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  • dionerousseau

How People Pleasing Negatively Impacted My Pregnancy, Birth and Postpartum Experiences

Updated: Mar 1

People pleasing is something that, before I started my inner work, wasn’t even a thought but just what I had to do. It was a way for me to fit in, to feel safe, to help others feel safe, to be accepted, to be liked, to be okay, to help others feel okay. And this was ingrained into the way I do things. It’s what I saw in my family, just what “we” as a family did. Part of my identity leaned on the fact that I’m easy going and I’m going to be an easy person for you to be around. This seemed to work for me until I realized that I was hurting myself in order to be an easy person for others.


Then I became a mom…


Nothing has been more confronting to my people pleasing tendencies than becoming a mother. All the decisions that need to be made during pregnancy; how others want to be involved in your sacred experience, how your ideas differ from what others want of you, this being the single biggest event in your life and the vulnerability that comes with that.


My pregnancy and the mothering role and the challenges that come with that was nothing compared to what I was dealing with with the external world and my perceived pressures from the external world. For example, finding out our attempts at getting pregnant succeeded - wanting to share this special news; do I have to feel bad for telling my parents before my partner's parents? Next, should I make an announcement over facebook like others do? Already, I’m feeling hypothetical pressures and expectations on me to conform and give, even if I don’t feel like it or if it doesn't feel authentic. So right away, I felt like I was actively rebelling against giving in to these unspoken pressures of what is expected of me.


In my prenatal appointments and making decisions for my pregnancy and birth, while enveloped in my people pleasing tendencies, this is what I was dealing with:

Not asking all the questions I have out of fear of being annoying or seeming controlling (imagine, wanting control over my own body and baby!)

Fear of being perceived as difficult

Fear of saying no to the interventions that I didn't want to have

Fear of voicing my concerns

Fear of asking for what I want and don't want

Not taking full ownership of my body and my baby so to let care providers feel purposeful


I did Birth Doula training when I was about 22 which caused me to fall in love with the process of pregnancy and birth. I have been completely fascinated by the process ever since and it gave me a beautiful, empowering view of birth, rather than the fear based, risky outlook of birth many people have (i.e. medicalized view of birth). And so I did go into my pregnancy and birth feeling like I knew *a few* things but of course, I yielded to the midwives and health professionals and threw my hands up multiple times in order to “trust the professionals” as they are the ones who are medically trained and thinking that they must know better than me. I found out later that my instincts were correct many of the times where I was brushed off and disregarded my own inner knowing due to this dynamic and my people pleasing.


I gave birth to my son at the hospital with the epidural and vacuum extraction. Grateful to have my healthy baby but feel deeply saddened that, because of my people pleasing tendencies, I was not able to give birth to my son in an empowering way. Now when I reflect, I realize an empowering birth where I was in control of my body and my baby was totally possible for me. If only I was better able to advocate for myself or had an advocate present who was on the same page as me.


How people pleasing negatively impacted my experiences with others postpartum:

Fear of saying no to hold the baby

Fear of setting boundaries

Fear of asking for help around the house without feeling obligated to let them be with baby in return

Fear of having rules of do's and donts with/around baby

Feeling obligated to let those who want to be involved do so in a way that made me feel uncomfortable


Postpartum was a very emotional and sensitive time for me (as it is for all mothers). A huge thing I was feeling a sadness that some others were not honouring the sacredness of bringing new life into the world and having our new little family started. Some things happened where I had to set boundaries with some people and this felt like the most necessary but also the hardest thing I’ve ever had to work through.


I had a huge polarization going on inside of me: the parts of me that want all of my relationships to be easy, for everyone to be happy, to be liked versus the parts of me that needed this sacred time of mine and my partners to be respected, to drink in every moment with my newborn son and learn to be new parents. When someone entered my space and needed something from me, my go-to reaction was to give in and let them do what they want despite what I needed. Then conversely, I felt anger towards them thinking “this is not the time for you to need things from us and I need to make this boundary clear.”


What ended up happening was a mix of both people pleasing and asserting myself to set necessary boundaries so that I could feel safer. This push and pull was exhausting.


During this postpartum time, I noticed my challenges: wanting to speak up versus being so afraid of conflict and ‘fawning’ to please them. What I ended up doing was, for the time of being in the presence of those I needed to set boundaries with, I dealt with it as well as I could. I realized what was so difficult about the relationship and how my people pleasing comes into play.


