A Mother’s Instinct


I worry about James. I always have. At 27-1/2 weeks I was worried about him, even though I was told, at the time, that his rate of growth was fine. But in the end, it wasn’t. At birth, Owen was double the size of James. If my water hadn’t broken on its own, six weeks early, I know at my next scheduled ultrasound I would have been sent to the hospital for a c-section because of how small James really was. James was in the NICU longer. One of his ribs protrudes so oddly that, for a couple scary days we were worried it was some sort of mass (an x-ray and ultrasound confirmed it’s just bone). He suffers from eczema, which at times, can be severe. As such, he often can be found in this position:

James Bottoms Up

I like to think he’s simply doing downward dog but I know he falls into this position often to more easily scratch his head. He does it so much that he’s losing hair on the top of his head—akin to when he only slept on his back and lost hair back there because of that. We have a prescription cream, and it helps, but we’ve yet to rid him of the rash entirely.

That’s not all. None of my children have had ear infections—except James. And now he has a recurring one. At his 9-month appointment we were told he’s in the 1 percentile for weight but that it’s OK—his charted growth curve is upward moving. And yet, at this week’s appointment when the pediatrician confirmed James’s ear infection had returned (and I felt like a terrible mother for dismissing so many signs all last week), new stuff came up. Like the fact that in addition to the eczema, James will sometimes get hives. And that his diapers aren’t what they should be. And that he is still so small.

And so today, after Owen’s PT appointment, I had to take James down the hospital hall for blood work. I will never, ever again complain about having blood drawn. (OK, maybe a little if they have to dig to find a vein, but never like I used to). I’ve decided watching your 10-month-old have blood drawn is 10,000 times worse. The needle is smaller, yes, but the blood takes so long to fill the vials (and using most of my strength to hold down my screaming baby didn’t make the time go any faster).

The pediatrician wants to test him for allergies. And thyroid issues. And many other things, things that have to do with nutrient absorption and other big words I probably should be looking up instead of writing this post.

In the scheme of things, none of this is a big deal. He’s happy (most of the time). And healthy (for the most part). And nothing that I’ve written so far scares me—truly, it doesn’t. What does, though, is mother’s instinct.

People, women, in particular, talk about it all the time: Trust your mother’s instinct. Trust your gut. Listen to that voice inside of you that nags and nags and nags, despite logic and evidence and people telling you to stop worrying, particularly people who have had years of medical training.

I worry about Sophie.

I worry about Owen.

I worry about many, many things (ranging from why recycling pick-up never showed up this week to my career outside of mothering to the tragedies in Japan).

But I can always, with some deep, inward thought, let my worries go or, at least, lessen a bit—except with James.

So then I worry that I’m worrying so much about my mother’s instinct that I’m simply making it seem like it’s something huge I should be trusting when, in reality, it’s just superficially inflated, because of all the worrying going on in my head. Or something like that.

I imagine, I hope, his blood work comes back perfectly normal. And that with more humid weather his skin improves. As he grows, I suspect his rib won’t protrude so noticeably. And maybe, ironically, he’ll actually end up bigger than his brother.

And yet, I can’t shake it. I’ve tried as part of me fears there’s going to be an asterisk next to my name on James’s chart and I’ll be labeled an excessive worrier by his doctors. But then another part of me thinks back to when I had not yet met him yet, but held him, inside of me, and I knew—I knew—something wasn’t quite right. And it wasn’t. I’m not an ultrasound technician. I’m not an ob/gyn. Only a mother. With an uneasy gut.

I hope it’s wrong.

“Instinct is the nose of the mind.” —Madame De Girardin