A Tale of Two Motherhood Transitions: Intuition Vs Education
This blog was originally published on birthfit.com and appears here with permission.
As we traverse the Motherhood Transition, there are two distinct decision-making options that are regularly discussed: mother’s intuition and education. Mother’s intuition is the ability to use internal feelings to make the best decisions, while education is utilizing external resources to gather information about particular decisions. Although these two things seem as though they are in direct opposition, I hope to show just how necessary both are through the Motherhood Transition.
My first Motherhood Transition was 22 years ago when I was 15 years old. The year was 1997, the internet was in its infancy and I had almost no support. As I went through my pregnancy, I did not have Dr. Google, books, birth education or any adults who stepped up to help me through this incredibly difficult time. I just picked a doctor out of the phone book with the only stipulation that she was female. I figured women had babies all of the time, and everything would be great because that was what we were made to do. With this complete lack of guidance, I only had my (very young) mother’s intuition to guide me!
Things my teenage Mother’s Intuition guided me to:
- Conscious Eating: I remember people constantly trying to feed me, always making comments that I was eating for two or I needed to make sure to eat enough. My intuition told me that it was still a good idea to eat when I was hungry and not eat when I wasn’t.
- Feel Good Movement: I was a very active teenager and I continued my activities throughout my pregnancy until they started to feel less than ideal. When I was energized, I moved; when I was tired, I rested; and when things hurt, I backed off.
- Appropriate Weight Gain: I honestly had no clue that weight gain was even a thing to be concerned about, so I had zero worry about whether I was gaining too much or too little.
- Natural Childbirth: I really had no educated reason to avoid interventions, but something about trying to give birth without the use of medication seemed like the right thing to do.
- Keeping Baby With Me: After delivering my sweet baby, everything in me just wanted her with me and I did not want her to be taken out of my room. I had never heard of skin-to-skin or the benefits of baby being close to me. I just felt in my bones that she should be with me.
- Breastfeeding: Along with not having access to a childbirth education class, I was also not offered a class in breastfeeding; but, again my mother’s intuition stepped in and told me that breastfeeding would be the best.
- Co-sleeping: While I was pregnant, I distinctly remember saving my tiny teenage paychecks to purchase the most beautiful white bassinet. Once we brought our tiny little bundle home from the hospital, I was amazed that she didn’t want to sleep in that lovely little bed I had worked so hard to buy for her. After a few nights of no sleep, I decided to just let her sleep with me and it never once occurred to me that there could be any dangers with that. I was happy because I was getting sleep and she was happy because she was by her mama.
- Attachment Parenting: This was not a concept I had been introduced to as a teenager so I was very self-conscious about my choices to go to my baby when she cried, snuggle her as she slept, and take her everywhere I went. So many people told me I was spoiling my baby and that I should just let her cry or she would never learn. I gave “Cry it Out” a try for like 10 minutes, but the whole 10 minutes felt wrong and made me sob, so instead I just tried to avoid the conversation as much as I could.
- Baby Led Weaning: This is another term I had never actually heard as a teenager. I honestly did not even remember how I transitioned my eldest to solid foods until I looked back on her baby book 18 years later as I was transitioning my second child. Her baby book stated “You didn’t like baby food and just wanted to eat what mommy and daddy were eating so we just fed you our food and you loved it.” No fear of choking was conveyed.
My last Motherhood Transition was 21 months ago when I was 35 years old. The year was 2017, I had the internet at my fingertips 24/7, and I was surrounded by many different support systems. As I went through my pregnancy, I read and researched EVERYTHING! I joined Facebook groups, I read books and blogs, I listened to podcasts, I worked with different practitioners, I hired a doula, I asked all of the questions, created an amazing birth plan, and made every attempt to be completely educated on every single decision there was to make.
Things my (“geriatric”) mother’s education led me to:
- ALL OF THE SAME EXACT THINGS!
So if mother’s intuition and education both led me to all the same things, why do I think both are still valid and important? Although the things I wanted throughout my Motherhood Transitions were the same, the experiences and outcomes were very different!
As a teen mom, I did not actually have the natural birth I hoped for. I was told I couldn’t handle the pain and was pressured into an epidural, I purple pushed for over two hours, I was given an unconsented episiotomy, and my baby was delivered using forceps (I am also 99% sure this contributed to me having a small bladder prolapse at the age of 15 that I didn’t become aware of until after the last baby). After delivering my little bundle, they took her immediately to do all of the things and kept her in the nursery even when I asked if I could have her in my room. Their reasoning was that I was so tired and it would be better if I rested. Who was I to argue with the professionals? Finally, I never ended up having the opportunity to breastfeed my eldest because I was told that bottles were easier and that it would be too hard for me to go to school and breastfeed. I will admit though, I was not overly stressed or disappointed about any of the process or that things didn’t go how I had planned. The arguments I was presented with all seemed valid. I was young, and ignorance was bliss. I had a healthy happy baby and that was all that mattered.
As a geriatric mother, I had a beautiful natural birth, my babe remained with me every second of our stay in the hospital, and I am still breastfeeding her after 21 months. Although these were all of the outcomes I had so meticulously studied and desired, the entire process felt fairly stressful. It felt like a lot of responsibility to make the right decision, I analyzed the perfect nutrients to consume, I stressed about not feeling up to moving all of the time, I worried about the possibility of smothering my baby while co-sleeping, I had a little nagging fear about my baby choking on food. I had a happy, healthy baby and the Motherhood Transition I had dreamed of but I over-analyzed and worried so much of the time
After reflecting on the differences between these two Motherhood Transitions, I realized that following mother’s intuition and education are not in direct opposition but are rather quite symbiotic. It is so important to lean into our mother’s intuition as it guides us to all of the best choices for ourselves and our families but it is equally important to be educated so we can be confident and equipped to fight for our intuitively guided decisions.
Sara Rausch, DC, CYT, FASA