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

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, particularly in labor. Think about how some of these attitudes depict fear and/or control and interfere with being more relaxed (in mind and body.)

Prepare or Plan

Accept or Expect

Consultative or Self-Reliant

Flexible or Rigid

Good or Perfect

Calm or Hurried

What you learn in labor is that when you accept the experience (of the uncertainty and even of the pain) and stop trying to change it, control it, or fight it, that you actually feel more safe and secure and less pain. It is a fascinating phenomenon and it is a lesson with significant application to all of your life.

The life lesson that you can not control other people, circumstances and outcomes is a critical one. It is amazing to me that it is one of the stand-out lessons of birth because it is also an important lesson for parents. You can influence your children, but you cannot really control them. Even from the womb they are trying to prepare you for this reality, right? The birthing experience intends to teach you this lesson and your baby and child will continue to reinforce it on a daily basis. You will enjoy the ride of parenting much more if you embrace the idea that you can influence your children, but not control them. In fact, it is my belief that you will enjoy life more – and that, until you get it, life will keep giving you opportunities to learn this lesson. Let your doula help you make peace with the uncertainty of birth… and let your birthing experience help you make peace with the uncertainty of life.

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