Hanging Half-Naked From A Squatting Bar Or, How I Got Over My Body IssuesDanielle Hampton

When I think back to the day I gave birth to my son, even now, 8 months later, it’s a bit hazy. I went into the whole birthing experience pretending to have an open mind – “Oh yes, whatever happens, happens. I’m open to any sort of birth, as long as my baby boy is healthy.” And yes, of course I didn’t care how he arrived, as long as he did arrive, but when it came down to it, I absolutely did have a strong idea of what I wanted my experience to be like. In my mind I envisioned a quiet, dim-lit room. My hair was up in a messy top knot and my cheeks had a nice rosy glow to them.  It would be a natural labor, happen quickly, and sooner than I could say “push” in a breathy voice, darling Henry would be in our arms. And it’s not like I live in an unrealistic fantasy world. You know those women? The ones all your friends talk about? “Oh, my sister’s neighbor’s friend’s birth was just one hour and so easy, just a few pushes and she was out! No tearing. She was made to have babies.” Yeah. Well I know about three of those women in real life, so my own reality based on my surroundings was perhaps a little skewed. I thought that I’d be one of the lucky ones too…but no. No, no way.

Instead, my natural labor turned into three hours of natural pushing hell as Henry got stuck behind my pelvic bone. I turned, I twisted, I shimmied, I shaked, but that boy was not coming out. Do you know what it feels like to want so badly to get something (someone!) out of your body, trying for hours and hours, moving from position to position? Everything in your body is screaming push, push, push- but nothing. And then in my case, towards the end, even though your body is still screaming push, push, push…the nurses and doctors inform you that you absolutely cannot push, because your baby is not moving, and all you’re doing is slamming his head into your pelvic bone.

And that’s when I found myself half-naked, hanging from a squatting bar.

I remember when they brought the contraption in. Henry needed to be turned, and the boy wasn’t turning, so we resorted to trying out different positions. When the nursing student walked in with the long bar and attached it to either side of the bed’s poles, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But to be honest, after so many hours of the worst pain of my life, I would have done close to anything to move this process along.

They instructed me to get into a squatting position, arms up on the bar, and push into it as I felt the urge to do so. There was a moment during this portion of the birth where everything went into a bit of slow motion, and I remember looking around the room – the nurse in her blue scrubs pressing some buttons to my left, my husband – white faced and panic stricken, a nursing student, trying to be helpful but coming off more annoying than anything, and random others who were in and out, checking and re-checking.

In this slow motion moment, I recall having a very striking realization as I looked down at myself between my contractions.

There I was: Me, the girl who is often a little shy about changing in front of others, me, the in-shape and athletic girl who for some reason hadn’t always felt the most confident in a bathing suit, and me, the girl who dealt with an eating disorder for a couple of years in college. There I was- all modesty gone, any shred of caring about covering up gone, hanging from a bar, naked from the waist down, while strangers in scrubs walked in and out of my room.

Some say that once you actually have your baby your body issues disappear. You realize that you sustained this little life for so many months and your body deserves all of the respect and love you can give it. You might look down at this magical little being, and from that moment you are forever changed; you suddenly have a new view as to what is important. But just as my (incredibly lofty and ridiculous) expectations for my birthing experience were not met, overcoming my insecurities didn’t happen just like that either.

So how did I get over my body issues? Taking a step out of myself at that very difficult moment and realizing that once you swing from a bar, naked, with all of those people staring here and there (and everywhere), nothing I could ever wear, do, or experience will ever make me as vulnerable as I was in that moment. There I was, in all of my naked glory. There was blood, sweat, who knows what else, and in that snapshot of my life I almost wanted to laugh at how ridiculously far it was from my top-knotted, rosy-cheeked birthing fantasy.

But you know what? I did it. There was no other option. There was no time to cover up, no time to care, and in that moment, there was nothing else to do but push through it. And when you’re faced with obstacles like this one, you can either falter, or triumph. And even though I didn’t have the choice to falter (that baby was coming!), my triumph came in my own mind. Everyone has their own “squatting bar” they will face. Something that will make you look at yourself in a new light, and realize that so many of the things you thought were so important aren’t really that important after all. For me, I gained a bit more respect for myself- not just because I pushed through and ended up with the most amazing little boy to show for it- but because in a moment where I felt so scared and felt like I could have crumbled under my own insecurities, I rose above it and came out a better woman on the other side.

In the next hour my son would be born via emergency c-section after both of our vitals dropped and we had to be rushed into the operating room, but in that one moment, everything changed. And of course later when I saw my baby boy for the first time things changed even more, but nothing will throw you into the deep end of body acceptance, than hanging half-naked from a squatting bar in front of an audience.

Nothing can compare to that crash course in getting over yourself.

So now, give me a bikini, give me short shorts, and maybe even a crop top for the summer. I’m all in.

