On Instinct

Tuesday, December 8

This post was written as part of the Second Tuesday Parenting Carnival. For more fabulous posts from parent bloggers, visit www.CodeNameMama.com today!

Since childhood I've had The Fear of Needles.

One of my first curses was directed at a public health nurse during a routine vaccination. Years later, I had my only panic attack on the first day of pharmacy school in a clinic waiting room full of other students (I've never been more grateful for the maternal bosom of a fifty-something nurse or the relative anonymity of large universities).

With The Fear, you can imagine how I felt last week as The Husband held a screaming 2 month old Pea down so our family doc could quickly jab her fleshy little legs. I ached all over.

But here's what gets me - beforehand I looked up ways to reduce injection discomfort (for her and I both). In my search, I found a fairly comprehensive systematic review of 19 clinical trials suggesting that pain could be reduced by holding your baby on your lap, rubbing the spot beforehand and asking the nurse or physician to start with the least painful vaccine.

Unfortunately, when the time came I chose to go along with getting it done quickly rather than do any of those things. While this may not be wrong (she did seem to forget pretty quickly) it likely wasn't right either, because afterward I hated myself.

Thoroughly hated myself.

Why, so often in our lives, do we go against our instincts, parental or otherwise and go with the flow?

This could refer to our choice of work or life partner. In the case of parenting, it could refer to our birth stories, how much we hold our babies or our family sleep arrangements. Consider the debate about scheduled care vs. demand care - babies do fine either way but many of us read and read (and read and read and read) to ensure we're doing the right thing. If we just did what we felt was best - what our instincts suggested in the first place - our kids would turn out fine.

But it's not that easy. Fear can masquerade as instinct and lead us astray - we're afraid of doing something so we say we 'have a bad feeling'. Hindsight is also a fickle bitch with perfect vision - when things don't go as planned we beat ourselves up, saying we 'knew better' even if we didn't know better at all.

Some of the time we even abuse the term 'instinct' - just because my instinct says that my arch nemesis should wear a velour Christmas pantsuit over the holidays, it doesn't mean she should. I just want her to look like one of Santa's elves because I have 15lbs of prenatal poutine weight to lose.

What do you think of your instincts? Are they well honed? Do you even know where your instincts are located?

Or, like so many of us, do you just bumble along never quite sure what you did by serendipity and what you did by instinct, in the end chalking it all up to 'experience'?

Photo 'Art of Pain' by azarius

3 thoughts and opinions:

Dionna said...

We haven't vax'd Kieran (yet? ever? still on the fence leaning toward a very selective schedule), but I have read that bf'ing during shots helps. Your breastmilk has endorphins that help relieve pain. I'm sorry this was so painful for you both! :(

As far as instinct goes, I think that there is something to be said for the instinct to pick up and nurse a crying baby (heck, most bf'ing moms will let down at the sound of any baby crying, that's got to be some kind of instinct); the instinct to cuddle and keep a little one close; etc. But I'm also a big fan of reading and research in other areas. Vaccinations, discipline, how to not lose your mind with a toddler, ;) - I always appreciate hearing the wisdom of others.
I'm so glad you participated in the carnival! Thank you :)

The Accidental Pharmacist said...

I also saw that breastfeeding is supposed to make it easier and it makes intuitive sense. Another anecdotal suggestion I saw was to wear babies during the shots because they're so much more relaxed. I certainly think that anything to reduce the fear around shots is a good thing - when kids are okay with them it makes it a lot easier to go through with it.

navelgazingbajan said...

I have been thinking a lot about maternal instincts lately and I've come to the conclusion that we reject them way too much in favor of what some "expert" says. Not to say that the experts don't have any value but we should not ignore our intuition wholesale.

My little one is set to get his first vax soon (selective/delayed schedule). I was told by a nurse that one thing that could help is having them put a new needle on the syringe after they've drawn the fluid into it. The reason is that when they jab the needle into the vial it dulls the needle and a sharp needle doesn't meet as much resistance when it's penetrating the skin.

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