I waited until they were no longer in my space and set boundaries in a way that I felt safest - over text. I texted them letting them know that I personally needed to tell this to them by text rather than in person so that I could say everything I needed to without forgetting and without “fawning” into my people pleasing tendencies again - because by this point it was clear that my people pleasing was hurting me, impeding my ability to be authentic and it was unnecessarily tainting my special postpartum experience.


Before being able to bring myself to set the boundaries and begin to feel empowered and more safe, this is what the results of my people pleasing had me feeling like:

Angry at myself for letting things happen to myself and my baby that I'm not okay with

Violated

Angry and resentful of others

Grief of the type of experience I imagined/hoped I'd have


Sitting with these feelings felt awful. This is not what I imagined for myself, and never what I had thought I would be dealing with in my postpartum experience. It was a hugely difficult time for me. I was thinking that the challenges that come naturally with being a new mother: sleep deprivation, cluster feeding, no time to look after myself, breastfeeding challenges, hardly any time to eat or drink, making it to appointments, etc., are all challenges I was 100% down for. Not easy but I was all in for those and can roll with the punches pretty darn well as I’ve never wanted anything more than being a momma. Any challenges that come with being my baby’s mom, bring it on, I’m all here for it. Although those things aren’t easy, they were an absolute piece of cake when compared to what I was dealing with in some of our relationships outside of that.


I had never felt such stress in my life. Dealing with this polarity inside of me: needing to set these boundaries but being hated for that.


My people pleasing was not used to not being liked. My people pleasing is very good at mending and making sure all is okay. But when all is not okay, other parts of me need to kick in and I realize now more than ever how important these other parts of me are and I’m so grateful for them.


I have also realized now more than ever, how much deep inner learning is presented to us during our pregnancy, birth and postpartum. As Jane Hardwicke Collings says, “not a curse, but an opportunity for healing” - My strong people pleasing tendencies is not a curse, but an opportunity to heal.


So many of these opportunities come up in our lives and they’re painful and it’s way more appealing to avoid them. But when it comes to pregnancy, birth and postpartum it can often show up as much louder and present itself in a way that cannot be ingored. I realized that the absolute best thing that I can do for my baby is to heal. If I continued to let my people pleasing take over, I wouldn’t be serving my child or our family. For me, beginning the journey to heal this part of me was a need.


The work I'm doing to ensure things will be different next time (and the work that you can do on your unique path too):

Weekly (or regular) therapy, getting to know how my people pleasing role came to be, learning what it's protecting me from feeling. Understanding my people pleasing behaviour, becoming aware of what it fears would happen if it didn't try to please others. Giving this part of me what it really needs - my presence with it, my understanding, my gratitude for how it has helped me in the past, really seeing it, to know I care, to re-experience some things to have the felt sense that it's safe to do what works for me even if it doesn't work for others and to be accepted and loved (by me) anyway.


Reparenting the part of me that’s afraid - doing for myself what I do for my son. Self acceptance and no longer changing myself to make others feel better. Understanding that others (no matter if they’re your professional health care or family) will project their own unhealed stuff onto you. How to work with my own feelings that come up when being projected on and how to stay grounded in knowing that this isn’t your problem.


Communication with partner, counsellor and mom friends as an outlet of co-regulation, processing, validation and community.


Doing this work in my personal counselling sessions has been a process. A challenge that I’ve been warming up to the idea of is: being okay with not being liked. Anyone that I set boundaries with who, in turn, no longer likes me, that has to be okay. Just because someone is upset with my boundaries for myself/my child/my family, doesn’t mean that I take away the boundaries. It means that the boundaries stay and if I am not liked because of that then I accept that. If it means things will be awkward with who I set boundaries with moving forward, I can sit in the comfort of my authenticity and in the comfort that these boundaries give to my inner child (what she has always needed), as well as, the sense of safety that these boundaries bring to my child and our family.


People pleasing, boundary setting (asserting myself) and communication has been one of my biggest lessons of this pregnancy, birth and postpartum. I deeply believe that each pregnancy and birth experience bring with them new lessons for us to learn.


“There is no growth in the comfort zone and there is no comfort in the growth zone” - Jane Hardwicke Collings.


My wish for you is that you find a safe person to talk to/process things with and a supportive community who lifts you up, respects your boundaries and who you feel empowered with so that you can have an empowering pregnancy, birth and postpartum experience.



Here are a few resources that have helped me immensely along the way (aside from my weekly counselling sessions as client):


Rachel Reed - Reclaiming Birth as A Rite of Passage (e-course)


Jane Harwicke Collings - Pregnancy: The Inner Journey (e-course)


Jane Hardwicke Collings - Healing From A Previous Traumatic Birth (e-course)



My instagram: @dionerousseau


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