This month is Craniosynostosis Awareness Month. In last week’s blog, I shared about receiving the craniosynostosis diagnosis and what the journey was like from that point through surgery. But one thing I didn’t focus on too much in the last blog, is truly worth mentioning. So I thought this week we’d revisit what I learned about trusting my mother’s gut and what you might say was the beginning of a really good lesson on letting go of guilt. Yeah, that might have to be its own blog post as well. Guilt is a big thing for moms, huh? Well, let’s head into the idea about trusting your mother’s gut, or as I will call it, the Momsense.
How many of you have ever had that nagging feeling that something just isn’t right? Maybe you felt like you should look into something more. Perhaps you felt you should avoid something or go against someone’s advice. Or quite possibly, you just knew something wasn’t right, but you couldn’t quite put your finger on it. This might be what some people would term “your mother’s gut.” I think I used to believe that it was a bit hokey or unreliable until of course, I started paying more attention to what my “mother’s gut” or “Momsense” was doing.
And boy oh boy, let me tell you that paying attention to it and following it are two very different things. Learning to follow your Momsense takes a whole lot of skill, confidence, and trust! I think I learned this the hard way. And if what I experienced can encourage one other mom to step up and speak up with some determination or confidence behind her, it will be worth sharing.
To Agree or Disagree…
I must admit that for most of my life, I have tended toward being a people pleaser. I try to infuse peace and level the playing field, so no one feels uncomfortable. I have even found myself in situations where I may have strongly disagreed with someone’s approach but felt like I had to give them a chance or believe them over myself. I guess I’d rather convince myself that someone knows better than to try and speak my piece and risk upsetting them. I’d like to think that this lesson will be a constant reminder, such that I don’t find myself in a similar situation again—ever!
So if you read last week’s blog about Bennett’s Journey, you are aware of the craniosynostosis diagnosis. But let me fill in a few details that led me to believe that a mother’s gut truly does know more than I had ever given it credit for.
The day Bennett was born, things started out totally different than normal (or at least for the other six baby’s births)! He was the only one that I had actually gone into labor with on my own. I had always been induced and was scheduled to be induced in just two days! So when I began having contractions rather hard, I figured they were not much different than the contractions I’d been having for a week now. I was weary and exhausted. I questioned whether I should call the after-hours doctor. I questioned whether I should make the hour-long drive to the hospital. I questioned if this was really worth calling a sitter for the kids. I questioned if I should even take my hospital bag. I questioned everything a mother debating those infamous contractions around due dates questions and then some!
Finally, I decided to go to the hospital. I walked to the ER desk and said, “I think I might be in labor. But I’m not really sure.” The sweet lady smiled a compassionate smile and quickly asked, “Oh, your first?” I’m just guessing that my inability to know at this point made it seem as though it was. “No, my seventh.” I sheepishly said, fully realizing how embarrassed I would feel to be sent home on baby seven in false labor!
You would have thought I had just yelled “FIRE!” In near panic mode, she called upstairs and a team of attendants quickly appeared to plop me in a wheelchair and briskly take me away! All in the wink of an eye. “OH my goodness!!! Baby seven!!! This could come quickly!” They exclaimed.
The whole time, I kept doubting myself. I probably don’t know what is really going on.
I was indeed in labor and in less than four hours, I was pushing. For those who chide first-time moms in not knowing real labor from false labor, give some grace! This seventh-time mom didn’t even know. And it honestly felt no different than the week-long labor pains I had prior every child’s birth!
At around 4 am, I began pushing. I was waiting in anticipation for the quick delivery. You see, I had given birth six other times. I mentioned before the uniformity in which I had done it!! LOL! I had a baby born at 4:50 p.m., 4:51 p.m., and 4:52 p.m. I had babies born on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. I had babies born that were all within 1/2 “ in length. I had babies born that were 7’, 7’1 oz, 7’2 oz. All six babies had heads in the 25% for circumference. And all six babies were born after just 2-3 pushes.
I am quite thankful it didn’t end up a c-section. My doctor said later she wasn’t sure what was going to happen, but you would have never known from her calm demeanor that she had doubts or concern. I on the other hand, kept asking, “What if I can’t get this baby out?” And for a VERY PRIVATE and MODEST person (yes, even on baby seven!) I was mortified! I mean let’s admit it, having a baby is an all-out adventure! (Pun intended!!) I offered apologies after each push to those in the room waiting (nurses, doctor, my mom and husband). After 50 minutes of pushing,– hard, difficult, mortifying pushing…Bennett finally entered this world. It was unlike any of the other deliveries…in every way possible.
I Questioned and Questioned
His head was misshapen from the start. It was bruised and didn’t look like all the other babies’ heads. His head was narrower and had a bit of a bump at the back. I asked the pediatrician about it that very day. He reassured me that with a sunny-side-up birth it might cause his head to be misshapen for a while. That means, he was born face up, but really that is just a twisted way to make something very, very painful on both mom and baby sound less horrible! It was the most painful of all seven births to recover from! Holy cow! I didn’t think I was going to walk right for six weeks!
At the two week, six week, two month, and four-month checks, I continued to ask about the shape of his head. His forehead did not seem symmetrical, and it seemed to be very prominent. The circumference of his head at birth was in the 48th percentile. Each visit it continued to increase beyond the expected curve. I asked how long it would look different or be misshapen. Each time I felt the doctors thought I was just over-reacting and making something of nothing. Their responses seemed to convey as much.
