My friend Meaghan O’Connell, one of my favorite writers, describes childbirth in only the way that she can.
It’s long (save it), and I wanted to quote almost every part. Here’s one of the many sections that made me laugh out loud while reading it in bed at 1 AM last night:
I wished for a way to communicate pain more precisely than a scale of 1 to 10. But the scale is subjective, I longed to say. We have no way to know. I hated this. I said 7, 8. I didn’t know. It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt, but I have never had my arm cut off. That was what I always imagine to be the worst pain: having a limb chopped off. I saved 10 for it, out of respect. I wanted to save 9 for the moment the baby tears its way out of my vagina. So what’s left is 8. I wanted to seem brave, so I said 7, but then I worried they wouldn’t understand the immediacy of the situation, so I came back with 8. …
The residents wanted to check me. I was told this wasn’t a teaching hospital, I wanted to say, but don’t. They asked me if it was okay with me if two people checked me. I thought it had to be for accuracy but no, it was for their own benefit. If there’s anything I’d take back from labor it would have been the fact that I let two people fish around in my vagina for their own benefit.
I’d been “checked” before. This is what they call it. They want to “check you.” You means your cervix. You are your cervix. “Check” means stick a hand inside of “you”—your vagina—and measure how open your cervix is. They do this with their fingertips, because that is where we’re at with science in 2014: We use fingertips as a unit of measurement. Then you are pronounced whatever number of fingertips wide the gap in your cervix is. You are your cervix.
In typical Meaghan style, it’s refreshingly humane, surprisingly informative, hilarious, and terrifying.