a ball of energy and it grows or shrinks, changes color or has sound that changes based on the impact. Or maybe the energy field is organized like a grid or maybe it looks like water or clouds or the effect of wind blowing. 

Now imagine the energy of the people you are considering inviting to your labor or birth. What happens when their energy interacts with your energy? Is your energy frazzled, diminished, distracted or does it feel aligned, focused, supported or strengthened? How does your visualization change based on impact? An exercise like this can be helpful when you are choosing support people for your birth. It is normal and common to have complex feelings about who you are inviting. If this has been difficult, a visualization like this might help you put aside decision distractions such as perceived obligation, worry about people feeling left out, previous promises they could attend or what might seem fair or unfair to them. At the end of the day, your birthing space belongs to you. You get to decide who you want to invite to support and invest in your birth experience. 

Below are some incredible images from the NASA Image & Video Library to give you ideas for creating your own visualization.