Intuition: Tuning in Like Moms

In the spring of 2005, Rachel Schoger, a 29-year-old mother in Caldwell, Idaho, received devastating news from her doctor. After several miscarriages, she learned that her pregnancy was ectopic, and her baby had no chance of survival. If the baby wasn’t aborted, Schoger risked life-threatening complications.

After her first round on injections to terminate the pregnancy, Schoger sensed that something was wrong—not with her baby, but the diagnosis. She dreamed that the infant was screaming in pain inside of her, and demanded more tests.

Despite the thorough testing she’d endured, the next ultrasound showed a seemingly healthy infant in her womb. In January 2006, baby Seraphine was born. Though she required surgeries to correct deformities Shoger attributes to the injections, Seraphine is now a healthy six-year-old—largely due to her mother’s ability to sense and respond to her instincts. And as we’ve addressed before, instincts (those gut feelings) and intuition (relying on them), aren’t hype, but science.

For years, it was believed that women, particularly mothers, have stronger intuition than men. Although studies have proven otherwise—we actually come out pretty even—mothers have significant intuitive strengths, including faith in their abilities. In honor of Mother’s Day weekend, I say we celebrate them and follow suit. Are you in??? 😉

When it comes to mothers’ intuition, I see three major strengths. Moms tend to trump others in regards to motivation, awareness and action. They are expected to have strong instincts, trust them fiercely and act on them with gusto. Whether the chicken or egg came first here, I couldn’t tell ya. (No pun intended. ;)) Regardless, we can all learn a lot from mamas’ intuitive skill-sets.

Consider these examples:

#1: Imagine you’re a young, single woman heading into an upscale restaurant, alone. A man approaches and offers you a drink. The man is charming, yet something inside you tells you to say ‘no.’ But you don’t have other plans…and don’t want to hurt his feelings… And besides, you’d promised to get out and let loose once in a while. One drink can’t hurt. Can it?

#2: Now imagine you’re the same woman, walking into the same restaurant, holding an infant. The same man approaches. He offers you a drink, says he “adores children,” even has one of his own. When you hesitate he gives you a winning grin and suggests non-alcoholic drinks. Heck, a glass of water? You hold your child closer and give an affirmative, “NO,” then walk away.

See the difference?

A girlfriend of mine told me she never knew how much she could worry until she had kids. That “worry” is the same fear (“Gift of Fear”, as renowned safety expert Gavin de Becker would say) we all experience. Having kids heightens parents’ motivation to do and say whatever it takes to protect them, and, by by extension, themselves.

In previous posts, we discussed how fear and instincts can enhance personal safety and even save our lives. Trusting and acting upon instincts can also help in countless other ways, from making the right romantic and financial decisions to building successful careers. In order to follow our instincts, we have to sense them. Whether your instinctive habits are super-mom savvy or far from it, the following steps can help.

5 Ways to Make Your “Inner Voice” Loud and Clear

1. Keep a journal. I first read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way about 10 years ago while living in Miami. I was amazed at what those daily “morning pages” —3 pages of free-writing—revealed. Letting our thoughts spill out on paper, or other creative mediums, helps de-clutter and clarify our needs, hunches and wants.

2. Pay attention. Simply deciding to stay more aware is often enough to make our instincts roar.

3. Take some quiet time. Whether you’re trying to make a decision, texting while watching TV and eating dinner probably won’t help. 😉 Whether you have five minutes or 60 to devote to daily solitude, do it. If you’re not a fan of sitting still, take a bath, go for a walk or think while doing something fairly mindless, like folding laundry.

4. Talk it out. Little beats supportive friends when it comes to exploring our instincts. If your friend or partner challenges your inclination and you feel defensive, you probablyl know exactly how you feel. 😉 If they agree, it can be affirming. Your loved ones might even recognize what your intuitive voice is saying before you do.

5. Sleep on it. Yeah, I’m not great at this either, you insomniacs. 😉 But seriously, our minds work through problems while we sleep. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve woken in the morning, knowing exactly what to do about a particular plot point or character in my novel after feeling torn or clueless the night prior.

In what area of your life do you most rely on your instincts? Have you responded to them lately? Any “mother’s intuition” stories to share? 

