What It Takes to Backtalk

Growing up, I learned the importance of being an example, to say I was sorry, and to not push issues too far. All of this was, I think, the result of being the oldest of seven children, possessing a generally compliant nature and huge sense of responsibility for everyone and everything around me, and being the daughter of a mother with a very dominant personality and a mostly resigned dad.

On some occasions, even when I knew I was right or felt that I did have a point to carry, I was actually told to "be the adult in the situation" or to "take the high road," which often meant apologizing profusely or backpedaling on something I believed in, just to settle a rift that had occurred. Somewhere along the line, the idea of standing up for myself became confused in my mind with being boorish, insensitive, self-centered, aggressive, needlessly argumentative, and immature.

The good thing is that I can (at least on the surface) let a lot of insignificant conflict go and manage to maintain relationships and my own level of politeness and courtesy. The bad news is that I sometimes "stuff" a lot of emotion or opinion, and often even ignore or sacrifice things that I deeply care about or want a LOT - all in the interest of keeping the peace, not being too much trouble for someone else, or not wanting to appear self-centered, aggressive, etc.

Lucky for me, I married a man with a wonderful ability to be boorish. (*smile and wink*) At one time I might have felt a little embarrassed by his insistence that a hostess seat us somewhere other than right by the bustling kitchen door, or exchange my Diet Coke for the regular Coke I actually ordered. And I might have felt a little trod upon by his propensity to play devil's advocate with people we just met who may not know that he actually does have more morality and good humor than his arguments, however brilliant, would imply.

But the truth is that he and I balance each other wonderfully. He is learning to let some things go and not fight an issue just for the sake of being right or showing his intellectual prowess (which he really does have). And I am learning that sometimes, it's good - even vital - for the soul to push back.

This last week, I have had to stand up for myself in two different situations that are for me really, really uncomfortable and difficult. I actually have been known to delegate these kinds of tasks to David. (I can't argue with insurance companies, property management, or the department of taxation without bawling and giving in, so tag - he's it.)

But these two were mine alone to handle: One occasion was with my OBGyn - she wants to induce labor! At 38 weeks! For no good reason! And the second time, just this morning, was with a relative stranger to whom I sold something on Craigslist.

When I told David about my conversation with the OB, he said, "Good for you! I'm so glad you told her everything you did!" And he gave me a big hug. Today I had to call him to read the e-mail I sent to the Craigslist lady, to make sure I was asserting my position without being too wenchy. Again he supported and applauded me.

I know this might all sound very petty and you all are wondering just what kind of mousey little child I am, especially when I can be quite sassy on occasion, but seriously - it takes so much out of me to stand up for myself. I realized that the "confrontation" with the OB last week is probably mostly what made me feel so weepy and out of sorts for a few days, and it still does, when I stop and think.

I get so frustrated and angry that all I can do is cry, and mostly because it's unclear if I'm more upset with the person I'm confronting, or with myself for not being able to do it without apology or emotional blubbering.

All this to say...what? Just that it's something important I'm learning about myself and how I'd like to adjust my ability to make myself matter, to have a little more confidence and strength:

That knowing something is important or right sometimes doesn't always make it any easier to defend. But that every person owes himself the respect of learning and practicing self-assertion, because backing down every single time causes a person to lose not only what they care about, but eventually causes them to lose the sense of who they really are and what they really need or want.

That while there is definitely a balance to find between railroading other people and being railroaded, we weren't meant to turn the other cheek until our head comes unscrewed.

That it's important to find a quiet moment to ask oneself and answer honestly, "Does it really matter?" And when it does really matter, to stand up for self without apology. To hold our ground and learn the skills necessary to kindly, then diplomatically, then forcefully, show others where we stand, even when it doesn't change where they stand and might make things uncomfortable for a while.

That a child might learn more about apologies when they see us respect their position and say we're sorry for overlooking or overstepping than they will by expecting them to always defer to us without question.

That it might be a good thing not to squelch the urge a child has to talk back, but to really listen to what they are trying to say and not deny what they are asserting. That it might be more useful to everyone involved to show them how to change their tone and attitude and make talking back a skill in politely and respectfully leading out, truly taking the high road of choosing right, knowing their true self, and respecting themselves enough to stand up for it.

Meanwhile, the issue with my OB is still open and I am going to have to consult my bravest self to be heard and respected, and right now I'm nothing but a puddle...


Janelle said...

I usually just lurk, but I wanted to offer some encouragement today. I'm sorry you've had a rough week, but good for you! I find it's sometimes easier to speak out on behalf of my kids (cause if I don't, who will?) than myself, good luck sticking to your guns with your OB.

Sketchy said...

HUGS!! You did great! I'm like Janelle, if it concerns my kids I find it easier to stick up for myself (them). I too tend to think of impositions on myself aren't all that important.

I think it's great that you are stretching a little and allowing yourself to have a say in matters. Think what a good example you'll set for your kids! And maybe you can break the cycle of one woman being domineering so the next generation is too meek so the next generation is too dimineering...

MamaToo said...

great introspection! Take somebody (maybe husband?) in with you on the next appointment/discussion with your OB... somebody who will help you keep your confidence. In reality, you are sticking up for your child's best interests by wanting to wait for starting labor. You're the mom, you've been through this before, and you are intelligent enough to stick to your reasoning.

Blogger profile name said...

