Why Birth Workers Should Stop Beating The “Intuition” Drum

With the prevalence of anxiety related to pregnancy and parenthood, it’s not hard to understand the seemingly continuous stream of questions that flood the online parenting pages; so many turn to them seeking advice, suggestions, and support for everything from truly rare emergencies to very common everyday occurrences.

What is a little confusing is the reverberating “trust your gut” that seems to find its way into every one of these threads. To be clear, yes, I believe there is something sweet and reassuring about the notion that you will just know what must be done to birth your baby and parent your child, and so on and so forth. 

And sure, it’s true that one’s intuition may be a handy tool when decisions must be made, but—and this is a big BUT—what happens when you don’t have an inclination toward a specific solution, or when you can’t tell if the voice you’re hearing is your intuition or your anxiety talking?

This is the reality for so many parents, including both those with and those without diagnosed anxiety disorders: they exist in a near-constant state of second-guessing the decisions they are making, big and small, when it comes to this whole birth and baby thing.

And yet we stand here, drumming the same tune over and over again: “Follow your intuition. Trust your gut. Follow your intuition. Trust your gut.”

To my colleagues: put the drums down and listen up—we can’t keep offering this phrase as a solve-all for the dilemmas our clients come up against.

In the face of so much information, so many choices, and so much judgment, telling someone to trust their gut, especially when we already know they don’t, isn’t helpful and further contributes to feelings of inadequacy.

Yes, we should encourage parents.

Yes, we should believe in our clients.

Yes, we should trust that they can and will do what is right for them.

But what if instead of resorting to these rote affirmations—the same old drum-song—, we reminded clients of moments where they already got it right?

What if we gave clients tools that would help them make decisions in moments of doubt? (B.R.A.W.N. & B.R.A.I.N.E.D. are my personal favorites.)

And what if, instead of warning against medical professionals—you know this rhetoric is rampant in the birth world—, we expressed to clients the importance of surrounding themselves with a team that they trust so that they have people they can fall back on when they don’t know what to do?

When their anxiety is too loud. When their intuition fails them.

To my clients: I hear you. I believe you when you say you are scared and unsure.

And I also believe that you are fully equipped with the tools to deal with this fear and uncertainty. 

You have already made so many good decisions, including building a team perfect for supporting you in this moment. 

You can do this.

And we’ll be there with you, every step of the way.