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As a parent, it’s easy to second guess yourself. Particularly when you’re a first time mom or dad.
You get that nagging feeling that creeps up and you just can’t shake it. A feeling that’s something’s wrong, that you need to try a new approach, that you need to find help. At times it’s the softest whisper, so quiet you’re not sure if you even heard anything. Other times it’s so pervasive and loud that you can’t focus on anything else.
I usually just get the whisper. And perhaps because it’s so soft, I’ll reevaluate and tell myself I’m crazy. Paranoid. A helicopter parent.
Can you relate to any of this?
What’s a mom to do?
11 months into motherhood I can tell you that I have ZERO regrets about listening to those voices. No regrets about taking extra precautions. So what if I took my son to the doctor and they just said continue giving him Tylenol? So what if I skipped a friend’s party because my baby seemed off that day?
But I do have regrets about other things. I’m learning to give myself grace, but here are examples of my regrets:
- Not being more insistent that I thought something was wrong with my son early on.
- Not leaving a job sooner when I realized it was putting more strain on my family.
- Not changing pediatricians when I realized she wasn’t familiar with my son’s condition.
Here’s the thing: in each of these scenarios I knew what I needed to do. I knew something wasn’t “right.”
But I started overthinking it. Or valuing someone else’s opinion over my own.
I’m going to tell you something radical. You are the expert here. First time parent? I don’t care — YOU are the expert on your child.
Trust your intuition. Trust God. Whatever name you have for that tiny voice or gentle nudge inside yourself — trust it!
Need some proof? Here are some real life examples. I hope they help you to see just how strong a mother (or father’s) intuition can be, and empower you to listen to yourself.
1. “It’s like my son is allergic to my milk.” – Valerie’s thoughts 2 weeks in
I remember thinking to myself: I wonder if my milk is bad for my son. Like it’s poison or something.
I swatted that idea out of my mind because that’s ridiculous right? Why would a baby not respond well to breast milk — the most natural food source on the planet?
Three months into Ilyas’ life, sure enough, it was confirmed that he was intolerant to my milk (well, cow’s milk, soy, and other allergens, which were in my diet).
This diagnosis didn’t come easily. You can read more about the story of our MSPI diagnosis. But in a nutshell: I kept telling the doctors that my son was waking screaming every 15 minutes and I was worried he wasn’t getting enough rest. They seemed to think I was exaggerating and just responded with “breastfed babies don’t sleep as long.” It wasn’t until a nurse heard one of his post-feeding cries that they said, “this isn’t normal” and finally took me seriously.
2. “Ilyas still isn’t sleeping… something’s hurting him.” – Valerie’s thoughts months 4 and beyond
My friends and family know well that my son wakes up every single hour during the night. For a while, the first time we set him down at night, he would sleep three or four hours. One amazing night he even slept six. But over time, he’s starting sleeping less instead of more.
The doctor told me to put him in his crib and let him cry until he started sleeping at least eight hours straight. “Put headphones on” she said – so the cries wouldn’t persuade me to tend to him. But through the MSPI issues I’d learned the difference between an I-want-attention cry and an I’m-in-pain cry. So I ignored that advice.
Around this same time, Ilyas got his first ear infection. Then another. And another. At 10 months old he had 14 or 15 total. Only two since getting ear tubes.
Point is: he was in pain.
I wish I could say that now that the tubes are in, he’s started sleeping, but that’s not the case. I’m now struggling with the internal debate – is it a habit, or is something else wrong? Well, our doctors tend to think it’s a combination of both. But most doctors we’ve talked to want to address the habit piece first. And that kills me.
This is what’s prompted me to write this post. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve learned this lesson… I still struggle. I still have to remind myself to listen to my intuition.
And that brings me to my final example. Which isn’t from my personal experience, but my amazing friend Mackenzee. She reached out to me when she heard about our challenges and shared a story that inspired me to keep advocating for my son, and to keep trusting myself.
3. “Jude’s eye doesn’t look right to me.” – Mackenzee, hours after her baby boy was born
When Jude was in the hospital, I thought I saw something on his pupil. It didn’t look right to me. I mentioned it and the nurses looked at it and said, “I don’t see anything… I think it’s a glare.”
So, when you’re a new mom and you’re tired, you accept the nurse’s guidance and move on.
But two weeks into having him home, I just obsessively kept looking at his eye and thinking something was wrong. I couldn’t even point it out to anyone because no one could see it –- I was the only one who could see it.
Later, I took Jude to the pediatrician. By this point, I’d Googled the heck out of it. I shared that I thought he had an infant cataract on his eye. Our pediatrician could barely see it, but luckily they had a cataract on their own eye a baby, so the comment was taking more seriously. And then we got a referral to John’s Hopkins.
We went to Hopkins… and I was right – he has, and still has, a congenital cataract. It’s not a tumor. It’s not growing. It’s not impacting his eyesight currently. But, it’s something to watch out for because it could impact his eyesight eventually.
Even though nobody else could see it but me, I’m glad I kept pushing. God gives us mamas these intuitions that we’re supposed to listen to. If you think something’s not quite right, you should mama bear fight it all the way.
While Mackenzee and I hope you never have a health or safety concern for your child, we both encourage you to listen to yourself. Trust your gut. There’s something magical about motherhood that no science can explain. You have your own honorary doctorate.
You are, and always will be, the expert.
One thought on “Mother’s Intuition: Your Honorary Doctorate”
Amen! You spend more time with your baby than your health care team does. You know when something isn’t right, even if you need the healthcare professionals to diagnose and treat it. Trust yourself!–Signed, a grandma and professor of pediatric nursing