You Were Given Maternal Instincts for a Reason

I’ve recently read a lot of articles and blogs that talk brutally honest about “things they don’t tell you about being a new mom” – all of them accurate, informative, and things I can easily relate to. Things new moms should definitely know. Things like…

  • Despite your urges to try and clean or get things done, sleep when the baby is sleeping and don’t feel guilty for one single second.
  • You’ll find yourself scarfing down your food faster than you knew humanly possible.
  • Your boobs will be out. All. The. Time. And your stomach will frequently be sticky from the breast milk that Will. Not. Stop. Its very National Geographic.
  • You are in survival mode at first. You’re learning and your baby is learning too. Be patient. And if all you get done every day is feed yourself, feed your baby, and take naps on the couch together – so be it.
  • Your heart is now permanently worn on your sleeve. Everything will make you emotional. Seriously, everything.

The list goes on and on. One thing I didn’t see a lot about, however, was the maternal instincts that we as moms are blessed with. The “I can’t explain in words – I can’t tell you how or why I know – I know it defies all logic – I know I’m new at this but I just know” instincts. You have them, you’ve probably already heard them, and when you do – trust them. Yes, you’re a first time mom. Yes, you still have a lot to learn (that learning never ends). And yes, there are no shortage of “experts” who will tell you what you should or shouldn’t be doing. Be it doctors, nurses, lactation consultants, your parents, or a plethora of strangers who take it upon themselves to tell you what they think. Don’t get me wrong, many of those people will be incredibly knowledgeable and will give great insight and advice to soak in. But if that voice in your gut and in your heart ever tells you different, listen.

Women have been having children for thousands of years. They didn’t always have the consultants, doctors, and self-help baby books to read – and yet somehow, they managed. Obviously the quality of life and life expectancy of our children has increased dramatically since then, but the point is that being a mother and knowing what to do is an innate gift that we are given for a reason. We know ourselves, we know our baby, and we know what’s best if we trust ourselves.

This lesson has been tough for me. I’m a text-book first born child. I’m a little neurotic, I hate doing something “wrong”, I want to please everyone, and any confrontation scares the living shit out of me. This type of personality coupled with wanting to “be doing this mom thing right” per others’ standards all the time has been challenging. The first time a stranger stopped me to tell me I shouldn’t be out running with my daughter because it was too warm out (despite the fan on her face, shade over her whole body, it being only a 15 minute outing, and the laughs and smiles on her face) – I stressed over it for days and I was genuinely scared to take her back out on warm sunny days although I knew she was fine. (Don’t worry, I don’t let this stuff bother me anymore).

Then when Tayler was 5 months, we had two days that taught me my lesson for good. The two days that taught me to trust myself. Nothing major, but significant in my motherhood journey nonetheless. We had finished sleep training Tayler about a month earlier, and for a few weeks she had been sleeping 7:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. consistently. At this point she already had two teeth, and when those first teeth were coming in she was up every single hour for three nights straight. Her gums looked a little swollen, and you could visibly see the teeth about to cut through. She was a gnawing, drooling mess. Then randomly one night a month later Tayler started to act a little differently. She was a tad bit needier than usual, didn’t go down at bedtime the same, and was up twice that night. She wasn’t running a fever, she hadn’t just gotten shots, there were none of her normal signs of any new teeth, and her eating was completely normal. Everything checked out. My husband chalked it up to her just being fussy, and we should let her work it out herself. All the signs pointed to him being right, and despite feeling sick over it, I agreed. The second night was the same song and dance. She was up twice again out of nowhere and while my gut was telling me she needed me, I let it go and let her work it out herself for the sake of consistent sleep training. I barely slept that night, and when she started fussing to get up around 5 a.m. I couldn’t go get her soon enough. We went downstairs for breakfast, and as soon as I brought out the goods – there it was. A new tooth. For the past two days she was working on cutting that tooth with none of the same signs as her first two teeth, and because I didn’t listen to my screaming instincts, she was uncomfortable with a mother who wouldn’t show up to help her. I still get upset about it, and it pains me greatly to admit it.

Motherhood is jam packed with tough decisions daily. There’s always more than one perspective and viewpoint on every single issue. Sometimes you make decisions on blind faith, and sometimes its simple trial and error at its best. If I have any advice for new moms, however, it is to learn to trust yourself right from the get-go. You’ve known your baby long before the two of you met face to face, and whether you’re a first time mom or a fourth time mom, you know more than you think you do. Listen to those maternal instincts that you were given for a reason.

To illustrate the point that this is something all moms deal with, I want to share just a few stories from some of the incredible first time moms in my momtourage. Some of their “instincts” stories were much more significant than my own.

  • A mom was home with her brand new 5 day old, and her baby became increasingly fussy very quickly. For two days, her baby boy was screaming non-stop. The doctor’s office chalked it up to him just being a baby, and some babies cry. Mom knew something was wrong, and demanded an appointment. The next day after meeting with the lactation consultant and observing her nursing, they found that for two days her son hadn’t gotten any food. While he appeared to be nursing every few hours, he wasn’t getting anything and was essentially starving. Way to go momma – you knew better.
  • Another mom was in the same boat as above. Screaming and crying that she thought was atypical for a newborn, especially around times he was eating. Like the mom above, she fought for what she knew in her gut. After calling her pediatrician several times a week and continually being brushed off, she finally brought in a soiled diaper. Sure enough, he was allergic to his formula. Way to go momma – you knew better.
  • One of our moms had a newborn that was continually losing weight in the hospital and despite the advice from the lactation consultants, he wasn’t nursing well. In her gut she felt he needed a different schedule, but listened to the consultants in the hospital nonetheless. Once home, she let him nurse on demand at the schedule he wanted, and sure enough – he began gaining weight and nursing beautifully. Way to go momma – you knew better.

I want to be clear that I’m not advocating going rogue on your motherhood journey – the experts are experts for a reason. But when that beautiful gift of an inner voice speaks up, don’t silence it – listen. You were given maternal instincts for a reason.

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