I think we are very much alike in this. I am such a peacemaker, a kind of go-with-the-flow person, but when I have a real, true, valid position, I won't back down. I am right behind you on your position with the OB. Having birthed 8 children, 4 induced, and now studying to become a childbirth educator, I will tell you from both a first-hand and educated opinion that induction without cause-- especially 2 weeks early for goodness sakes!--is a bad choice all around. Easy for the doctor, NOT for the mom.

My 7th pregnancy came after 3 straight inductions, which I managed to handle unmedicated. From the beginning I told my husband that no matter what, I did not want to be induced, and not to let me change my mind if I got huge and miserable at the end (which of course would be the case).

I walked around 5 cm dilated for days, but still refused induction even though the OB said I could just walk right in the hospital at that point and they'd get my labor going. I even went to the hospital on my due date for spotting (fortunately there was no problem), and checked back out again once I realized things were okay, even with the nurses telling me they could just hook me up and get things started.

I went into labor on my own the next evening and spent 2 1/2 hours in the hospital before my baby was born. We watched the end of a Braves game and 2 episodes of Seinfeld with only contractions when I laughed, then had 1 hour of serious labor before our daughter arrived. It was a fantastic, unmedicated birth!

With my 8th (I really should have known better, especially after that great 7th birth) I allowed my midwife to schedule an induction since they were short-staffed and that was the only sure chance of her attending the birth. [I want to add here that at that fabulous 7th birth, my practice wasn't on call and I had a doctor who basically walked in the door, put on some gloves, and caught the baby. I'd never laid eyes on him before or since.] In spite of my conviction about the accuracy of my dates, my due date had been moved up by 9 days. After an incredibly long day of labor, filled with unnecessary medical interventions and my only epidural (which I really hated) I gave birth.

The next morning my midwife said that based on the appearance of the baby, my original due date was correct. My labor took forever because the baby and my body just weren't ready. I came down with a sinus infection the week before she was born. I'd done the 5-day antibiotic thing, but I still had a nasty cough and couldn't breathe, which is why I had the epidural (not breathing well and lots of coughing aren't conducive to unmedicated birth!). I got sick (vomiting) from the anesthesia, too, plus I wasn't prepared for the shaking it caused. If we (let me correct that--I; the midwife didn't force the induction, I allowed it) had just let nature take it's course, my sinus infection would have had a chance to clear and I could have had a better birth and the baby and I would have been ready.

I know this has become a realllly looooong comment, I just want to say trust your instincts and your body and don't allow your OB to force an unnecessary induction if you don't want it. Inductions are a doctor's friend, not a mother's in most cases; doctors don't deliver babies, mothers do. I support you, my cyber friend!

An Ordinary Mom said...

I start to cry, too, when I get really angry and frustrated, but with me it is more out of just feeling emotional than it is anger at the other person or myself.

I agree with MamaToo. Maybe take your husband with you to your next appointment just to give you strength to stick to your instincts.

I find it wonderful that you are learning to stand up for what you believe in. Sometimes we do need to turn the other cheek, and other times we absolutely have to stand up for what we know is right. Moderation and balance are the key. I am just grateful I have prayer so I don't have to make these decisions all on my own!

Hang in there, you are making remarkable progress!

KatieBug said...

They say you teach people how to treat you, and if you let people trample you they will(or in this case induce you) :).Good for you to teach that OBGYN he can't just do whatever is easy for him.

someone else said...

Bravo! When we learn what's worth fighting for, we also learn how to strive for it effectively. I'm going to have to reread this. It's loaded and excellent.

Carbon said...

Wow, it's like you were talking about me. I struggle with standing up for myself and have always been known as the nice gal because I never raise issues.

Bravo, I know first hand how hard it is. Keep at it, your children will learn through example.

Angela said...

Looks like you hit a chord T! I have to just put this out there first: "showing his intellectual prowess (which he really does have)." Made me fall out of my chair laughing. I realize that the internets don't know David, but just seeing you have to say that as a description of him is SO FUNNY to me.

Nextly, there are a lot of women who know how to stand up for themselves and speak their mind. And they don't know how to do it gracefully and respectfully. And that sends just as negative of a message to children, to the world, and even to themselves as not being able to keep from turning into a sobbing, helpless puddle. I have been both, and neither feels good. Sometimes people do mistake kindness (even when it's firm) as weakness so you have to get a little tougher---but it really is a fine line to learn to walk.

This is a great self-discovery and I hope as you experience things and walk this path of "standing up for yourself" you find the perfect balance. David is perfect for you, but it is kinda hard to do it for yourself when you have this knight in shining armor that's kinda smart to on some days, ready, willing and able to do it for you.

I have just discovered the effectiveness of, "hey, if you can think of a nicer way to say that, I bet I'd be really happy to help you." Our kids pick it all up. Mine learn from encounters with the #$*@ electric company.

Unknown said...

I have always been a bit boorish, and I, too, am learning to balance that with some of the opposite.

I agree with you about the talking back. I mean, talking back is bad, but I try to tell Amanda that if she needs to make a point, to wait a minute and then respectfully explain it to me.

When I read about the OB, I thought, "Gosh--she's 38 weeks already!!" Then, I looked and saw that you are only 28 weeks and the doctor is already talking about what's going to happen in 10 weeks?? Try not to worry about it.

megachick said...

i can sometimes do this without crying, unless it's my dad. it's out of frustration mostly. even with others if i restrain my tears, i almost always end up flushed at the very least.