How to Excrete a Watermelon; or, 7 Ways to Have Fun During Labor

When I was 17 my friend John told me that his mother said having a baby was like trying to push a watermelon out your rear end.

Sound like fun? Not really. “Fun” and “labor” aren’t two words you usually read in the same sentence.

But labor actually can be fun. Really and truly. Here’s how:

1) Keep a sense of humor and have someone tell you dumb jokes: Laughter is better than valium when it comes to relaxing and when a woman in labor laughs her body loosens up and opens up. In my third labor I remember telling the homebirth midwife, “Okay, I’m ready for an epidural.” She smiled at me. “I’ve got it out in my truck,” she said. We both cracked up and pretty soon after I was in transition. My husband has sort of a sadistic sense of humor and his jokes were so un-funny during my fourth labor (and all at my expense) that they became hilarious (granted, I was a little hysterical by that point anyway).

2) Get in warm water: A lot of women swear by birthing pools, but the idea of sharing my bath with unsightly bodily fluids and maybe a placenta has never exactly appealed to me. But labor is the one time in your life when you can take a shower for as long as you want without feeling guilty about wasting water. In real life I take care of shower business in about three minutes and spend the next two minutes feeling overindulgent (we have a little hourglass in the shower that indicates when five minutes is up and it’s time to get out. My best friend works for the Department of Environmental Quality and spent years on water issues…) A no-guilt shower is such a luxury, I think I’ll have another baby just to get a chance to take another.

3) Remember the women who have gone before you: At some point when you’re in labor you decide you’re going to explode. Then you remember the experience you’re having connects you to all the women in the world who have gone before you, including your mom and your grandmothers. During my last birth I found myself thinking with great awe about some of the women whose stories I had read on the Internet, like Heather Cushman Dowdee’s, and about women in my family, and the amazing woman I met in person who had birthed six children unassisted (and one totally by herself with no one else even there). Labor lets you get all mushy-gushy touchy-feely about stuff like that. And takes you to a Zen place that gives you endorphins. Okay so Thich Nhat Hahn feels that every day but he never got to s–t a watermelon.

4) Smooch with your husband: That’s right. Kiss him. If you relax the lips on your face, the lips on your you-know-where relax also. There’s something counterintuitive about making out in labor. Which is funny. Which brings us back to #1. And kissing (or in this case not kissing) is always fun.

5) Don’t look at the clock: Though your birth attendants may not agree, there’s a timelessness to being in labor. Time gets suspended. Time stops. You don’t actually age (that’s why that reality TV show lady with the 19 kids looks so young). You can have fun with this timelessness by unplugging all the clocks and hiding your watch under the bed (like insomnia, it’s better not to know how long it’s taking).

6) Be curious about what’s happening in your body: You can float outside your body, like Annie Hall, while you’re in labor and use your mind to be interested in all of the sensations you’re feeling. The more intense it gets, the more your body is opening up to make space for the baby. You can think of it as good pain. Or even not as pain at all but as a curious sensation you have the privilege of experiencing. James kept saying, “You have a finite number of contractions. You’re getting through it.” That distracted me into wondering if it were true, did I really have a finite number of contractions? Was I really getting through them? Paying attention to how each contraction (or rush or power surge or wave or whatever you want to call them) feels, and how different they are from each other, is an amazing (okay so maybe it’s not “fun”) experience.

7) You get to have a baby at the end: When I was in labor with Leone the fact that there was a baby in there was actually no comfort at all during the labor. But then all of a sudden, in a rush of fluid, a human baby, a real live bona fide tiny human person, came into the world who had not been there a moment before. James and I both caught her. She cried and spluttered and coughed. You are having a baby (unless you’re actually pregnant with an elephant), and that’s the most fun of all.

What about you? If you have children, what strategies did you use to get through labor? If you’re pregnant, how do you plan to have fun at the birth?

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17 thoughts on “How to Excrete a Watermelon; or, 7 Ways to Have Fun During Labor”

  1. This is a great list. What made my recent labor fun for me was not focusing on pain relief. In my first labor I was so concerned with getting comfortable and easing the pains. With my second labor I welcomed the strength of labor. I completely gave in. I let my pelvic floor go.

