3 Foolproof Techniques to Practice Self-Advocation

I recently came across this staggering quote by a young Louisville, KY-based physician: 

“For far too long, we've used the argument of "safety" to subject women to non-consensual touching. It's no longer about consent, the sacred experience of giving birth, or our patients' capacity for medical decision-making. As a medical system, we have determined that we are willing to cause harm to women based on the belief that doing so will avoid the rare circumstance in which a baby does not survive childbirth. In other words, we have judged that we are more comfortable with traumatizing women and stripping them of bodily autonomy than risking harm to the unborn baby. In this way, dignity has been lost in many hospital-based birthing units in the same way that a dignified death is rarely seen in modern hospitals.”

-Dr. Nathan Riley, from the ObgynoWino Podcast

Standing up for yourself is hard.

As an empath, it’s the hardest thing in the world. If something I want to say is shut down, I over-listen and over-process, and over-value the rebuttal. I accept everyone else’s words as truth and talk myself down with self-dismissive language like,

“Oh, they must be right,” or even simply “Oh, Ok.”

Knowing this about myself was a factor in my decision to have a home birth. For me, it was “safer” to have fewer opinions and fewer external voices in the delivery room. I wanted to be able to listen to myself clearly without being crossed.

Many birth workers are open to listening to your birth plan and values. This is one reason why I adore and appreciate doulas. But a doula won’t be with you for all your prenatal appointments. And advocating for yourself throughout the whole pregnancy and postpartum process is important.

I had an experience where my husband and I went in for a routine prenatal check-up. I knew it was the day for the Group B strep test. I knew, going into the visit, I did not want to do the Group B strep test.

A resident was in the clinic that day (not our usual doctor). He was big and tall. After we exchanged greetings and his initial check of my tummy, he said “Alright! It’s time for your group B strep test. And, happy that I had my planned response I gently said, “I think I’ll hold off on that, thanks.”

He got a shocked look on his face. And started rolling out the fear tactics: “If you don’t do this THEN……” and then the peer pressure tactic “If I were advising my wife, I wouldn’t let her not do it.”

So, that then fueled my husband to chime in and say “Monika. Let’s do this.” He had not read about it at all beforehand as I had.”

But, I caved. I did the test in the name of “I’m-pregnant-and-I-guess-it’s-better-to -be -safe -than -sorry”.

It was highly uncomfortable. I reacted in the way that someone who doesn’t truly want to be prodded down there does--with fear, tightness, pain, and frustration. So much so, that the founder of the clinic knocked on the door and asked if everything was OK.

Through tears, I blubbered that I was just feeling the sting of doing something I was uncomfortable with in the name of "safety". 

It’s such a tough call when it comes to the "Safety" word and your baby’s health.

It can feel like there’s no right answer. Or that if you don’t consent to the answer that is standard or expected that you are doing something “wrong”.

You might have extremely clear and confident judgment. You might have those strong and sassy genes I so admire. You might not care a lick what other people think. You might have a partner who knows what you want just as well as you do.

But, if you’re like me, and don’t have those wonderful qualities, here are some actionable suggestions on how to practice standing up for yourself either in preparation for pregnancy or simply as a valuable life skill.

  1. If someone suggests something to watch (a movie or show or video) and you don’t want to, go ahead and say Naaah.
  2. Role-play with a friend or partner. Have them play a hypothetical Evil Doctor who is Going to Rip Your Brains Into Shreds. Practice saying "No" to the things you don’t want to happen and "Yes" to the things you do. No matter what your planned birth setting is, this is a great exercise. Acting is a valuable emotional intelligence tool!
  3. Proactively tell someone you want to do something a little bit out of the usual for you. Go to the park, a museum, a neighboring town, an unfamiliar coffee shop, etc) but that you genuinely want to experience. If someone else tries to talk you out of it or says they won’t be joining you. Listen, but don’t change your mind based on their opinions. Follow through and Go.

Part of the goal of Train4Birth is to create an opportunity for you to learn more about yourself and your body. We hope to give you some tools for how to listen to your body. With this skill set, you can more confidently advocate for yourself.

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