About That Time I Sh*t In A Cardboard Hat

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Give a group of mums enough time, tea or wine, and the conversation will sooner or later come around to stories of childbirth.

Most of us go through life BC (before children) whispering under our breath to pharmacists if we need any product for anywhere south of our necks, but after having a baby, a lot of things are put into perspective, and suddenly previously shy women will discuss cracked nipples, stitched vaginas, mild incontinence and the fact that they now know lochia is not the baddie from Thor without so much as a blush.

They say you shouldn’t have to check your dignity at the door when having a baby, but let’s be honest, unless you’ve hired someone to have the baby for you, there will more than likely be a moment (or four) that flashes on the inward eye months after the event that makes you cringe a little. It might be that you did a number two giving birth, hurled abuse at the midwife or called your partner every name under the sun.

It happened recently that a group of honest mums and I shared our zero-dignity stories and a conversation which started awkwardly ended in us howling with laughter.

It was good for the soul to own them.

Everyone had something different to tell and everyone was now able to laugh at their own tale (as well as everyone else’s). I had a planned c section so thought I might escape some of indignities of the maternity ward.

And indeed I did, until it came to being discharged from hospital.

The nurse had left a couple of things that looked like inverted cardboard top hats in the bathroom and said they had to check that I had gone to the loo before I could leave, so I should go in the ‘hat’. So I waited and managed to go in the cardboard bed pan but couldn’t find a nurse to show, so, keen to leave, picked up my top hat of shame and headed off down the corridor to find a nurse, the contents sloshing dangerously from side to side. Eventually I found one, and she peered into my bowl and reeled back in mild disgust.

“You only had to do a wee in the pan Ms Dunphy” came the sharp reply.

And so, I made the long walk back to my room — as quickly as one can carrying a cardboard hat full of shite.

I suggest you share your stories of shame too. Not necessarily as publicly as I have just done (I may live to regret that), but you might be pleasantly surprised at how good it feels to make light of them.

Or maybe like me, you’ll just never be able to look at a top hat in the same way again.

Maia Dunphy is a writer and broadcaster who stepped in front of the camera after over a decade behind it. She has written and hosted twelve female-centric documentaries for RTE and has written for many well-known publications including the Evening Herald, The Dubliner, The Irish Times and Image Magazine among others.