Rachel Krich, a mother of three in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, felt something was wrong throughout her pregnancy, but she couldn't quite put her finger on it. She expressed her concerns to her receptive OB-GYN, who ordered weekly sonograms to monitor the baby. Everything turned out to be fine, and the sonograms helped put her mind at ease. Towards the end of her pregnancy, when she got a cold and no one else in her family got sick and she started experiencing low fetal movement and minor contractions on her due date, she again had a feeling that something was very wrong. "It turned out that I had just contracted listeria and had by proxy given it to my baby," she says. "If I had ignored the seemingly benign signs, my baby would have been born a still-born."
We all know moms with stories like Krich's, but when asked about it point-blank, it's hard to define exactly what mother's intuition actually is.
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Victor Shamas, a University of Arizona professor who has conducted studies and written extensively on the topic of intuition, describes it as "knowing something without knowing how you know." Back in 1998, he conducted a study that found a staggering 70 percent of new moms could predict their baby's sex with accuracy. And when those kids grow up, they know that moms know best. From a USA Today story on the study done in 1998:
"According to Dr. Shamas, the majority of sons and daughters are aware of the intuitive connection their mothers have with them. Nearly three-fourths of colleges students he surveyed maintained that their mothers are able to read their thoughts and feelings in a way that nobody else can."
It doesn't just have to be about the really big things, either. Dr. Becky Weinberg, a psychologist in Pittsburgh who specializes in treating perinatal women, often sees mothers in her practice who've read and are trying to implement what they've learned from countless books on sleep, for instance, that give guidelines for how much a child should be sleeping and how exactly to get them on a schedule. "While books can give parents important insight into their child's development," agrees Weinberg, “sometimes it's important to let the books and rules fade into the background and let your parenting style be guided by your child's needs, your family's style and that gut feeling. Parenting is a lot of trial and error, and no amount of parenting books can take that process away."
For Krich, her intuition saved her baby's life in more ways than one. "Another doctor in the practice wanted to do an elective induction three days before I was due, but I had a feeling that it was just a bad idea," she relates. "After my baby was diagnosed and recovering in the NICU, the doctor told me that had I been induced, I probably would have left the hospital before my baby started showing signs of sickness, and by the time I would have brought her back, she would have contracted sepsis and been dying. It was my gut and self-advocacy that absolutely saved her life."