    I also spent time before birth affirming to myself “birth is a joyous event”. I did not want to slip into the pain=suffering mindset. I consciously wanted to stay positive and celebrate the joy of birth.

  2. My fourth labor was very moving. All the labors were moving in their own way but somehow this was extremely emotional for me since I knew it would be my last. All the things I used before in previous births (music, visualization, warm baths etc) I just abandoned and this time it was just me and my baby and my body. I will say that at the very very end the midwives suggested trying a piece of chewy candy – and it got me over the hump and distracted me in a good way! I’d never heard of trying that before but it helped me. Now whenever I see or smell that candy it brings back all the memories of the moment I met my daughter.
    .-= Christine at Origami Mommy´s last blog ..Close Enough to Kiss =-.

  3. “A lot of women swear by birthing pools, but the idea of sharing my bath with unsightly bodily fluids and maybe a placenta has never exactly appealed to me.”

    Thank you so much for writing this! I was starting to think I was the only one who wasn’t crazy about the waterbirth idea!

  4. My last labor wasn’t bad at all and I credit the long, warm shower I took during labor as the big reason for it. I can completely relate that it felt over indulgent and wonderful. My other tip–a Scottish midwife. Her lilting accent and sense of humor made me wish my labor could last just a little longer so I could keep hanging out with her. When my daughter was born she just wrapped her up and said she was the most beautiful baby she’d ever seen (uh, my guess is she says that to everyone, but it made me feel great:).
    .-= Kristen´s last blog ..The Fly Traps Red Chile Salmon Burgers =-.

  5. We listened to a “Labor Mix” that I made ahead of time and danced during and between contractions. We also filmed ourselves talking to DD while she was working her way out. We now have a great video of our conversations during labor that is precious to us. Once I hit transition, I got in the tub- I understand your POV, but it worked for me!
    .-= Mama Em´s last blog ..Friday Favorite- Baby mani/pedi tools =-.

  6. I just watched my goddaughter be born vaginally (i had my own child via C-section) and as i saw the baby crowning I told my best friend:”You are more woman than I ever will be!”

    her reply: “now is not the time to talk about my weight.”

    and as the nurse told her that the baby had all its fingers and toes… my best friend says…. “good, all 12 are there?”

    she is the master of #1

  7. I remember, quite vividly, during about hour 10 thinking, “how much pain would I have to be in before I would just ‘die’ of pain?” LOL Seriously..

    I didn’t talk to anyone or do anything.. I was very intense and focused on breathing like I was running up a really steep hill. Head straight ahead, never mind what’s in front or behind, just concentrate on now and breathe.

    Rough stuff though.. but how else is a head that size going to get through a space that small? Something pretty amazing happens and it’s not easy.
    .-= Claudine´s last blog ..Keep Talking =-.

  8. I love this entry. When I was in labor (only once so far) I KNEW with a very firm conviction that sooner or later, it would be over and I would have a baby. I also knew that millions of women have done this before me and women were designed to do this. Those two things really helped me not to doubt myself or the process.

    It did help not to look at clocks (we really don’t have any in our house). My midwife checked my cervix twice, but in retrospect I don’t think I would have her do that again because knowing how far along I wasn’t didn’t help!

  9. Oh, dear. The only think I can say is my first labor was SO AWFUL that I knew there was no way the second or third could compare in terms of pain, anguish (the French clinic did not allow my husband to be present, after assuring me ahead of time that he could assist with the birth), or length of time, 24 hours. This assumption was right. My first daughter swam out of me like a fish, three weeks early. My second daughter was a term birth. One hour after we reached the clinic, a different one!, she had been born. Her passage through the birth canal was extremely painful, but it only lasted a couple minutes.
    .-= Alexandra´s last blog ..An April Day in the Life =-.

  10. Canoodling during labor, Jennifer you crack me up. I only gave birth once, to a boy, with a head the size of a watermelon (maybe not that large but we’re talking off-the-charts big).

    Trust me, the last thing I wanted to do was kiss anyone. Except him, of course, the minute he made his way into the world;)
    .-= sarah henry´s last blog ..Darra Goldstein

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