“Mom, his head is just fine.”
“Mom, his head is beautiful.”
“No worry Mom, there is nothing wrong with his head!” There seemed to be a condescending tone that made me feel a bit embarrassed. And I had seen four different doctors by this time, since the office had eight doctors seeing patients. Well, they know a whole lot more than I do. I guess I should just believe them. I tried hard to put my worry aside. But something just didn’t seem right.
At the four-month visit, the doctor said, “Ok, Mom, if it would make you feel better, we can do an x-ray. If the x-ray shows there is a problem we will refer you. And if it is clear, there is no need for a referral.” I left the office waiting for a read on the x-ray and thought I’d do a little Google research about baby head shapes. I read all about the fusing of bones and thought it sounded just like Bennett’s issue. I felt pretty certain this would be it. The next day the doctor called and said the x-ray was clear. What?! There’s no way! And then immediately, I began to doubt and question myself. Well, there’s no way you know as much as those doctors. You need to just trust them. Don’t be a pushy mom. Don’t sound like a mom who is anxious and over-reactive. Let it be. Be a calm mom and just go with it.
[clickandtweet handle=”” hashtag=”” related=”” layout=”” position=””]Okay, so for all you parents who are great advocates for your kids, I commend you.[/clickandtweet]
At this point, I gave up my advocating and silenced myself. My peace-making personality learned the hard way! At his eight-month well-baby check, the doctors took some measurements and posed an idea. “It looks like his head circumference is off the chart, (AKA over the 99%) in circumference. Maybe we should send you to Denver to see a neurologist.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but those seem to be some big words to digest when you’ve worked hard to just be calm and trust the doctors.
Once in Denver, the doctor entered the room (looking like a very young male nurse, I might add). He didn’t even have to take measurements or touch Bennett to make his diagnosis. He explained the process and assured us they would be doing a CT scan to get the information confirmed for surgery, but that he was sure this was a craniosynostosis diagnosis. Indeed, the word that I had looked up at 4 months (yes, the x-ray had been misread and while CT is the preferred and accurate method of diagnosis, the x-ray did indicate the craniosynostosis at 4 months).
I can’t explain to you how sick I felt that I had not been a better advocate for Bennett. Immediate guilt overwhelmed me. Yes, that will be a future blog post all its own. (Guilt is one of the most common things mothers struggle with. And I can totally understand!) I will tell you it was quite a trip coming to terms with that guilt and learning to trust that God had the perfect timing in His hands. And that, my friends, is all I can trust at this point.
Trust Your Momsense
[bctt tweet=”Sometimes being a good advocate takes you outside your comfort zone.” username=”personalitymom”]
But it doesn’t go without saying that I learned some really important things about trusting my mother’s gut! And I’d love to share these thoughts with you. I hope that these thoughts might help encourage you in learning to trust your Momsense.
No one knows your child like you do. If something hits you as odd, important, or worth considering, do so. You have a very good idea about the details of your child’s health, behavior, and well being. Learn to trust yourself.
It doesn’t have to make perfect sense or sound intelligent. Don’t feel like you can only speak up if you totally understand it or if it sounds logical. You might only know enough to question and ask for another opinion. That is totally acceptable.
Your perspective is valuable and does make a difference. Trusted professionals can be mistaken or need to know your perspective. So don’t minimize your view, even if they do.
Sometimes being a good advocate takes you outside your comfort zone. Speaking up, taking action, insisting on doing something does not make you pushy. And sometimes we have to push to be heard and understood, whether we like that or not.
Learn to trust these feelings like another sense. The senses we were created with are like gifts to us. This “momsense,” in my opinion is too. I know not everyone reading this feels in tune with God, and that’s your business. But I can tell you that if your life is faith-based, we are given the Holy Spirit as a gift. That gift is to work like another sense. This may very well be a way that God allows us to know His direction or plan. Stay tuned in to Him, and these feelings are often on track.
A Great Resource for You
The following is a graphic I put together to be a quick reminder of what these five points in learning to trust your momsense is all about. Pin this and use for future reference. Mark my words, there may come a day when you need to advocate for the needs of your child and should you have any doubts about your sensibility, capacity, or permissibility, you can refer to this. Download the full graphic by signing up for free resources and more here.
There were many times I looked at Bennett during this ordeal and cried tears of frustration or failure. For some time, I really blamed myself for not being a better advocate for his care. Truly in the end, I had to just realize that God had a plan. None of this took him by surprise. Now I would need to find a new perspective.
Another Resource To Help
Some of you, you might find yourself in the same boat as I was. You might struggle with the thoughts that discourage or disable you from speaking up. That’s not a great way to go through life. Or maybe you are guilting yourself for not having spoken up. You might like to consider some ideas about changing your distorted or ineffective thinking and start working toward a new perspective that enables you to be the best parent you can be! You might find this past free resource helpful- click here to download.
So, please feel free to share Bennett’s
Journey with others so that they too can learn about this diagnosis. So
many doctors don’t work with this, and it is key to spur the awareness so
children can be properly treated and in the early window for best results. Moms
may very well be the first ones to notice and feel that something is not right.
Equipping other moms with this knowledge allows them to be on the lookout. Find
part 3 to this series here.