The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Accurate descriptions of labor, according to notes I took on my phone while giving birth

The writer, after her epidural. (Stephen Stromberg)
Placeholder while article actions load

It is like having a metal pole inserted into your midsection.

Like having a harpoon pulled out of you via your back.

Like a back pain that you think, ‘Well, maybe there’s another position that will be comfortable,’ but then you realize that the pain is wherever you are.

Like someone is doing surgery on you without anesthesia mostly by pulling at your skin.

A bad pain, like the back snapping or a big rubber tire being torn in half.

Like a hammer, I think, or some sort of mechanical piece of equipment whose function is to pound or compress.

Follow Alexandra Petri's opinionsFollow

Sort of like a big oyster being pried open by claws under the sea.

9:58 a.m.: Not so good …

Sort of like splitting an oak open with a small pointed implement.

Not a big fan of this contraction, this one at 10:02 a.m.

Definitely getting closer.

Like having your blubber pulled off (you are a whale), like, in big strips.

Like an ice cream scoop to the body.

10:08 a.m.: Like being hole-punched and you’re the paper and the hole puncher is one of those big black metal ones that really exert some force.

Like when you die in a dream.

Like you are having the stuffing ripped out of you.

Feels like meat being picked off a bone.

Weakness and possibly also the soul leaving the body.

10:24 a.m.: Like being unrolled when your whole existence depends on being rolled, as with a cigarette or something like that.

Like being a french fry the moment the seagull picks it up in its beak.

Like when a rolled-up carpet is bent in half and whacked against something and you are the carpet.

Like slamming a door on your thumb but your whole body is the thumb.

Like one long tooth is extending to impale you.

Like one of those metal tongs you use for pressing fancy sandwiches is clamping down around your entire midsection. Like being inside a panini press!

Or like you’re being pulled into orbit, by way of your intestines.

Like there’s a dense gravitational hole inside you.

Okay. I think it is time for the epidural now.

***

So, that is what I thought childbirth was like, at least according to the contemporaneous notes I took on my phone both to distract myself and memorialize the process. (A thing I read before giving birth said that your brain immediately purges the specific pain of labor from your memory; it becomes hard to recreate the feeling in your mind, by design, so that people will want to continue the species. I now understand why.)

However, I would say the end result is, so far, very worth it.

Alexandra Petri gave birth Feb. 11. She will be on parental leave until the summer. Her column and reader Q&A will return.

Loading...