Learning to Trust Your Instincts
An instinct is an innate intelligence that helps ensure survival. Fish know how to swim, birds know how to build nests, you pull away when you touch something hot- instincts help us and other living things live another day. They give us an inborn map for making it through life.
While the hundreds of books on birth and parenting may send the message that your instincts are dead by instructing us on every aspect of pregnancy and birth, they aren’t! You have an ability to birth and raise your baby.
Our big brains come in VERY useful, but sometimes they can undermine our ability to tune in and be confident in our own unique gifts for doing our own unique thing.
Our birth experience will be individual for us. Our children will be individual little human beings.
How can you learn to trust your instincts when everywhere around you are voices telling you something else? Here are some tips on learning to tap in and trust your instincts.
Search for tools rather than methods-
There are many willing to give you a cookie cutter method for handling birth and life in general.
While these exact parameters can seem very comforting for those of us who like strict guidelines, they simply don’t honor the inherent differences in individual needs.
Rather than finding a one-size-fits-all method that is purported to work for everyone, seek out information that gives you tools. This will be more helpful and encourage you to listen to your instincts and the needs for your situation and child.
A very rigid sleep training method that gives you specific guidelines for how long your baby must sleep at each age, along with details about how long they should be allowed to cry, will not help you tap into your instincts.
Tips on routines and techniques like rocking, swaddling, nursing, and wearing your baby, along with learning what signs to look for in a tired baby give you tools that can help you remember what you instinctively know about baby behavior and sleep needs.
Ask the question, “Does it feel right?”
There are often books, opinions, and even studies absolutely sure on every issue. Ask yourself if it feels right- this will help you in learning to trust your instincts.
Too often, especially when it comes to raising our children, we do things that just feel awful because we have been told over and over again that that is how things are done.
Part of learning to trust your instincts is listening to that inner voice that questions the status quo. The more we do this, the easier it gets.
If you are in labor and you are told to lay on your back, does it feel right? Laying on your back when heavily pregnant usually is painful and most women don’t even sleep like this after the last half of pregnancy.
If something like this doesn’t feel right and even causes physical pain, think about what might feel better for you and try that. The pain in this situation is communicating to you that this position doesn’t use gravity, increases pressure on your back, and may even impede blood flow. Your instincts are trying to talk to you. (Click here to learn what normal labor feels like.)
Surround yourself with support-
There can be lots of negative voices when it comes to pregnancy and parenthood. There are also lots of self-proclaimed experts. Surrounding yourself with those that lift you up and increase your confidence can help you tap into your intuition and have the confidence to follow it, rather than encouraging feelings of helplessness.
If you are planning on breastfeeding, a biologically normal function, but are feeling lots of negativity from your mother-in-law, who never breastfed. It’s OK to parent differently, but choose your friend who nursed her babies, your lactation consultant, your childbirth educator, and others who support your decision, to speak to about your fears and concerns. They will support you rather than feed your fears.
Pay attention to what’s already working-
Learning to listen to our instincts can be really difficult, especially if we are already feeling unsure. Childbirth and childrearing can seem very foreign to us since these are activities that we often keep behind closed doors. Learning more about the process can be helpful. Sometimes we don’t even notice how much we already know. (Taking a great birth class helps this!)
Maybe you are really nervous about your ability to have a natural birth. This isn’t common in our culture and can seem like a big leap. Instead of focusing on that big event, think about what is working. Your body is growing and feeding your baby without you even thinking consciously about it. All the changes in your body, from wobbly hips to growing breasts, show how well you already work. Focus on the hundreds of things that you already do instinctively and you can gain confidence.
We have big brains and rely on our education to survive as advanced humans. This is a really fabulous thing that yields luxuries like air-conditioning and jet airplanes.
Sometimes, all our intelligence can get in the way of our faith in doing basic physiologically normal things, like growing a baby, birthing a baby, feeding a baby, and raising a baby. Our smarts come in handy and allow us to read the research. But the research also tells us that overall, we are suited to survival, and this includes an innate ability to grow, raise, and teach our children.
Tune out the negative voices, tune in to the voice you have within you. Doing this allows many a timid woman to find deep inner strength that she never knew she had. You are stronger than you realize!