There are moments in life when your choices are taken from you. Sometimes it happens by force. Other times you unconsciously give your consent. And then there are the times when you lose your choices by failing to make any decision at all.
I believe that you always have more than one choice. But if you fail to make an optimal decision in one moment, it becomes even more vital to understand that you will continue to have options going forward. You may not be able to change what happened, but you can choose how to respond, and ultimately how to reconcile that event in your mind.
Lest you think I am saying this is easy, let me share with you one experience of my own that confirms the opposite. This was regarding the birth of my second child, via a very unwanted and feared cesarean section.
Now, in this case, the cesarean wasn’t physically forced upon me. I had an unfortunate situation that resulted in my feeling that I was backed into a corner, without any remaining options.
I can now say that wasn’t true. I did have choices, but they were all in a gray zone, none of them feeling clear or easy to make.
When I made the reluctant choice to have a cesarean birth, I did so out of fear and with a heavy heart full of guilt and frustration.
The events and emotions that followed this birth seemed to spiral out of control – all corroborating how powerless I felt in that situation. I slept through the first 6 hours of my baby’s life, and I felt pushed into making a quick decision about her name even though I had anticipated having a boy. I felt victimized by a cruel nurse who floated into my room at 2 am, who aired her vitriol opinions about my birth. Nursing was excruciatingly painful, so the physical torment continued.
I felt like a failure. I had worked so hard to control how I birthed my baby, and somehow I had lost that control. I failed my daughter. I failed myself.
Once I bought into the idea that I no longer had a choice in the matter, then I became a victim of circumstances. I lost my power. That loss of power resulted in postpartum depression and years of feeling guilt and anger about what happened to me.
It was four years later when I learned that I had new options for dealing with this past event. Five years later I was finally able to resolve the trauma of this birth and to see it in a brand new way.
When the emotional clouds had cleared, I could look back and see that the choices were always there – even when I didn’t know about them. In this situation I unknowingly wore blinders.
Would it have been different if I had been able to say “I am now choosing to have a cesarean birth because it seems like the best option for this moment and the one that will allow me to keep my supportive caregivers by my side?” I believe it would have made a positive difference.
Fertility, pregnancy, birth trauma, and choices
Birth trauma is not as much about what physically happened to you, as it is about feeling that your choices were taken from you. This is further compounded by people telling you “all that matters is a healthy baby.” This line of thinking and “supporting” new moms perpetuates bottled-up, unaddressed emotional trauma.
This concept also applies to women who are struggling with infertility. It is very traumatizing to feel that you have no control over such an important aspect of your life. Feeling unsupported and misunderstood in your pain creates feelings of shame and isolation, which further increases the emotional wounds.
If you are feeling cornered or that all your options are negative, you may not have a full picture of reality. At this time it is best to do whatever you can to bring your emotional load down.
When you find yourself in a state of fear or emotional upset, then you can pretty much guarantee a situation of tunnel vision. Tunnel vision isn’t the greatest tool for looking expansively at your options and making a balanced decision.
So when you find yourself in a situation where choices seem limited or non-existent, I encourage you to remember the following points:
You *always* have options
Sometimes those choices may be more actionable after dealing with an emergency event, but the sooner you can reclaim your sense of personal power, the better.
When you think you don’t have a choice, then ask yourself if there is a chance that you are holding yourself in a state of fear or victimhood. Ask yourself what other decisions you could make.
By exploring your options, you are actively expanding your brain’s ability to problem-solve. You are also more likely to have peace and a healthy acceptance of any outcome.
Sometimes you may be thrown into a situation with no good options. There are also no guarantees about what the outcome will be. The key is to keep moving forward and to start reclaiming your choices as soon as possible.
Get yourself into a balanced state
You probably can’t see all your options when you are at the height of emotional upset. Center yourself by slow deep breathing, self-hypnosis, meditation, tapping, energy balancing, or any other tool you are comfortable using.
When you are in a more balanced emotional state, you can make better decisions, and you are more likely to feel peace with the outcome.
Are you feeling pressure? Take a moment to determine who or what is making you feel pressured, and see if there are any measures you can take to put yourself back in the driver’s seat.
I can’t guarantee you will love the outcome. Nobody can. But I can tell you that taking this approach will give you the best possible opportunity to have peace with your experience, no matter how it goes.
The journey is important. But the real power isn’t about the physical details. The real power is in how a woman navigates the sometimes unpredictable nuances of fertility, pregnancy, and birth, and still manages to find herself whole at the end.
Name your many options
Consider as you can – the good, the bad, and the ugly! You can even invent unrealistic and impossible ideas, anything to get your mind thinking creatively.
One exercise you might find useful is to brain-dump all of your ideas into a notebook. When you do this, don’t hold back – write down everything! There are undoubtedly some self-destructive choices you can make, writing those down as well will give you more clarity about all your options and possible consequences.
The act of writing these ideas down does two main things:
- Provides fast relief. It gets much of your bottled up emotion about the situation out of your brain/body and onto paper.
- It expands your options – the more choices you see, the more they will continue to spring into your mind. Active brainstorming also helps you tap into the creative part of your mind, which instantly eliminates tunnel vision.
When you take a few minutes to write it all out, you might be surprised at how many options you have.
In some situations there may not be an optimal outcome – you may not like any of the choices laid out before you. In these situations, I would argue that it is even more essential to stop and cast a giant net in your mind, thinking of as many possible options as you can.
When you take ownership of your situation, entertaining all options, you get yourself out of victim-mode.
Practice, and have patience
The more you practice this skill of surveying your choices, the more it will become a part of your life, which will bring you a greater sense of peace.
You may have to frequently remind yourself that you have many choices, in any given situation.
It is well worth developing this skill, not only as a means of getting out of survival mode but as a way to think big in other areas of your life.
Not making a choice is a choice
When you don’t take action, you allow outside influences to take over. When you fail to choose, you just might lose.
Seek to heal past trauma
There are many pathways to healing, even if you don’t know about them now. Keep moving forward with an open heart, and trust that more options will be revealed to you if you are open to them.
Sometimes there are no simple answers. You can never guarantee outcomes. Sometimes trauma occurs regardless of your best efforts to make things right.
I help women pick up the pieces when things went wrong. I help them to reclaim their sense of personal power and to find value in their overall experience, especially when it didn’t go as planned.
I consider it vastly beautiful when ugly circumstances are reframed as beautiful stories of resilience and hope.
What about you? Have you been in a situation where you felt powerless? Have you been so overwhelmed or paralyzed by fear, that the choice was ultimately taken from you? Please share your thoughts or experiences in the comments below.