Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Ramblings on Mothers' Intuitive knowingness, and medical science and birth in the Good Ole Days

Lately there have been times when I'm talking to a young client about her experience with prenatal care, and I find myself telling her what is was like "In My Day". Yikes! I've turned into my grandmother!! But I wonder if that is really so bad. I am so grateful for the wisdom that was passed on to me from my mother and my grandmother. I have such lovely images of my grandmother's experiences with pregnancy and birth in a time that must have been so different. I know that life was not necessarily easy then, but it sounded so uncomplicated, and birth just seemed to be surrounded with clarity, faith and acceptance. I would love to think that I am passing on some of that same wisdom.

When a woman became pregnant, she knew it (the beginnings of maternal intuition). Or she would figure it out soon enough. She wasn't made to feel that she wasn't really pregnant if she didn't have a pregnancy test or an ultrasound to give the exact number of weeks plus days she was in her "gestation". Her knowledge of her body was honored and she didn't need the approval of tests or medical personnel to constantly assess what was going on within her body.

I feel blessed that when I had my babies, information was passed on from mothers, grandmothers and friends. There were a few good books to read. I don't know that having the ability to search out every pregnancy symptom on the internet or utilize every test for various complications, would have contributed to a peaceful pregnancy.

It isn't that I'm entirely against genetic testing, ultrasound, and all that medical science has to offer. There is definitely a place for all of that, and in certain cases it can be of great benefit. But it's worth considering what we lose when we rely so heavily on these things, even for the most normal pregnancies.

The fact of the matter is, that in my own personal experience as a midwife, I have found maternal intuition to be every bit as helpful, in some of those complicated cases, as genetic testing and ultrasound.  I have had as many women tell me their baby had a birth defect, and accurately tell me what that birth defect was, as I have had abnormalities revealed by testing. There is definitely a skill to recognizing the difference between intuition and normal worrying. But you also need to understand that testing  isn't always as accurate as it is presented to be . Certain tests will miss a percentage of problems, and almost equally as disturbing - the same tests can have a high percentage of false positives. It's horrible to see an expectant mama put through the trauma of being told unnecessarily that her baby is not okay. Mom suffers, sometimes her relationship suffers when each parent is sorting through the options, and it will probably take that mother a very long time before she can reconnect to her faith in her baby's perfect health.

Our culture values science, data, things that can be measured. And that can be a good thing. It's great to have both tools. I do believe that we can benefit from a peaceful co-existence between hard cold facts and internal knowing-ness.  But I do feel a little bit concerned that the more we depend upon measurable "evidence"  in our lives, intuitive knowledge suffers a bit of disrespect. Women are less likely to claim it.

So what do we do? It is all about balance. When you just "have a feeling," listen to your feelings - pay attention to your body.  First, take a moment and get relaxed, try to clear your mind. What do you feel in your gut? Is it tight and tense? What do you feel in your chest area - your heart? Tightness and anxiety, or a feeling of expansion and opening?

A recent study done at the University of Arizona found that 70% of moms accurately predicted the gender of their babies without ultrasound or other tests for gender. And guess what? The accuracy was much higher for mothers who had no preference for one gender over another.

And in other recent research, it was found that people had areas of expertise when it came to intuition - you can be intuitive in some areas of your life, but not in others. In the same study, it was found that intuition improves the more you use it. I would say that as mothers, we are the experts in the area of our children and our families. Use it, don't lose it!

Judith Orloff, a medical  doctor and intuitive psychiatrist calls intuition "primal genetic wiring, a survival mechanism."

Recently I sat in my office with one of the pregnant mothers that I work for. All of a sudden in mid conversation, she gasped and jumped up and headed toward the door. She had taken about four steps when I heard a little bump and, "whaaah!!" the cry of her child playing in the next room. She walked back in, cuddling her daughter, smiling at me she asked, "How is it that a mother always knows just a couple of seconds before her child gets hurt?"

I guess we may never know how a mother always knows. I believe there is a lot about motherhood that is meant to remain a mystery, and intuition is one of those mysteries. I hope you will learn to trust your intuition.

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