Leave a comment

40 Comments

  1. Many years ago I dated a man, a banker with more money than I’d ever seen. He was nice enough, and we got along well. But I was a divorced single mom with a toddler and something seemed off. My mother wanted me to marry him because he could provide (he did propose more than once). I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was really not right. I broke it off with him and didn’t see him for years. I later discovered he was in prison for criminal sexual conduct. He was a convicted pedophile.

    Reply
    • Wow. I remember an Oprah episode about men with double lives. The wives said they “didn’t want to see” it, and feared losing everything (money and things). No amount of money is worth denying those feelings…

      Thanks for sharing your story. May everyone take your lead!

      Reply
  2. What a great post. I can’t imagine what that mother went through, finding out the ultrasound had been wrong. Thankfully the baby survived. I’ve always been one to trust my instincts, but I’m known to be impulsive, too. They have definitely kicked in since I’ve become a mother. I knew something was wrong with Grace when she broke her arm – even before she came home. There have been other instances, too, where I just knew. Instinct can be a very powerful thing, and when it comes to writing, I’m learning to trust mine. Great post!

    Reply
    • I agree, Stacy. Instincts play a major role in my writing, too. When I listen, things pan out well. When I don’t…the phrase ‘try try again’ comes to mind. 😉

      Reply
  3. Shannon Esposito

     /  May 11, 2012

    What a scary story with a happy ending! And love the name Seraphine, doesn’t it mean angel? Very appropriate.

    I’ve always trusted my instincts, although sometimes they go overboard and fear gets in the way of living my life, but I’m working on balancing that.

    I had a scary situation when I was a teen working in a mall. Coming out of the mall after it closed, I started walking through the parking lot and got an uneasy feeling. Immediately turning and bolting back into the mall, I passed three men that I hadn’t seen behind me. I have no ideal where they came from. I got a security guard to walk me back out and sure enough, they were just standing there, watching us.

    My daughter tells me all the time that I’ve made her paranoid now that she’s living on her own, but I think I’ve just taught her to pay attention to her intuition, too.

    Reply
    • Amazing how happy endings can make terrifying stories inspiring, right?

      There’s definitely a line between paranoia and awareness. In either case, I’d rather experience the fear than let ignorance lead me stray. Sounds like you’re a wonderful mom!

      Reply
  4. mgedwards

     /  May 11, 2012

    I will never have a mother’s intuition, though I do rely on intuition. My intuition tells me that this post honors mothers with Mother’s Day fast approaching. Three cheers for all the moms out there and for your intuition that kept your kids safe! We salute you!

    Reply
  5. Isn’t it amazing that we assume that Mother’s intuition is alive and well? When I’m working with a sexual abuse client, so often they’re angrier at mom for not protecting them than they are with ‘dear old dad’ who is the perpetrator. this is part of the explanation for that reaction: we assume Mom knows. But if she doesn’t, or if she doesn’t act on it, then the whole experience becomes her fault. interesting how that works for victims. thanks for a thought provoking post, August, as usual

    Reply
    • It really is, Louise. We can’t presume that intuition will function “just because.” The more we deny our instincts, the more risks we’re likely to face. And knowing without acting seems worse than not knowing at all.

      Reply
  6. Wonderful post August. I loved how you showcased the example of being approached as a single mom or with a child and the different responses you’d likely give out. Amazing and so true.
    I think sometimes our feeling that we have to be “polite” sometimes puts us at risk and even in danger. A guy strolls over to you in an empty parking lot and offers to help you load bags in your truck. You might feel awkward to tell him to buzz off and start screaming or walking away…but that’s what your instincts are telling you to do.
    I think it’s about trusting ourselves and always honoring those screaming insides even if sometimes it might be overkill. I’d always rather be safe than sorry!

    Reply
    • I agree, Natalie. It can be tough when we’re raised to be “nice” gals, but safety and survival are too valuable. Taking care of ourselves and acting on instincts, on the other hand…EMPOWERING! 🙂

      Reply
    • I must concede that because of where I grew up (in an L.A. Crips neighborhood – only blonde in my school), I have a finely honed sense of personal safety. I never worried about being polite. If I looked through the window and didn’t know you, I walked away from the door. The end.

