Mother's Intuition is Bullshit.
Sorry, that title is probably a little inflammatory. But, this is something I’ve struggled with since having Ada, and it’s been weighing on me particularly heavily this week. So, I need to get it out there.
If you have anxiety, mother’s intuition means jack all.
Maybe I have a true intuition. But if I do, it’s buried under the constantly churning seas of anxiety I keep mostly at bay thanks to therapy and awareness. And I wish people would stop talking about it like it’s some ironclad sense that is just there.
Like most people with anxiety, I struggle with staying firmly grounded in reality. I’m a pro at making up an infinite number of increasingly bleak futures in my head. I’m basically the Dr. Strange of bullshit. (That reference, so hot right now.)
Anxiety is tricky. It desperately tries to convince you it’s real. Through therapy and meditation, I’ve gotten fairly good at labeling something as an “anxiety thought.” How well I cope with that thought upon labeling, well, depends on the day. Usually labeling is enough to keep it from snowballing taking over my day/week/month. Some days I label it, and it sits. And I’m constantly trying to swat it away, like a particularly obnoxious mosquito. Some days I embrace the full meditative practice and label it, and can let it float by without attaching myself to it.
But, that’s the key to avoiding the anxiety snowball — not attaching meaning to those anxiety thoughts. And that means when I’m sitting there holding my baby’s hands and thinking of SIDs, I can just cast it off as a normal anxiety thought. But the idea of “mother’s intuition” gives that anxiety something to hold on to, and allows it to sit. “Is what I’m thinking actually mother’s intuition? And that means this is some real thought coming from my gut, and it’s not anxiety?” Suddenly I’m scared to go to sleep, because I’m convinced this fleeting thought means something terrible is going to happen. It’s a really dangerous game to play.
When I’m living in anxiety, I’m not being there and present for… well, anyone, but especially not Ada. Which is not what I want for her — I don’t want a mom who is so crushingly concerned with all the things that could go wrong, that she doesn’t live in the now. So, maybe society as a whole could cool it on the mother’s intuition front. Because I’m willing to bet that even for those moms that don’t have a therapist that bills them under Generalized Anxiety Disorder, for every one time their “intuition” was correct, there were six times it was an anxiety thought that pulled them out of living their best life in that moment.