Intuition

In a previous post, I started talking about intuition in childbirth, particularly in unassisted birth, inspired by Dr. Rixa Freeze’s doctoral dissertation. Continuing on that topic, I want to delve a little more deeply into it. I just can’t stop thinking about it, so I’ll backtrack in the paper.

First a little personal background — I first got pregnant in 2004, and became interested in pregnancy and birth then. That’s the way I am — when faced with a new situation, I try to learn as much as possible about it, and become as familiar as I can, so that when I go through the situation, it feels most comfortable to me. (Unfortunately, my husband is about the opposite, which means we drive each other nuts — like when we’re both playing a computer game, he prefers to just jump in and figure it out as he goes along, while I prefer to read the manual and the user guide and go through all the tutorials before I even start. When I ask him before I begin playing how something works or what to expect, he says, “Oh, just start playing — you’ll figure it out!” And I just can’t do that. It frustrates and annoys me!) So, I read and studied extensively while pregnant. Afterwards, I went into hyperdrive, going deeper and further into natural birth — not just drug-free births in hospitals, but pro-midwife, pro-CPM, pro-homebirth, and pro-unassisted birth.

When I read this section on intuition in Rixa’s paper, I was extremely glad to read her say that it seemed to her that the UC forums she read, moved away from learning medical and clinical knowledge as preparation methods for UC to relying solely on intuition as not only the best but the only way of preparing for a UC. Not having studied UC like she has, and only having limited exposure to it, I have noticed recent things on emails promoting just intuition, and even some people at times saying that women should not read negative things or stories about emergencies or bad outcomes (UC or otherwise), because then they’ll set themselves up for fulfilling those same things in their birth. It seemed that at first when I was introduced to UC that there was a lot more talk about complications and how to deal with them — sharing knowledge and real “what if” scenarios. I’m glad to know that what I picked up on was actually true.

This bothers me — the trend away from some sort of practical knowledge about birth to “oh, just listen to your intuition and everything will be fine.”

I’ve read numerous stories where just this thing happened — mothers who were planning a UC and then changed their minds because of something in their minds they just couldn’t let go of, and it was a good thing because either they or their babies needed help and/or medical attention during labor or after birth; other mothers who were planning a hospital or midwife-attended home birth and changed to a UC, and were glad they did because they had a successful and even glorious birth which would have become a medical problem had they done it differently; one woman who had a placenta previa (didn’t know it until labor) and began bleeding during labor, and got a tremendous urge to push, as if her body just screamed it at her, and she pushed the placenta and baby out in one huge long push, and the baby was perfectly fine (because of the speed of the birth — no time for the oxygen to be cut off); mothers whose babies had meconium and they automatically “suctioned” it out by the mom putting her mouth on the baby’s mouth and sucking it that way; etc.

Intuition can be very powerful, and I don’t discount it; but I don’t want to promote that as the best, and certainly not the only thing that should be considered. For every story of “intuition” telling them that something was going to happen, someone could probably dredge up 10 or 100 or 1000 stories of intuition failing to warn them of advance circumstances. If intuition were so good, then no one would ever die accidentally — there would be no skiing accidents, no falls from roofs, no car wrecks — because “intuition” should warn you of these things. If it were perfect. For me, intuition is one of those things where you should “err on the side of caution” — that is, if intuition is telling you that something bad is going to happen, you’d better freakin’ listen to it! On the other hand, if your intuition is “silent” while there are obvious or clinical signs of something bad about to happen, forget “intuition” and listen to the signs!

I’ve read sometime in the past a discussion about intuition — including why it seems that females are much more intuitive than males — and this article basically said that “intuition” is the brain picking up on subtle signals that the conscious mind does not fully recognize, but the subconscious mind does. And this is why “female intuition” is so much more common than “male intuition” (is that even a term?) — because women’s brains are wired differently, we have a lot more social skills, we’re more talkative and more communicative, and the two sides of our brains share a lot more communication than men’s brains do (it’s no joke that “men have a one-track mind” while women can mentally multitask) — so we women pick up on these subtle “something’s wrong” signals more than men do. But it’s not perfect.

And sometimes, even when you intuitively know something is going to happen, it doesn’t mean you can prevent that thing from happening, just because you knew it ahead of time. One woman I know had a strong feeling throughout her entire pregnancy that something was wrong with the baby; and sure enough, about a week after he was born, he was diagnosed with a fatal heart condition. Her prenatal intuition was correct, but her baby still died — not because of listening or not listening to intuition, but just because the particular defect was not curable, even by the excellent heart doctors at Le Bonheur, one of the best children’s hospitals in the South, and possibly in the nation.

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5 Responses

  1. Information AND Intuition

    Seems like a really nice balance.

    I think that if a mom is planning an UC she should certainly be WELL informed and prepared for many birthing scenarios.

  2. Very nice points. The prenatal class I took (Hypnobirthing) was really annoyingly against talking about complications or even hospital interventions (“you don’t want all that negative stuff in your mind”). Well, it didn’t make me feel comfortable, it made me feel insecure, and I would have been really unprepared in case of a transport. I like maintaining a balance of respect for scientific knowledge and intuition – never discounting either. Nice article!

  3. Thanks for writing this! I

    am not sure where there is an over tendency to say ‘intuition alone’, it certainly is not in the places I frequent, but I think that intuition here is meant to mean foreknowledge and inner knowledge at the same time? I think there is a big difference between the two.

    There is indeed nothing one can do about something we feel or know deep inside ahead of time. At the same time, during labor, the inner birth knowledge of the body, cues the mom in as to what to do, if we can get out of the way with our heads. This kind of works the same way as a body knowing how and where to implant the embryo. The body just knows, just as it knows to let it go if need be.

    So I guess one can argue that when UC-ers talk about intuition, they are not merely speaking about something that they know, but about something that their bodies are telling them, through signs and feelings and an inner knowing. It is not a matter of ‘follow your intuition and you will be fine’, but a matter of ‘follow your intuition and the birth will fold out as it needs to’. Whether that includes getting help or not.

    Not sure if I am making sense. I just think that the whole intuition debate and what it means to different women needs to be much broader.

  4. Oops, forgot to check the notify me box😀

  5. I think first you do need to inform yourself. If you are not prepared for the what ifs, or work to overcome your fears, you may not be successful. This doesn’t mean to shun all technology or knowledge, but to seek out answers. Every woman should do this throughout her pregnancy, no matter what type of birth she is planning.
    But, after you have informed yourself, I do believe you need to shy away from all the scary stuff. Being in tune can tell you a lot. It can lead you to make sure you have certain things on hand because you might need them. It can lead you to leave things alone, or actively work hard. It can actually help you forget something that you don’t need to know right now.
    Personally, I don’t think most women are able to rely on intuition alone. We don’t live in a world without fears or worries. Fears and worries interfere with intuition, and we have to get past them. What will we do if our baby dies in a UC? What will we do if CPS gets called and wants to take our kid away? What will happen if mom tears bad? Whatever. It is not bad to look at these things in the eye and get our own answers to them. Intuition doesn’t answer these questions, we do. Intuition might help us come up with our answers, and help us know our answers are right for us, but we do have to do work (and usually study) to get them.
    That has been my experience anyway.

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