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Life Lessons from Birth - You're Not in Control of the Outcome

December 15, 2016


You cannot control your labor. There are a million variables outside of your control. There is constant uncertainty. Your body and baby are in control and you are along for the ride. This reality strikes utter fear into some of us. For me, the realization of total lack of control was more scary than the threat of intense pain – and that’s saying something! :) 


But here’s the thing: It’s not just your labor that you can’t control. You can’t control today either. You cannot control all the million variables that will alter, in micro nano moments, the trajectory of your day. There is always constant uncertainty. This is not unique to labor. You get in your car and head out… you think you are in control? Nah. You have an influence, but there are SO MANY things going on that are outside of your control that the ultimate outcome of your journey is really not something you can empirically control. You try to make good decisions, but your good decisions are not the sole factors that control the outcomes of your car ride. Things will happen that are outside of your control. Why doesn’t this strike fear into our hearts? There are probably a lot of reasons, but here are a few possibilities that I thought of:


1.     We know it is true, but we don’t think about it. We kind of numb out and disassociate from the reality. If we think about it, it’s too scary, so we block it out. Or we might get in the back seat and let someone else drive. How did I get here?


2.     We simply deny the reality of uncertainty and risk around every corner. Nothing bad will happen to me… until it does and then we are traumatized. How did this happen?


3.     We sort of think we do have control. So, we get really hyper vigilant about whatever little details we can control and we delude ourselves into thinking that by managing as many details as we can, we can somehow secure the outcome we want. We are gripping the steering wheel really tight. I’m doing everything “right,” why am I so stressed?


4.     We accept that uncertainty is always with us. Red lights, mechanical issues, unforeseen delays, other drivers, and accidents happen. We prepare for our journey, allow buffer for surprises, and make the best choices we can moment to moment. We can relax because we realize we can’t control. I’m free to just enjoy the ride.


This isn’t a perfect analogy, obviously, however as your doula, I will encourage you to give some thought to how you drive. How do you manage uncertainty, in general? How comfortable are you with the idea that you can’t control the outcomes?


It’s really important to clarify here that not controlling the outcome does not mean you don’t try to influence it. In fact, as your doula, I will encourage you to influence your labor experience. There are absolutely things you can do that will affect your experience (of the car ride or the labor) and we will discuss these in our prenatal meetings.


While you can’t control the outcomes, you can control your approach and your response to whatever is going on in your life. Your chosen state of mind will have a tremendous affect on your experience. As your doula, I will support you in fostering a relaxed mind and body, but ultimately only you can control your mind. So, what role do you think fear plays in all of this? I think it is at the root of most efforts to control. It drives us to hold too tight, push too hard, obsess, or over-think – and it’s really counterproductive, parti