“What screws us up most in life is the picture in our head of how it’s supposed to be”- Socrates
In our mind we expect things to go how we imagine that they should. So, when things do not meet our EXPECTATIONS how do we feel? Disappointed? Frustrated? Upset? Enraged?
Let me give you a perfect example of how EXPECTATIONS can make a difficult situation even more difficult.
Let’s rewind to January 31st, 2016. I started to have contractions at about 1:00 am. I thought they were just Braxton Hicks, however, after three hours of dealing with these contractions as they went from six minutes apart to three minutes apart I realized it was the real deal. Wait a second, this is not what I EXPECTED! My due date was not until February 4th, 2016 and most first time moms go late, how can this be happening? I am not ready! This is really happening!
As my husband and I got to the hospital I was wheeled upstairs and greeted by a doctor. She stated that she was going to perform the normal reflex, blood pressure, general well being checks before checking to see if I was far enough along to be in labor. I EXPECTED that everything would be normal as I had a pretty uneventful pregnancy. However, I was wrong. When the doctor took my blood pressure my systolic number was well out of normal range, coming in at 160. What? That cannot be possible. I kept thinking it was not possible, I had a great pregnancy, I take care of myself, I have never had this before.
So what does all of this mean?
Well the doctors called it Preeclampsia and HELLP Syndrome (a variant of Preeclampsia). I did not EXPECT that. This meant additional medication, blurred vision, high blood pressure, headaches, and heartburn on top of labor.
So what did we do?
When I spoke about how I EXPECTED to labor and deliver I would say I wanted to wait until my water broke at home, go to the hospital continue to labor in the tub, and give birth naturally, without an epidural. Unfortunately this is not even close to what happened. In order to lower my blood pressure and have a safe birth for mother and baby it was recommended that I get an epidural. A what? An epidural, I did not want that. So what did I do? Despite it not being part of “the plan,” I got the epidural. Roughly seven hours after the epidural was administered I gave birth to this happy, healthy girl at 12:01. End of story? Not quite. My EXPECTATIONS continued to be shattered as I expected to go home after two nights in the hospital but needed to stay for three to get my platelets up. What a whirlwind.
But wait, let’s rewind back to “my birth plan” and look at the bright side. In my experience when people find out you are pregnant they ask four questions: boy or girl? do you have a name? when are you due? and do you have a birth plan? My answer to the birth plan question was not quite. What do I mean not quite? The best advice that I got as a pregnant woman was when you create a formal birth plan it never seems to go as planned, go in with an open mind because anything can happen and you do not want to be DISAPPOINTED! Yes, in my mind I wanted my birth to go according to “my plan” but with the preeclampsia and HELLP I was unable to do that. As they wheeled me around the hospital to the delivery room I let go of any attachments to “my birth plan,” entering the hospital with an open mind, knowing that no matter what happened I would be leaving with a beautiful, healthy baby girl.
The moral of the story is that expectations often lead to disappointment. The more we are disappointed the more that we become unhappy, stressed, and unmotivated. What can we do? We can manage our expectations. By managing our expectations we are able to have less disappointment and more happiness. How do we manage our expectations? We have to be aware of them and modify the expectation as needed. We need to understand why we have these expectations. Is it based on a belief or a past experience perhaps? Be aware of your needs and other ways that you can meet them even if the expectation is not met. If you are disappointed you must remember not to take it personally. Let’s use my birth story as an example, there was nothing I could do to change the situation, therefore it is unrealistic for me to take it personally because I couldn’t change the outcome. The most important thing we can do to manage expectations is to stay flexible and be okay with what is. Go with the flow, keep and open mind, and rid yourself of those pesky expectations!