 

Danielle Hampton is a high school English teacher turned stay-at-home Mom, living in Arizona. She blogs daily at Sometimes Sweet and tweets too much via @danihampton. Come say hello!

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  1. ugh, I also had a super long pushing experience because her head was caught on the 1/2 cm of cervix that was left to dilate. I tried pushing in every position imaginable. Luckily, I was at a Birth Center with a couple AMAZING midwives that had my husband stand next to me and push my belly while they turned her enough to come out. Twas the hardest thing I have ever gone through, but definitely worth it. I was completely naked, even though I was the most modest person ever, I just lost myself in Labor Land. Like They say, You gotta be OUT OF YOUR MIND to have a baby!

  2. You will hate me cause both my births were 4 and 6 hours and I didnt tear at all with my second; however, I know what you mean about trying to stay modest and not look like a total freak during labor! But once my transittion stage kicked in and I was ready to push I could care less what I looked like and what cam out of me .. *cough, cough* ..you just want that baby OUT! Now I’m rocking the stretch marks and flubber belly, but whatever my baby is cute and perfect and thats all that matters :D !

  3. My birth wasn’t quite the natural rosy-glow top-knot fantasy either. After five hours of pushing, I absolutely could not stand to have anything on my skin and so, in a room full of doctors and nurses (and EXTRA doctors and nurses because they found meconium when my water broke), my son and I were equally naked (save for the monitors and such) when he was born. Since then, whenever I get self-conscious about my flabbier body, I remind myself that this body grew and birthed a baby and that is so much way more awesome than having a flat tummy.

  4. our stories are so similar it’s crazy! But friend, I commend you for being real, honest and open to other women who aren’t yet ready to realize a perfect birth is only if your perfect baby is born at the end. Not the pathway that the baby takes to being born. Much love. :)

  5. I think I need to read and re-read this post over and over again. I don’t have any children yet, so until that time I could use your words as my inspiration and reminder. While modesty in general isn’t a huge issue for me, I, too, have struggled with eating disorders in the past and sometimes I really catch myself retelling those lies all over again. Not good! Thanks so much for your post! It’s greatly appreciated! I definitely have body issues that I need to get over!

  6. This is seriously perfect. I always look back to Riley’s birth, and Paisley’s too, and think about how vulnerable I was. And how naked… All in front of my mom and aunt, who was also my doula. But I feel like I’ve definitely changed and gotten over many of my body issues. Thank you for writing this Danielle. :)

    • Thank you for commenting Katie! Isn’t it crazy what we are capable of?! It makes us so much stronger in the end. You are amazing, and a great mama!

  7. LOVED this! thanks for sharing!!

  8. I have not yet given birth and I have never considered the experience beyond, “Natural? Hellll no.” I commend you for doing it the old fashion way and hope I will never know “exactly” what you are talking about.
    :D

    • girlfriend, if I could do it again I would have gotten the epi straight away. It’s just ironic because I was all gung-ho with the natural birth to end up being pumped full of all sorts of drugs. Ah. life.

  9. Wow. Thanks for being vulnerable once more in sharing this experience. You’re awesome, girl.

  10. Thank you so much for sharing this!

  11. You are so badass. Loved this.

  12. Amazing story! Thanks for sharing. :)

  13. I have yet to experience my own ‘squatting bar’ moment, but I look forward to it, be it giving birth or otherwise. Thanks so much for sharing Danielle – you are one of my most favourite bloggers and people (what I know of you from your blog, that is). <3

  14. I love you, lady – your writing is a gift, this was beautiful! <3

  15. I love youuuuuuu!

  16. I feel like I thought this and you wrote it. My 5 month old twins are napping right now, and every time I look at them (which is a lot throughout the day) I am reminded that my body survived growing and giving birth to them (scheduled C-section). My birth story was, like yours, not how I imagined it would be. But that doesn’t matter now, and I have accepted this body that I inhabit for the first time in my 35 years. Thanks!!!

  17. This was beautiful and even though I don’t know you personally, I am extremely proud of you, because I know how difficult all of those self-image issues are to overcome (plus the baby). I also don’t know how long it’s been since Henry was born, but, congratulations! :) I am very inspired right now, thank you!

  18. amazing story! Thanks so much for sharing! It really is inspiring…and while I have not had a baby, I can certainly identify with those moments that should be completely embarrassing, but you are in so much pain or so much pressure that you dont even care. And then you look back and say, “man. that wasnt SO bad” (the embarrassing body part of it I mean).

  19. this is AWESOME! you are AWESOME! so glad you shared this story.

  20. this is EXACTLY what happened to me in my first labor. when i looked back and realized i was totally naked, making horrific dying-cow-like noises and writhing around to and from every position possible to get the baby to turn – i can’t believe that was me, the same person. all modesty really does go right out the window when you have a baby.