      Reply
  7. That was a wonderful post. I have been trying to hone my skills as of late. So many time my instincts are yelling at me and I can’t quite pin them down and then different little things will happen to help me put the puzzle pieces together so when something happens and I realize – this is what my intuition was telling me I was able to react. Even though I couldn’t ‘see’ exactly what was going to happen, I was still intune enough to plan my reaction. I am a firm believer in our intuition as mothers. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  8. I have a very good friend with a similar story. She was told her baby had died in the womb and that she needed a DNC. She’d had two previous miscarriages so she didn’t question the diagnosis until she went in and asked them to check for a heartbeat one last time. Her healthy baby girl just turned 3.

    Great post!

    Reply
  9. lynnkelleyauthor

     /  May 11, 2012

    I love that book, “The Gift of Fear.” Definitely worth a read for anyone.

    Reply
  10. Great list, August, and love the post. I’ve been practicing acting on my instincts for several years, because I tend to be an over-thinker instead. Like you, I started journaling every morning when I first worked The Artist’s Way years ago. After a few years, I’ve adjusted the way I journal now, but I always do it first thing in the morning. Often, I receive insights while I’m journaling and I generally act on them immediately afterward. Usually, things work out well, but not always. Not an expert yet!

    Reply
  11. This is a fabulous post to celebrate Mother’s Day.

    I’ve always been one to act on my gut instinct, a very fire sign of me 🙂 I think a lot of ‘mother’s intuition’ comes from the fact you’re responsible for another person. We’re willing to risk ourselves to a degree but not that other person. I even see it in my kids. They’ll do things themselves, often to hair-raising or heart attack inducing levels for me, that I’ve seen them put on the breaks and even advise against when they are responsible for someone else.

    Reply
  12. I have been pacticing a lot lately. It’s amazing what you can feel if you let it in. Knowing the difference, though, that’s the tricky part. I’m not sure I know that yet. I am constantly under fire for not catching on when my kid has just had a bad experience. Somehow, Dad is always the shining star in this because they will tell him and give him a chance to react. I get the closed mouth routine because I’m the one who’s always there. Sigh. I’m SO glad everything turned out alright for that chilc and the mother. Goodness.

    Reply
  13. The best mother’s instinct I had was when I got pregnant with my daughter. I realized too late that my husband wasn’t good for us and I left England alone, penniless, and pregnant. Best decision I ever made. I’ve always trusted my gut, but on too many occasions I would ignore it and that never led to anything good. Now my gut is my best friend.

    I’m so glad that mom trusted her instinct and had the baby. Dreams are powerful receptors of what we suppress while awake.

    Reply
    • Tameri: That is bravery! So many women stay in those circumstances. Kudos to you for listening to that little voice.

      Reply
      • Ditto! A remarkable story we can all learn from.

      • Thank you, thank you! It was a hard decision to make and my life was difficult for many years as a single mom, but at least we were both alive to live it. I’m now a huge advocate for women’s shelters as you can imagine!

  14. Raani York

     /  May 11, 2012

    About 1 month after I was born it was discovered that something apparently was wrong with me. After numerous tests doctors found out that I am born with no thyroid gland. (A baby is usually fed my its mothers’ bloodstream for until about 4 weeks after delivery. That’s why the one month was given until they found out something wasn’t right) – I spent apparently about 8 weeks in an infants hospital and after getting used to the medication which I will have to take for the rest of my life I am able to lead a normal life.(only with tiny limitations)
    Only back then doctors calculated that they doubt I would not grow higher than about 4’6″.
    My Mom apparently shook her head and started fighting for me and my height.
    With the help of my infants-doctor who she convinced to feed me a slightly higher dose of medication than normally perscribed she additionally fed me extremely healthy cereals, juices, fruits, homeopathic drops and essences – even if the doctors laughed….
    They quit laughing when I grew 4’7″ and they re-calculated. They told her I would definitely stop growing at maximum of 4’8″ – She kept on going since apparently her gut feeling told her she’d do me something good to let me grow as tall as possible. When I was 5′ doctors told her that this was the finaly height I would ever be able to reach… she was going on – and thanks to her I reached my final height at 5’3″.
    Thank you Mom!

