I hate confrontation.
It’s been this way for as long as I can remember. I’ve always been scared of how others might judge me, so I stayed quiet and away from conflict.
When I was around 9 or 10, my mom gave me money to get some frozen yogurt from TCBY in the mall’s food court while she sat at a nearby table, waiting. I had been standing in line for a few minutes when a teenager abruptly cut me. I shyly stood, quiet as a mouse, not wanting to cause a scene, when to my utter and complete horror I saw my mother come barging up to the teenager and yell, “Excuse me, my daughter has been waiting in line, and you just cut her!” All I could manage was a hushed “Mooommm” before the girl gave way and stood behind me. It was a nightmare, especially considering the girl was still beside me. Frozen yogurt had never tasted so horrible.
“You need to speak up for yourself,” she’d told me — for not the first, and not the last, time that day.
Fast-forward nearly 20 years, and I’ve made some progress, I’ll admit. When I ask for extra skim milk in my coffee and the Dunkin barista barely gives me a splash, I’ll ask her to add more. If the taxi driver tries to charge me more than what I think is fair, I’ll speak up. If a friend or acquaintance and I disagree on a debatable issue, I’ll argue my piece. I’m a little less side-eye, and a little more heard.
But I still hate drawing attention to myself, so for the majority of my life, I’ve kept quiet and took a lot of life lying down, if you will.
That is, until I got pregnant.
It’s exciting to be pregnant for the first time. But it’s also a time when one can question every single thing they do, from the turkey sandwich they ate three days after they conceived to the body lotion they’ve been slathering on. I enveloped myself in as much information as I could to make sure I was doing what was exactly right for my little embryo, who at the grand ol’ size of a poppy seed was already loved so much.
I wanted to take care of my little rapidly growing poppy seed and ensure its health and safety for the next nine months and beyond, and I felt myself change. Before my very first doctor’s appointment, I had written down about a dozen questions and notes to review with the doctor. Some questions were probably a little silly, but as a first-time mom, I wanted assurance over every little thing.
I went through about half of the questions that I deemed “less stupid” and let the doctor answer them. Then came the ones that could make me seem a little…odd. In the heat of the moment, with the doctor looking at the clock and my rising anxiety that I was holding her up and making myself look like a worrywart, the old me would have said, “That’s it! No more questions. I’ll just see myself out, and go to Doctor Google!” but the new me, the mom me, couldn’t let that happen.
This was my baby’s life, and I wouldn’t let anyone threaten that, so I asked the question about my indulging in a few glasses of wine before I found I out I was pregnant (as I pushed my insecurities that she was judging me aside), and I asked about sleeping on my tummy at just 8 weeks pregnant (as I worried that she thought I was stupid for thinking that this could possibly damage the fetus at this point), and I even asked if it was bad that I saw my heart rate at 150 for a couple minutes last time I was exercising because I had read it wasn’t supposed to go above 140 (all of this while I worried that she thought I was compulsive).
The world didn’t implode. The doctor didn’t kick me out. Instead, I walked out of the office with a newfound set of answers and some security that everything was still okay.
Eight months later, my daughter was born. The real fun began, because everyone is an expert in parenting and knows more than anyone else. I took their words (some helpful, some not) in stride, and pushed away my inner anti-confrontation persona, because the truth is that I am the only expert when it comes to parenting my daughter.
Did visitors seem annoyed and offended when I asked them to wash their hands and Purell them before holding my newborn? Yes.
Did they act like I was disrespecting them and their visit when I left the room to go breastfeed my baby? Yes.
Did they offer unsolicited advice and silently judge me for my decision to ignore it? Of course.
Did I care? Absolutely not.
If one day my daughter gets cut in the frozen yogurt line and doesn’t open her mouth to protest, you can bet your ass I’ll be the crazy lady who jumps to her defense. But in the meantime, I’ll be there to guide her and teach her that being assertive doesn’t mean being a bitch, and that the only judgment that should bother her is the one that comes from herself.