When I was pregnant, I was totally amazed by the unexpectedly overwhelming amount of decisions that I had to make. As a doula, I had prepped over a hundred families through the threshold of pregnancy and birth. But this was my first baby, so everything -- about pregnancy and parenting -- suddenly felt new to me, and being responsible for a little being, along with the choices that came with that responsibility, weighed heavily on me. So much so that towards the end of my pregnancy, I was experiencing something known as decision fatigue.
Decision fatigue is when a person who constantly has to make decisions ends up too mentally drained to make decisions. In other words, the more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one of them becomes for your brain, which ultimately looks for shortcuts by doing nothing or choosing impulsively. That explains the concept of “impulse items” at the checkout counter of a grocery store. Marketers know that after facing so many choices over the course of a shopping trip, shoppers will be overcome with decision fatigue, thus more likely to succumb to that candy bar at the checkout line.
In this day and age, this psychological condition is common among parents and parents-to-be. This isn’t surprising since we now have the resources and ability to “do our homework.” With the Wide World Web, information and education is much more readily available, which gives us the ability to scrutinize and weigh heavily on things like prenatal tests, pregnancy symptoms and discomforts, and what baby gear we should or should not get.
When you first found out you were pregnant, you probably never imagined how many decisions you’d have to make -- some of them rather quickly! Once the pregnancy test turns positive though, your parenting journey begins, and the decisions you make will dictate the proceeding steps.
Will you work with an OB or a midwife? Will you go for genetic testing or not? Should you limit sonograms or take a peek at your growing Mini Me at each visit? To co-sleep or to room-share? To breastfeed or to formula feed? What about the stroller? Should you opt for a running stroller, an umbrella stroller, a stroller that morphs into a double stroller (well, yes… You have to think long-term), or all of them? Let’s not forget the baby’s name… The decisions you and your partner need to make are endless. And then decision fatigue hits. Where you once researched each product or piece of baby gear with precision, you suddenly have a uniform response of, “whatever! Just get whatever!”
But mama, you are not alone! CEOs and even the President of the United States are familiar with the psychological condition and do things like wearing the same outfit every day to save their mental energy for more complex problems. While decision making during pregnancy is unavoidable (you are getting ready to welcome a new person into the world after all), we’ve put together some tips and strategies to help you through.
- Be easy on yourself. Remember the term “pregnancy brain”? Well, we are learning that it’s actually a real thing. During pregnancy a mother’s brain does adjust and change to prepare for the needs and demands of the newborn. So if you’re feeling forgetful, slow down and give yourself some time to think things through.
- Enlist the help of your friends. If you find yourself scrolling online stores and blogs trying to figure out what baby gear to purchase, ask your friends (if they’re parents!) for recommendations on what you absolutely need to buy. Figure out what items they really, really like. An online tool called weeSpring can help as well.
- Don’t try to do it all before baby is born. When it’s all said and done, what babies really need is a safe, loving home with attentive parents. You’ll need clothes, diapers, regular access to the breast if you’re breastfeeding -- formula/bottles if you’re formula feeding -- and a safe place to set the baby down. In Finland, parents use boxes to keep their babies safe while they sleep, so if you don’t have a crib yet, please don’t fret! You’ll have time to buy a lot of what you need once baby is earth side.
Jennifer Mayer has had the pleasure of attending births as a doula for the past 10 years. She came to birth work through her role as a prenatal massage therapist, while living in Boulder, Colorado. Jennifer loves supporting families through pregnancy, birth and beyond with education and compassionate support, to welcome their babies in a way that feels good for them. She recently gave birth to a beautiful boy, and the experience has deepened her work with families that much more. Find her at Baby Caravan.