When Charlotte was born, I was amazed at how instinctual her behavior was. Before she came along, I worried about how I would teach her things. How will I teach her to eat? How will she know what to do? I thought about it all the time. I was reassured by people that she would just know what to do, but I didn’t really believe them- it seemed impossible to me. And yet, that is exactly what happened. Okay, sure, there were a few bumps in the road with breastfeeding at the start, but her instincts (and mine) took over, and we figured out how to make it work together. I was constantly in awe of how this little baby somehow just knew that we were her parents and she trusted us to take care of her. All the things I had worried about teaching her- eating, crawling, walking, talking, and even toilet training- happened much more naturally that I had thought possible. It became crystal clear to me that human beings are born with instincts on how to survive and grow.

What happens to those instincts as we get older? My instincts are still present, but I now possess the ability to doubt myself, and I constantly silence my instincts. At home, at work, everywhere- I just can’t seem to trust myself anymore. Working as a nurse, I might have a feeling about what was wrong with a patient, but I often lacked the confidence to voice those feelings, especially as a newly practicing nurse. When Penelope was born, I immediately felt that things were not right with her, but for months, I let others convince me that everything was fine. And of course, as it turns out, I was right. Just yesterday, I had to replace Penelope’s NG tube when it got pulled out, and when I was checking the placement of the tube, I felt that something was not right, but I still wasn’t confident in my instincts. Luckily, my aunt, who is a nurse and who knows me very well, could tell that I was unsure about the placement of the tube, and helped me figure it out. We pulled out the tube again, and saw that the end had coiled back on itself- so once again, my instincts were bang-on, and yet I doubted myself.

A rare photo of Penelope without the tube after it came out yesterday

A rare photo of Penelope without the tube after it came out yesterday

Am I alone in this? How do people silence their doubts and tune out the negative voices to really trust themselves? What will it take for me to be able to do this?

One thing I know for sure- when I return to work, I will strive to always take a parent’s instincts about what is happening with their child very seriously. I will strive to never dismiss it as the ramblings of an overly anxious parent, the way in which I was dismissed.

I hope that I can overcome this self-doubt that has plagued me. I hope I can gain the confidence to trust my instincts again. I hope I can find a way to do this.


4 thoughts on “Instincts

  1. I do this. Doubt myself. Even if I manage to follow my instincts, I will lie in bed at night and doubt them later. The only place I do this less is when I’m working with horses, I tend to trust my instincts first and then think about it later. When I’m with a client who is having a hard time or in danger to themselves or others, or when my daughter and I are clearly miscommunicating I try to put myself in that headspace I have with the horses. I can’t say I’m successful even half of the time, but I know it’s possible and that helps.
    I worry too that we are teaching our kids to ignore their instincts… how else did we become the way we are?
    As always a thought inducing blog. Thank you.

  2. A thought inducing blog indeed! I think we all doubt our instincts at times but we need to pay attention to them more often. I remember when Andrew was a baby (this was 35 years ago), Uncle John and I had just put all the children to bed and were sitting outside in the backyard talking to our neighbours, All of a sudden, I got this gut feeling that something was wrong. I went back up to check on the kids and found that the S attachment for the mattress platform on Andrew’s crib had fallen out and the mattress had slipped down on an angle with Andrew wedged in between the mattress and the side rail. He wasn’t making a sound so it wasn’t his crying that alerted me. I screamed for Uncle John to help and he frantically ripped the crib apart with his hands. If I hadn’t paid attention to my “gut feeling”, I am sure Andrew would have been strangled in that position. Thankfully, he was fine. Ever since that incident, I have always tried to respect and trust my instincts. Not always easy because sometimes we think we are being over-protective or whatever but I say trust in your feelings. They usually don’t lead you too far astray. I even cancelled a trip to Toronto once to see Mom the year she had her hip surgery (same year she passed away) because I had this feeling I couldn’t shake that if we went, we would be in an accident. Now I will never know if that “feeling” was valid because I stayed home. That’s how far I will go in trusting my instincts if they are strong enough.

  3. Julie : You are bang on. I think some of it is “how can I be right” ? Little me “how can I be right” ? Then you realize that with experience, knowledge and instinct put together “Yes” I am
    right !

  4. Pingback: Behind the Scenes | A Mom of Steel

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