How I Advocated For Myself During Labor As An Introvert

I’ve always been shy and, as a result, experienced difficulty when speaking up for myself. I'm quite good at seething, though, which I know is ineffective. Luckily, becoming a mom has sparked some confidence in me so even if I don’t always speak up for myself, I definitely speak up for my kids. This change started when I was pregnant, and manifested in the ways I advocated for myself during labor. Even though I’m an introvert, I’m an extroverted one so I can find my voice and play the part of someone who knows what she is doing, even though inside I’m sure I’m failing miserably.

My husband was with me every minute of both my labors, from the two times we checked into the hospital to the two times we left with babies in hand. Still, and no matter how well your significant other knows you, I realized there are things you just need to do for yourself. In hindsight, I wonder if it would have been beneficial for me to have a doula who could've been my mouthpiece during labor. Then again, and knowing me and how little I like to relinquish control to others, it probably was best that I took it upon myself to have my immediate needs met. From the temperature of the room to the frequency of the cervix check, I eventually realized I could have a say. The medical staff are the experts, of course, but it was my body and it felt really important to make sure everyone remembered that.

So even though I’m pretty introverted, these are some of the ways I managed to advocate for myself during labor, including but certainly not limited to the following:

I Asked Questions

“What’s that?”

“What are you doing?”

“When are you coming back to check the monitor again?”

I’m Type A, so I really like to feel like I have a handle on what’s happening and especially when it’s happening to my body. Nobody escaped my labor and delivery room unscathed. To enter was to be met with a barrage of questions and I would not let up until I felt satisfied (or hit with the next contraction).

My Partner & I Made A Playlist

Is there anything worse than identifying some random sound with the first moments of your child’s life? When my daughter was born, I remember “Kyrie” by Mister Mister was playing, a favorite from my husband’s and my own childhood. I love hearing that song from our carefully curated labor playlist and thinking of her entering the world.

I Made It Known That I Was Not Happy Wearing A Hospital Gown

I am not one to fuss and, as an introvert, I definitely keep most of my thoughts to myself. Though I may not say things, I definitely think them, and sometimes those thoughts manifest not in words, but in raised eyebrows, exaggerated sighs, or just procrastination. I believe I was asked three times by the labor and delivery nurse to change into my gown.

I Didn’t Wait To Feel Thirsty To Ask For Ice

My hospital didn’t allow me to eat once I was in labor, but they were generous with the ice chips. Knowing this, I made sure to ask for them right away, and to request refills regularly. I learned after my first childbirth experience that it’s best to make as many demands as you can while you’re not yet wracked with pain from hard-hitting contractions. Shouting out demands while I could still get through complete sentences between contractions was one way to maintain a little bit of control of the situation.

I Gave The Stinkeye To The Medical Residents Observing

With my first kid, I had an elaborate birth plan, stating I didn’t want anyone in the room who wasn’t my physician, part of nursing staff, or my partner. In other words, no residents. Since so much of that birth plan went out the window when I actually went into labor (I never planned on getting induced), though, I didn’t bother making a plan with my second pregnancy.

So, guess who shows up? A bunch of residents, peering at the goings-on between my legs from a safe distance behind the OB-GYN’s shoulder. I glared at them and if I could have spoken more than two consecutive words at the time, I would have barked, “Hey, my eyes are up here.” I really hope they learned something as I groaned through the delivery of my son.

I Didn’t Try To Be A Hero

I didn’t hold back expressing how much my induced contractions hurt. I didn’t downplay my discomfort so that the staff could think I was a “trooper.” Eff that. I’m here to push a baby out of my body, and I’m not going to worry about how other people experience my childbirth situation.

I Wasn’t Shy About Asking My Partner To Help

He couldn’t actually help me in labor, but I realized my partner could do a lot for me in those moments when the pain shot through my abdomen. He could adjust the lights so they wouldn’t shine in my face, fetch me the ice pops (though I took points off when he presented me with the sugar-free kind), and read me the menus so I could decide what my first postpartum meal would be.

I Corrected Everyone Who Mispronounced My Name

Barely anyone gets my name right. I get called “Lisa” or even “Elsa,” even though “Liza” is the first name of a very famous person who sang a signature song about the spelling of her name. When someone called me by the wrong name, I would always politely smile and sometimes I wouldn’t even bother correcting them.

When I was in labor, however, and so little was actually in my control, I got pretty uppity about people getting my name right. Oh, and for the record, "mama" is not my name.

I Pushed Back Against Being Induced

I was 10 days late with my daughter, and a sonogram revealed that my amniotic fluid was getting low, so my OB-GYN had me check in to the hospital to get induced. I had no idea how miserable that was going to make me, with the contractions ramping up to a crazy intense level very quickly.

So I was glad to go into labor naturally with my second child, who was three days past his due date. It was a holiday weekend, though, and the other OB-GYN in the practice (not the doctor who had seen me all through both pregnancies) was pissed that he was being called in from his boat to deliver some baby. “You should have been induced,” he told me, checking to see how far I was dilated. “No,” I answered. “I’m good.”

Turns out I was given Pitocin anyway and when I wasn’t progressing fast enough, or at least fast enough for a doctor who wanted to get back to Connecticut in time for the July 4th fireworks. Oh well, I tried.