Do you know how to advocate for yourself, when it really matters?
It was one of my mom's favorite stories to tell, and it was not because it was particularly funny or embarrassing. Rather, it was a story of will and knowing what was right. It was a story of sticking to my principles, even if it didn't seem to be in my best interest.
I was in second grade. Precocious and self-assured. And definitely a mother hen to both my brother and cousin, who were in kindergarten.
It was Monday, and we were riding the bus from school to daycare. It was the start of a new drop-off for us. No longer would a day care helper meet the bus several blocks from the site but the bus would drop us at the center. I knew this, having been carefully instructed by my mother, as did my brother and cousin.
The person who didn't know? The bus driver. He pulled up to our old stop and waited for us to get off. But we did not. I told him that we were supposed to go to the daycare now and no one was there to meet us. Still, he insisted we get off. I held my ground, making sure the boys did not budge.
The driver called the transportation office, and the school, daycare and parents became involved. Still, I stood on that bus and refused to get off. It wasn't until some time later, when a daycare worker met us, that I willingly moved.
Even though I caused a great many headaches that day, I often look back to that story and almost revel. It's not because I think what I did was awesome but because I wonder what happened to that girl. How did I go from self-assured and almost indignant to meek and unwilling to stand up for myself?
Case in point: My most recent experience with physical therapy. When I went to my first visit, I shared that I was going to a new-to-me place that specialized in women's issues, e.g. pelvic floor strength, pregnancy. I was hopeful that going to such a place would not only be beneficial but speed along my recovery. I left cautiously optimistic that my case of piriformis syndrome could be treated and I would see consistent improvement from session to session.
But that optimism quickly faded after the second session. The hourlong appointment, which began nearly a half-hour late, was spent learning how to squat, pick up tables and carry shopping bags. Once I had adequately demonstrated proper form (on the first try), there was soft-tissue therapy for 10 minutes and I was left to stretch on my own. I limped out in more pain than I left.
No pain, no gain? Right? It's how I tried to reassure myself as I headed in for the next appointment, resolving to be positive. Again, the appointment was late and most of the session was spent learning to do every day tasks. This time, it was vacuuming – which I had told her that I don't do. Seriously, I don't. Feel free to nominate Mark for husband of the year.
I had another 10 minute soft tissue treatment, during which I listened to her talk about her dog escaping an invisible fence. It was boring but better than the previous session's conversation that was about a "difficult to please" patient. I contributed politely but the whole time I wondered about why I couldn't speak up and take ownership of the session. I was, after all, paying for the therapy and I deserved to get out of it what I needed. I didn't need to learn how to vacuum. I needed my butt to feel better so that I could walk and feel good and be a good mom. I didn't need her to tell me about dogs or patients; I needed her to advise me about additional solutions for my piriformis pain and how to cope until I found relief.
I walked out that day frustrated and limping, still. The pain stung with each step, and I resolved that I was not going back and I haven't. But I could not help but wonder: Where was that girl who could stand up and say no? Where was she when I needed to say, "I don't think what you are doing is right, and I deserve for it to be so"?
I know she is there, I do. I just need to learn how to find her, and I intend to spend the next six weeks doing so. As I embark on a VBAC, I will have to be my own advocate. I will have to be sure of myself and what I'm doing.
And though this post seems like a long-winded way of complaining about my PT experience, it's more of a plea – to myself and you. There are times when we know things are not the way they should be. It is up to you to demand better and, not only that, but to be prepared to do so.