A couple of years ago, a student midwife tried to persuade me that choice in pregnancy meant being able to have a home birth. In my first blog Choice: Real or Myth, I reflected on how choice is a privilege afforded to women in the UK. Something that isn’t on offer for many others around the world.
But it doesn’t end there. As much as I am grateful for the options afforded me, my own life reflects the fact that sometimes choice is myth.
The thin veil of choice is sometimes used to get my ten-year-old to do things,
“You can either get your homework done now or do it instead of watching TV later – it’s your choice.”
Either way, he has to do his homework. He only has one way to go.
In pregnancy and birth choice is the gold standard.
The means and method of a baby’s birth is a woman’s right. All her preferences boil down into the coveted birth plan. Will she have a home birth, water birth, whale music or Ed Sheeran (not in person – just a recorded song or two)?
But when events beyond our control, often beyond anyone’s control, prevent us getting our desired outcome, we feel robbed and resentful. Believing we can choose a home birth, or a healthy baby, can leave us feeling betrayed when that isn’t how it turns out.
The choice myth fuels our sense of being deprived of what was rightfully ours.
Although I recognise that poor decisions contribute to the outcome of my son’s brain damage, the fact is – something went wrong. In the last day or so of my pregnancy, my son started getting sick. Whether it was picked up quickly or responded to efficiently, doesn’t change the fact that something bad happened first.
It was that natural, and still unknown, event that triggered a chain reaction of events. No-one chose whether my son would become destressed in the womb.
But is choice always a good thing?
Society asserts that choice is good. That having a choice brings happiness.
But can we really be trusted to make good choices?
Can people who are fundamentally self-centred, prone to fear, and with a default for ‘easy is best’, really be trusted to choose wisely?
If we could choose every outcome, what would we miss out on?
That two-year relationship that ended in disaster?
That sickness where our loved ones cared for us?
I know this is not the life I would have chosen. This is not my desired route. These are not the milestones I hoped would litter my journey. Given an option, I’m the lazy river sneaking through the valley finding the path of least resistance kind of person. But what would I have missed out on, if I had been given the choice?
This is hard and I like easy
I used to think choice was power and poverty defined as a lack of choice. But I’ve changed my mind.
Now I believe power comes from making good choices when we can and recognising the times when the idea of choice is a myth.
I’m more sure than ever, that living in a place where we recognise the choices given to us and the limitations of those choices, determines our happiness.