The Parallels Between Childbirth And Investing

To those of you who aren’t familiar with my 2018 goals, one of them is to have a baby. The good news was that Mrs. WB40 walked into 2018 three-month pregnant. To those of you who are regular readers of my blog, I’m pleased to announce that WB40 Junior was born at the start of June. Both the baby and the mummy are alive and kicking.

The birth process felt surreal. It was an uncharacteristically long labor followed by complications which resultant in an emergency caesarian. Equally, thanks to modern-day medicine, both the mother and the baby emerged safely and are both alive and well.

Looking back at the process, there were some important lessons I have learned that can equally be transferable to other parts of our lives such as investing.

1. Knowledge is power

A few months before the birth date, we attended a series of antenatal classes organized by the National Childbirth Trust (NCT), which aimed to promote greater birth awareness and provides a support network for parents. We went through the entire birth process in painstaking details as well as the various birthing options available to us.

It turned out that medicine and investing share 2 key similarities:

  • Information asymmetry: most of us are not equipped with the knowledge to make medical or investment decisions and have to rely on qualified experts.
  • Probabilistic outcome: there is uncertainty involved in both domains and any outcome only represents a probability on a spectrum of possible outcomes.

What this means is that as a receiver of medical / investment services, the more knowledge you possess about the mechanism and potential outcomes of each procedure, the better you are equipped to assess the suitability of the procedure.

We had initially opted for a natural water birth. However, it soon became apparent that there was meconium present and a prolonged labor would have increased the possibility of fetal distress. Since our education with NCT had taught us the meaning of these various terms and the options available to us, we felt empowered in making the choice to switch from water birth to induction. Had we not had such knowledge, it would have been a very stressful time for us.

2. Murphy’s Law still applies

Murphy’s Law is my favorite pseudo principles of nature. It states that things that can go wrong will go wrong.

I’m not actually convinced at the empirical basis behind this so-called law but I do support its sentiment, namely to prepare for all eventualities. This also means to plan for as many eventualities as possible.

We walked into our birth with the intention of giving as natural a birth as possible. However, it soon became apparent that it simply wasn’t possible. Fortunately, we had laid out our desired next steps clearly on our birth plan and the doctors followed our wishes.

In the investing world, it is easy to get swept away with the potential upsides whilst paying scant attention to the downside. The question that I always ask myself these days before investing a dime is:

What happens if I lost all the capital in this investment?

The old saying of “only invest what you can afford to lose” remains the golden rule here. Furthermore having a well-thought market crash plan to prepare yourself psychologically is equally beneficial as it will stop your heart from prevailing over your head.

3. Take multiple views into account and stay humble

This is actually where we could have done better during the birth. We were so psychologically fixated on giving as natural a birth as possible that we didn’t want to consider any alternatives. This was down to 2 reasons:

  • We both thought that natural delivery was good and artificial intervention bad.
  • The antenatal classes organized by the NCT was geared towards promoting natural birth.

These factors narrowed our vision and led us down the path of prolonging the delivery process unnecessarily, which contributed to the emergency c-section and some other complications.

In the hindsight (which is always 20:20), we should have looked at the factual evidence more closely beforehand (where 27% of childbirths in the U.K. were caesarian) and accepted the rather high probability of the birth not going to plan (only 10% of all babies were delivered via natural means without medical intervention). We should have read more scientific literature and understood the wide range of possible outcomes during childbirth. Instead, we took the slightly biased view offered by the NTC for granted without doing our own due diligence.

In the investing world, simply reading and absorbing knowledge isn’t sufficient. To achieve the best outcome, one must read information from a variety of sources and digest according to synthesize one’s own take on the issue. The ability to think critically and ask five consecutive whys will serve you well in your investment career.

4. Money is a powerful tool and can make most problems go away

Some people think that money can solve all of their problems. I’m inclined to disagree. Here’s a list of issues that could not have been solved during the childbirth by throwing money at them:

  • Money could not have dictated whether Mrs WB40 had a natural birth or not;
  • Money could not influenced the length of the labour or the amount of pain she had to experience;
  • Money could not have determined whether the foetus was in distress or not.

Having said that, if I could have a time machine and dial back in time then I would have happily spent the £15,000 for her to deliver at a private hospital (instead of the National Health Service one where medical care is provided free of charge).

Had we gone down the private route, the outcome might have been the same however our patient experience would have been significantly better because:

  • We would have paid for a dedicated consultant to provide holistic care from the start of the pregnancy until postnatal;
  • We would have been able to detect fetal distress before it had occurred through more frequent scanning and opted for a planned caesarian
  • We would have been able to recover in a private postnatal ward where the environment was more private and pleasant, rather than a communal one;

All of the above could be obtained using $$$, which is a powerful tool as it give us options in life.

In the investment world, money is equally a critical tool that would enable you to create more with, which in turn gives you options to pursue your interest. Money in itself has no value, cognitive ability or preference, however, your ability to deploy it effectively could make the difference between ending up with more or less than before.

Wrap up

Welcoming WB40 Junior into this world has been a genuinely humbling experience. It made me realize that we as a couple, despite the modest success we have accomplished so far compared to our peers, still has much to learn from life. It is therefore vital for us to continue being humble and be lifelong learners.

How did you feel when you were in labour (or witnessed one)? What went through your mind? I’d love to hear them. Please comment away.