Decision making is exhausting. One of the biggest challenges new parents face is that there are so. many. choices. In pregnancy. In childbirth. In parenting. It seems like there’s always something to decide. And in this age of constant and abundant internet contact, there’s always someone to tell you that your choice is wrong.
Decision fatigue is real.
Decision Fatigue is the psychological phenomena discovered by Roy F. Baumeister that explains the decline in quality of decisions made by a person when there are too many options and too many decisions to be made. Do you ever go to the grocery store and choose really great whole food meal after great whole food meal only to grab a pack of donuts on your way out? It’s not a lack of will-power (which I imagine you will tell yourself is the case). Your brain is actually not capable of making more than a certain number of decisions a day and every little thing contributes to this quota. The problem is there is rarely a time in your life where you will be required to make so many decisions in a short period of time as when you become a parent.
No one is ever a better parent than before they have children.
“I won’t need an epidural!” “My baby will never have formula!” “My kid will never act like THAT in a store!” Ah, the best-laid plans. While some (very small number of unicorn) people will achieve ALL of their goals, the reality is life happens. And life is messy. If these goals are particularly important to you, some amount (or a huge amount) of guilt may accompany “failing” to meet them. The reality is, though, that you didn’t fail. You adjusted to YOUR child and YOUR reality, which is what parenting is really about.
What if we accepted that we don’t have to make every decision ahead of time?
There’s nothing wrong with goals, hopes, and plans. However, the more flexibility you allow yourself, the better your adjustment will be if things deviate from “the plan”. Not sure how you will feel in labor? It’s okay to say “I will let in-labor-me make decisions about pain management”. It’s okay to say “I will choose the sleeping arrangements that work best for MY baby and MY family when the time comes”. You don’t have to make every decision ahead of time, and you’re certainly entitled to change your mind. Most of all, you certainly don’t have to justify the choices you do make to anyone (I’m looking at you sanctimonious Facebook mom group posters).
If you need someone who will support the decisions you make for your body, your family, and your baby, a doula will do that! Unconditional, unbiased support. Every time.