    Reply
  15. Good post. I do have to disagree though. I’m married-no children and my reaction to the man in the bar would have been the same as the mother in your scenario. I think anyone can be intuitive if they learn to hone the craft. Children and animals are the best because they either haven’t been taught or refuse to acknowledge societies norm about not hurting another persons feelings in the interest of self-preservation. In the end, we’re all animals and need to learn to listen to our bodies, minds and spirits regardless of what others tell us.

    To all those who are mothers, Happy Mother’s Day.

    Reply
    • Sounds like we actually agree. I’m married without children, too and believe we are all capable of honing in and listening to our instincts. The problem, if you can call it that, with humans as opposed to animals, is also one of our strengths. We can reason and rationalize ourselves out of most anything——including listening to out instincts. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

      Reply
  16. The restaurant example you mentioned is absolutely true. I have seen not only Moms but fathers too become over cautious & extra protective when accompanied with kids. e.g. Even our driving becomes safe with kids in car seats. Never paid attention to this, but you are right it could be the paternal instincts acting there.

    Reply
    • And for good reason! 🙂 Anyone with precious cargo in the car should drive safer, in my view. Then again, we should all treat ourselves with such respect.

      Reply
  17. I’ve made my fair share of bad decisions in my life. If it wasn’t due to a lack of knowledge, it was usually because I didn’t trust my instincts. So now I always try to listen to my inner voice and if its not based on fear I find that its usually correct!
    You’re very lucky that sleep serves you so well, August. I wish I could hone my sleeping skills to give me answers in Dreamland! 🙂

    Reply
    • LOL! Sleep serves me well. That makes me laugh, seeing as sleep has never come easy for me. But it’s true… When I sleep well (I’ve come a long way in the last year or so), I get those answers. When I don’t, I feel and act like the lunatic in my novels. (Exaggerating. A little. ;)) So glad you listen to that voice, Nisha!

      Reply
  18. Kourtney Heintz

     /  May 13, 2012

    Excellent post, August. I’ve always felt like in the first ten seconds of meeting someone I will decide if I want to be around them or not. I can’t explain why, but I get a sense of something. And it’s not logical or rational. But I just can’t shake it. Like when I sat down at a conference next to a quiet girl. I immediately liked her. Just felt like I needed to get to know her. So I did. We ended up becoming critique partners and good friends. There are also people who I meet and feel my skin crawl. I do my best to avoid them.

    Reply
    • Those immediate check-ins you do are so valuable, Kourtney. I suspect they not only help you sense people’s characters, but strengthen your ability to do so. Even “meeting” people on-line, we can learn a lot instinctually.

      Reply
  19. August, this post intrigues me. I generally don’t like to think of myself as a person who is ruled by fear. In fact, I work hard to over-ride certain things that trigger fearful reactions. I just push through. Because of this, people sometimes see me as fearless (at my best) or reckless (at my worst). I don’t know if I believe in women’s intuition. Or maybe when G-d was handing it out, I was standing in some other line. 😉

    Reply
    • Love your insight, as always, Renee! I think the goal isn’t to be ruled by fear, but to maintain awareness and trust what our instincts tell us. I believe what science says about instincts and intuition—that we all have both, but often disregard or talk ourselves out of them. Then again, some of the things my mom “just knows” makes me wonder if G-d handed her a clairvoyant card… 😉

      Reply
  20. I’m a huge fan of Gavin de Becker. He gives great advice. My instincts definitely speak a lot louder now that I am a mom.

    Reply
  21. Wow. Great reminders. Thank you August! I rely on my intuition for most everything. I take in all the information of course but usually I have a gut feeling as to what to ultimately do. And usually I know right away. But often with writing, I do the steps you mentioned above like sleeping on things that I’m stumped with. Just love Julia Cameron!! 🙂

    Reply
  22. Enjoyed this post very much – amazing story about the mother and her baby…We should all learn to listen to that small voice inside of us more often…

    Reply
  23. Rachel Schoger

     /  June 11, 2012

    I just want to thank you. The true hero is my little girl against all odds she made it and I hope that her story saves other families from going though this. Thank you again and bless all of you for kind words. GBH. Rachel Schoger.

    Reply
  24. Alicia Hupp

     /  July 5, 2012

    Thank you for paving the way for other woman who have/are going through the same thing. Not only did my instincts warn me, my mom told me “do not do it, they’re wrong” and of course they were. Our miracle fighter babies are a beautiful reminder to believe.

    Reply

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