Feverish, flushed face, crying inconsolably, and refusing his sippy cup, I called my mother in tears, unsure of what to do. I was filled with panic and wanted to run to any ER and hand over my baby like “please fix him.” My oldest son, Harrison, had been sick before, but nagging instincts kept telling me this was different. After going through all of the typical symptoms associated with a common cold or the recurring ear infections we’d been having, my mother, living over two thousand miles away, calmly said: “sweetie, I wish I could be there and coach you through this in-person.”
“As scary as it feels, you’re going to have to learn to trust your gut and go with your first instincts.”
At the time, I honestly was stunned maybe even a little slighted, but now I know that this was the only way for me to gain my ‘mom’ wings and truly fly. It gave me the confidence to press forward and rely on my own instincts as a first tier of care.
After what felt like days on end of extreme exhaustion, frequent thirst, and most concerning, disorientation, that nagging feeling returned. Coupled with concerns from Harrison’s daycare teacher, I knew I needed answers. This moment was a turning point for me to gain control, learn to monitor my emotions, and make some quick decisions to see my child through this challenging time.
As a first time mother, this felt daunting; How would I know if he was truly sick? What if I was wrong? What if I missed something? I had pressed before, but not like this.
Cultivating my maternal instincts felt so overwhelming. Here I was balancing the very real and deep needs of a sick kiddo staring me in the face, countering that bubbling feeling while ensuring I was rationally advocating for my child.
Bewildered and unsettled, I sat in our pediatrician’s exam room, rattling off what I thought were random (but now I know connected) symptoms. After a rush of tests and an agonizing trip to the hospital, we would find out that Harrison had Type 1 Diabetes—an autoimmune disorder where his pancreas no longer produces insulin. I was drained and exhausted, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of how lucky we had been.
Of course, my situation is a drastic example and is not the norm, but I truly believe that trusting that ‘mom intuition’ helped us find answers sooner. And although it took practice and trust, it taught me to lean into it, that tingling sensation, from there moving forward. I’ve learned not to dismiss that intuition whether medical, developmental, educational, etc. and lean in due to the following feelings:
“My instincts tell me something just isn’t right…”
That gut-wrenching feeling that’s telling you something is off can be overpowering. Sometimes this feeling presents itself as anxiousness, a sense of being impatient or in essence nagging. Take a deep breath, collect your thoughts, explore why you’re feeling the way you are. What’s the context or your experience with these feelings?
“I need to share this!”
You know your child. A mother’s love provides you that intimate relationship with your child, knowing their moods and demeanor, especially when you see dramatic shifts. Track trends and write down any concerns with your child, therefore, giving you a historical reference to issues. Any data you have, the more well-versed you are to speak to the provider (medical or educational) in your life. Often they’re leaning on you for guidance and insight into the changes you’ve seen in your child.
“Why yes, I do have questions!”
Be active and present in your child’s care. Along the same lines of writing it out, share your honest thoughts about the plan. Don’t hide your concerns or worries. Revisit that nagging feeling of intuition and share it. Don’t let up until you feel heard and supported.
“I need help!”
I like to call this my ‘gut check”. A level of self-awareness to reach out to others and compare your current concern with what they may have experienced. Maybe it’s your mother, a trusted professional, or another experienced mother/parent, but a mental check-in to validate or officially dismiss your concerns.
“Sorry, not sorry.”
Sometimes you press, and the end result is nothing or not what you expected–and know that’s okay. You’re not silly, and your concern is not trivial. The growth in my maternal intuition now gives me the confidence to not be afraid to be wrong. I also make no apologies about it. I know that feelings derived from my gut instincts are not about being confrontational, but involved and informed in the care of my child.
“I’m here and open!”
Regardless of the results, be prepared, ready to comfort your child, and equipped to collaborate with your child’s care team. This sounds easier than it is. Honestly, I would be belittling this feeling without thinking about the strides parents take to arrive here. It looks different for everyone, but eventually, when you get to this place, its a moment of selflessness for the advocacy for your child.