Trusting your Mother’s Instinct

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I was sitting on a bench yesterday, gabbing away with my friend, when Bug ran over to me, clutching his arm. He had tears streaming down his face, and was howling, but it wasn’t that terrible, horrible, high pitched kid scream. It sounded more like a “drama mama” cry (as I like to call them in my house).

I figured it was a typical playground scrape, until I saw his arm. When he held it out, my very first reaction was “Oh crap, we’re going to need an X-ray, that’s broken.”

We’re going to need an X-Ray.

I thought it. I said it out loud. It was my very first reaction.

Did I trust it?


I tried to give Bug a soda (it was the only thing I had in my bag) thinking it would cheer up a typical playground scrape. I looked at his arm again and again. I held that boo-boo in my hand, I poked and prodded, I asked him to bend, and twist and wiggle all his fingers. It all looked okay. But my gut wasn’t okay.

We’re going to need an X-Ray.

I asked my friend what she thought, and we both agreed, he wasn’t crying enough for it to really be broken. He wasn’t screaming. We second guessed if the arm really looked funny, or if he was holding it funny, and man, is that kid skinny, so his arm just looks funny.

A second friend came to the park. Bug was walking around, still guarding the arm, but not crying. She weighed in also. It’s not broken, It can’t be broken. I took him home. I gave him ice. I poked and prodded some more. And my gut continued to cry out.

We’re going to need an X-Ray.


And I still doubted myself.

I doubted myself as I tried to find a sitter. I doubted myself as I told him to put on his shoes, and I doubted myself the whole time we waited in the ER.

My gut told me my child needed me, needed help. And I doubted myself.

After 5 hours in the ER, we learned not only did he break the ulna AND the radius, he also dislocated the bones enough that we have a surgical consult in the morning. He needed that X-Ray.

And I knew it.


I wish so badly that I would have trusted my mother’s instinct from the beginning, and brought Bug in hours before I actually did. He was much braver than I could have imagined. He’s a tough kid. He didn’t cry much, and he didn’t fuss, and at one point in the Emergency Room, he told me he thought it was probably better. But my instinct said otherwise, and it was right.

How many times do we as mothers push off that still, small voice that speaks to our hearts, and our guts and tells us “my baby needs me.” It whispers when they are hurt. It nags when the situation is unsafe.

Sometimes, the world tells us “they are FINE” . . . “you are worrying too much!”

Sometimes, the kids themselves tell us they are fine.

I’ve learned over the years that my mother’s instinct is rarely wrong. Some days, like yesterday, my instinct is clouded by self-doubt. But it still didn’t let me down, not when I really stopped to listen to it, and pushed all the other feelings aside.

You have a mother’s instinct too. Do you trust it? Is there anything nagging at your heart right now, telling you that something just isn’t right? Perhaps it’s time to take a closer look, and trust that voice.

You have that instinct for a reason- trust it.



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  1. Yep. My daughter had serial casting to correct her clubfeet. One day I just knew something was wrong, but I waited hours. Finally I took her cast off myself in the middle of the night to discover she was having a huge, bleeding eczema reaction to her left cast. The poor kid had been screaming or nursing for the last 6 hours. To this day, I have not forgiven myself for not ripping that cast off the second I suspected a problem. She does not appear to hold it against me. 🙂

  2. I could share lots of broken arm stories, but I remember the first time one of my children broke his. I was sightseeing in downtown DC with a bunch of friends from out of town. It took me at least an hour before I took his not-very-dramatic complaints of pain seriously. We showed up at the ER later that day, and someone asked why he had a bandaid on his arm. I had obviously tried the mom trick of seeing if a band-aid would make it all better, even if it wasn’t bleeding.

    I’m praying that it heals quickly, and even better, if it heals without needing surgery.

  3. Oh man. That poor boy! What a brave little guy! I totally agree with you on that gut feeling. My 7 year old had a consult with a pediatric urologist at a children’s hospital last year. We left with a prescription that I had filled. That prescription sat in the cabinet and I just had “that feeling” that I shouldn’t give it to him. That doesn’t mean I think I know more than doctors, (because I don’t) but sometimes you just know. In no time, the problem resolved itself without the medication. Hope you guys enjoy some downtime and take it easy!

  4. So true! If you just can’t shake it, LISTEN to it! I have 7 and even with 3 grown and away from home, you still feel when they are not quite right.

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