I will never forget Christmas Eve two years ago. Alice and I had the day off from school, but my husband Ken was at work. Alice woke up with the cough that had been making its way around her classroom. It surprised me how quickly it had come on and how harsh the cough sounded so soon into the illness.
“Bummer,” I thought, “sick for Christmas”. I thought about calling her doctor, but my ego was still bruised from my last visit there for what I thought was a rash.
The doctor had rolled his eyes at me and my husband and informed me that she just had bug bites and annoyingly shooed us out of his office.
“It’s just a cough, Taesha. She is fine,” I told myself.
But as the day progressed, Alice quickly and rapidly went down hill. The congestion was so bad that she couldn’t nap and, while she had no fever, she was uncharacteristicly clingy.
My husband returned home from work and I shared with him how the day had gone.
“I’m sure it’s nothing major ” I told him, half trying to convince myself, “everyone in her class seems to have it too.”
By the time bedtime came, my husband couldn’t quiet his concern and, frankly, neither could I. Trying to ease our minds, I called Alice’s pediatrician and spoke to the nurse on-call.
“Hold the phone up to her so I can listen to her breathing” the nurse requested. I held the phone up to Alice’s mouth, breathing heavier than ever from all the junk in her lungs. After about 10 seconds, I brought the phone back to my ear.
“Ma’am, I need you to hang up the phone and dial 911. Your daughter needs to get help as soon as possible.”
My heart jumped into my throat and I could feel the blood drain from my face.
My husband, seeing my face, asked me over and over in a panicked voice what the nurse had said.
“Call 911. I have to call 911” I said as tears started streaming down my face and my hands shook uncontrollably. Luckily, my husband was able to keep calm a bit better than me and reminded me we lived a mile away from the hospital and that we’d get her to the hospital faster than an ambulance could get to us.
So we hustled our daughter into the car, almost forgetting to buckle her in because we were in such a frenzy to get her to the ER. By the time we pulled into the parking lot of the ER some 4 minutes later, Alice was violently vomiting in her little body’s attempt to clear her lungs.
I picked her up and we rushed inside. The ER staff measured her O2 sats to be 87%…scarily lower than the ideal 100%. We were brought back immediately (something that we all know never happens in an ER unless serious stuff is going down) and Alice was quickly given inhalant steroids to help clear her lungs fast.
As I laid curled up on the ER stretcher with my little girl all I could think was how lucky we were to have caught this. How terribly different this night could have ended. And how angry I was for dismissing my “Mom Gut” all day.
We parents are blessed with a special superpower; our Mom and Dad “guts”. It sounds like an old wive’s tale and probably some who aren’t yet parents will think it is just that, but us mamas and papas know that the parent intuition is a real and powerful thing. That unexplainable gut feeling that bubbles and nags and leads you strongly in a certain direction when it comes to making a choice that is in the best interest of your child.
And the Mom Gut should never be ignored.
Because it is wise. In fact, the Mom Gut is almost supernatural on many levels, often being correct despite the opinions of trained professions or seasoned friends/family members. As a teacher, I try to offer parents the best guidance that I can in different developmental situations. But I am not always right. I have seen Mom and Dad Gut trump my educated opinion on more than one occasion…and each time, I am grateful the parents listened to their intuition and not me. Mom Gut and Dad Gut is nature’s gift and reminder to us parents that we truly do know our children best…above everyone else. And we should never silence the words of our parental instincts.
Be warned, though, that there is a fine line of caution you must walk with your Mom Gut. The fine line that divides instinct and denial. Listening to your parental instincts requires reflecting on what you feel the truth is deep inside of you…and not the just the facts you want to believe to be true. It is terribly difficult at times to tell the difference between Mom Gut and denial….but the one thing Mom Gut does that denial doesn’t is nag at you. Mom Gut won’t let you shake feelings. Mom Gut will have you trying to swallow the advice you are given, but then are then left with an impression that something is “off.” Mom Gut takes a bit of mindfulness…but is something all us mamas and papas posses.
Since that terrifying Christmas Eve, I have never again dismissed my intuition when making choices for my daughter. When it comes to how to handle a new challenging behavior or what kind of kindergarten to send her to next year (we opted for Montessori for anyone who is curious), I ignore the advice of other people when it doesn’t jive with what I am feeling in my bones. And it has never lead me wrong. Not once. And I doubt it ever will.