One hand held her husband’s over the shower door. The other was between her legs, her fingers circling her clitoris. He asked her if she wanted to have sex—he’d read that it’d alleviate her contractions. She laughed, “F*ck no.”
It was early, about 6 a.m., when Angela Gallo went into labor. She was dancing around her kitchen on the Mornington Peninsula of Victoria, Australia, eating strawberries, twirling her firstborn daughter’s hair, and petting her dog. Hypnobirthing tracks lulled in the background while Angela sat to labor in a birth pool blown up in her living room.
But at around nine or 10 centimeters, her contractions intensified. “I was in transition and I felt like I was in a fog,” Angela remembers. “My birth pool exploded; I didn’t have water anymore…I was thinking, shit, shit, shit.”
Masturbating in a warm shower was her primal response to substantially mitigating the pain, moving her from a place of panic to a safe space in which she felt wholly connected to her mind, body, and spirit. It allowed her to feel, something she wasn’t afforded in her first pregnancy, which she describes as a “highly medicalized” procedure—draped in a hospital gown with an IV pricked in her arm, given an epidural, and, after 45 hours, a birth vacuum.