How birth unfolds is the result of myriad, complex and interactive pieces from every aspect of our self, relationship, and circumstances. It’s probably one of the least straight-forward things we’ll ever do, an experience that simply won’t yield to simplified 5-Step programs for having a perfect birth.
Intuition is one of the many pieces of the puzzle, and probably one that gets overlooked when we simply plug into a system of protocols and testing, scripts and emphasis on the mechanical or clinical processes of pregnancy and birth.
Here are seven observations about intuition, both generally and as it pertains to birth.
Intuition is a valid way of knowing
I’ve noticed lots of talk about Evidence-Based Practices in the birth community. And of course there is plenty that’s good about this, as it has started to take out some of the more harmful obstetric practices that are still happening only because they always have and not because they’ve demonstrated an ability to improve the mother-baby experience. But as with the pursuit of science and research, it can tend to elevate one type of knowledge above all others: to know logically and empirically becomes the only trustworthy reference point for making a decision about one’s body.
Honestly, that type of knowing is very masculine! it’s the engine that obstetrics runs on, and it doesn’t leave room for the softer knowing that has its roots in the feminine aspect of God (Holy Spirit), which is wisdom and mystery, surprising us at every turn and leading us down paths that don’t immediately “make sense.” Intuition is in this category. I long for women to know that it also is a valid way of perceiving the world and making decisions about our prenatal care, birth, and parenting.
When we can hold both forms of knowing in complementary tension, we’ll be giving ourselves the most complete tool kit. Don’t discount your intuitive knowing as silly, disruptive, or suspect.
Intuition is easy to miss
It’s “voice” is often quiet, a respectful suggestion that refuses to force itself upon us. It whispers, usually, and nags only when we’re REALLY walking into trouble. On top of that, we can’t google what it’s telling us in order to validate its message; it’s completely personal and internal. For all of these reasons, it’s very easy to miss it. Unless we become practiced in attuning our ears to it and taking actions in response to what it’s telling us, it can easily become inaccessible to us. It’s like a bird, I think, requiring stillness and soft movement to coax it into proximity and demonstrate that we are trustworthy to hold it.
Intuition overlaps with Holy Spirit
Jesus talked about the Holy Spirit as the better thing, better even than if he were to remain with us in human body. Why? Because Holy Spirit is God dwelling within, no longer outside/above/beyond us. It’s the ultimate intimacy with Wisdom and Word, with God his/herself. When we’ve received the gift of Holy Spirit In Us, I find that that line between that Wise Counselor and what the world calls Intuition gets very blurry. I sometimes refer to it as “Holy Spirit-infused intuition.” Yeilding our intuition to the perfect knowledge of God-in-us makes it that much more trustworthy. Sometimes learning to listen to the voice of God and listening to our intuition are indistinguishable.
You might find that you’re more comfortable thinking of it in those terms: being guided by the wild, honking goose called Holy Spirit, whom Jesus has promised you as a counselor and comforter who leads you into all truth and shows you the way you are to go.
Intuition partners with physiology
If I pay attention, I can notice that my body communicates as an agent of my intuition. This ranges from dramatic to subtle. There have been times when I have an unshakable restlessness when I’ve put myself into a situation or relationship that IS NOT FOR ME. My entire body seems to be trying to tell me that I need to get out. This has only happened a handful of times in my life. Every time, when I finally exited the commitment/situation/relationship, it calmed right down.
Usually, however, it isn’t quite that loud and persistent but may manifest more as a slight increase in heart rate, a slight tremor of our hands, an impulse to lean or move either toward or away from, a quiet unease that we’re tempted to write off as annoying rather than telling, a leaping feeling in our chest, or flutters in our belly. These subtle physiological responses often come in a moment, like when we’re being offered a choice to accept an intervention or a test, or interviewing a potential midwife, or finding our way to the best position to allow or babies passage. Listening to our bodies in those moments can lead us to make the best (for us) decision about all the many tiny choices that we make throughout our pregnancies and births.
Intuition may contradict “facts” and “reality.”
Just as God invites us to walk by faith instead of sight, this gift of intuition God Themself has put in us does likewise. It may gently nudge us to choose a birth plan that statistics tell us we’re not a good candidate for, or to opt not to use a care provider that all our friends have spoken well of but about whom we have an uneasy feeling, or to go to the emergency room even when there aren’t any outright signs that something is wrong. Part of you might think., “This really doesn’t make any sense, but I just really sense that I’m supposed to ________.”
In these moments, what the research or your mom or your care provider say take a back seat to your intuition. You follow through on it. In some cases, you may later get to see exactly why that guidance was a gift to you. Perhaps had you not listened to it you would have suffered an outcome that makes you shudder to think about it. Other times you might not ever see the obvious benefit of having honored your intuition except for that doing so settled your spirit and brought you peace at the moment.
Intuition is not equal to anxiety or premonition.
Heidi Priebe wrote in a recent Instagram post:
I realized that for all the talk we have in the wellness community about following our intuition, we don’t have a firm definition of what intuition actually is. And the main thing it tends to get mixed up with? Anxiety. Anxiety, like intuition, shows up as a deeply embedded physiological response to our thoughts and environment. However, the energy of anxiety is active and alert. The energy of intuition is steady and calm. All intuition is – at the end of the day – is our bodies calming down at the prospect of choosing what’s healthy and right for us. Anxiety is the act of the body gearing up for a battle that it thinks it needs to fight. Both feelings are potent and hard to ignore, but they show up in distinctly different ways. And learning to tell the difference between the two of them makes all the difference in the world.
If it has a tone of fear, urgency, shame or dread, it probably isn’t your intuition so much as anxiety.
Intuition can be warped by trauma
For many years I didn’t trust my own intuition. Experiences growing up told me that it was invalid and wrong. It has taken years to recover my trust in it and to see it as a friend, rather than a thing to be overridden and silenced. I think this is a common experience, and if that’s you, I see you. It may take a while, and that’s ok. Practice with small things. Invite Holy Spirit to communicate with you and guide you, and take action, first on those things that seem inconsequential, and then moving up to bigger things. Tell the voices that shame you for having deep, inward impressions or knowledge of what is good for you to close their mouths and have a seat, and just keep going.
You’ve got this.
Embrace: A Sisterly Guide to Having Babies Bravely is a one-of-a-kind online course for the childbearing year that combines faith and holistic health to companion you on your way to and beyond your natural birth. It honors your intuition while also arming you with accurate information, leaving you empowered to confidently navigate your path.
©Template by roselyncarr // ©photography by brooke collier // 2021 all rights reserved