Ignorance is bliss but so is confidence in the face of the unknown. A summary of my philosophy.
I probably wigged more about our nursery remodel than Jonah’s birth. The latter just never seemed like something about which to worry, in part because much of it was beyond my control and in part because we’d done what we could do to put the odds of success in our favor. Now I find worrying about things I can’t control to be utter waste of time and consciously avoid that behavior. I mean, I’m busy enough concentrating on those things over which I have a smidgen of influence; if I go beyond that, I’ll run out of time completely.
Still, I understand that a good many people are freaked by the pregancy/birth thing. Starting with conception itself, negative questions seem to pop up: “What if you can’t get pregnant?” or “What if you have a miscarriage?” for example. (When I say “you” I obviously mean Erin. I’m an unlikely candidate to have a bun in the oven.) I confess to never having given these much thought, because the answer was either going to be “We’re going to keep trying until we succeed” or “We’re going to adopt.” Life’s going to go however it’s going to go, and while a person can put the odds in his or her favorÂ—and I’m all about playing the odds by the wayÂ—once you’ve done that, all you can do is let it happen. Further worry is not only unnecessary, it’s potentially harmful. Show me somebody who worries a lot about situations beyond their control, and I’ll show you a person who’s deeply unhappy.
As a pregnancy progresses many parents to be begin dwelling on the possibility of birth defects. Erin ate nutritiously, took folic acid tablets, and continued her physical exercise regiment. She did her bit. The kid was going to be how the kid was going to be. Although we certainly hoped for a healthy baby (and apparently got our wishÂ—though sometimes conditions and symptoms don’t manifest themselves immediately), I never lost sleep over this. Again, I think it would have been pointless at best and counterproductive at worst.
As birth nears, many expectant parents start dwelling on the potential complications. Although US maternal death rates from pregnancy are around 1 in 10,000Â—and that includes moms giving birth out in some backwoods shack far from decent medical careÂ—this is upsetting to some. I don’t know why particularly, since the chances are so overwhelmingly in favor of everything working out fine during childbirth. I never felt any fear about Jonah’s birth, even when Erin was struggling with the agony of the contractions. I figured that every one of us came into the world this way, and that’s billions of similar experiences, pain and all. Odds were goodÂ—have I mentioned odds?Â—that we’d do fine too.
Of course I’ve meditated on the notion of fear a great deal over the course of the years. I understand it’s a prime mover for many if not most people (though I can’t think of a sadder way to live). Here’s what I know to be true in my experience: There are two ways to successfully combat fear, and I don’t mean drugs and denial. I mean action and love.
Taking action means doing what you are afraid of doing. Many times the anticipation of mental or physical pain is much greater than the actual discomfort. Facing ones fears head on, in a proactive fashion, helps us define precisely what it is that threatens us and, more often than not, eliminates it as a source of worry in the future. Since most of our day-to-day fears are unfounded, in those cases where we have legitimate reason to be afraid (and I find those to be few) appropriate action helps us remove any temptation toward the very detrimental “victim” mentality and move us toward finding solutions. There’s a reason that the first of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is “Be Proactive.”
The second antidote to fear is love. When love is all you hold in your heart, there is no room for fear because they interact like water and fire. I look back on the miraculous day that Jonah was born, and I know that the reason I went through the experience utterly unafraid is that I felt nothing but love. In such an environment, fear can find no purchase. Cultivating an attitude of love (and gratitude, for what it’s worth) is something I’ve worked at for a long time, and I would tell you two things: (1) Anyone can do it, and (2) I’m not remotely done working at it.