Learning to Trust Myself

My second son Andrew was a few days home from the hospital and my milk still hadn’t come in. Chicago was also experiencing its biggest blizzard in 15 years, so as snow fell in silent sheets outside, covering cars and front doors, we remained hostage in our apartment. The news kept replaying the story of a woman who tried to take a cab to the hospital while in labor and ended up delivering a healthy baby boy in a snowplow when the cab couldn’t make it any further.  Bless that woman.

Since we also couldn’t get our car out of the garage, my father-in-law picked us up and took us to the routine, 4-day-old check up with our pediatrician. Andrew had lost weight, so the doctor sent me home with several bottles of formula and instructions to feed it to him.

Back in the apartment and sitting on my safe, worn-in spot on the couch, I felt uneasy. The bag of formula sat on the coffee table in front of me, and Andrew slept on my lap. I certainly wasn’t against using formula, and part of me felt relief at not having to breastfeed. The pediatrician had also given me the contact for a lactation consultant, so with the baby still asleep on my right arm, I leaned forward and dug her business card out of the plastic bag. The woman spoke sweetly on the phone, but she was also adamant – NO formula for now, and follow her instructions.

The lactation consultant said I should nurse Andrew as much as I could, and in between each feeding, I should pump. This sounded unrealistic to me, especially with my toddler running around, shoving his tiny fingers inside electronics and shaking down gates that were meant to keep him contained.

But we were, after all, captive in our house, so my heart told me to try breastfeeding a little longer. I switched off the news and turned on The Polar Express for Bennett. The 3 of us settled in comfortably on the warm couch, and as shovels and snowplows raked at the frozen pavement outside, I nursed… and pumped… and started over.

The next morning, the snow had stopped, and my milk had come in.

This is not a story about breastfeeding. It’s not a story about formula versus breastmilk or what you should do in this situation. This is a story about trusting your inner wisdom – the voice that whispers to you so softly that you second guess it and think it’s not real. But the more you listen, the louder you will hear it – YOU are your most reliable guidance system.

Say this to yourself every day – I know what to do. I know what to do because it is who I am.

A few months after my husband moved out, I felt unsure. He had taken the boys for his night of the week and I was alone – again. I was alone, just like I had been the entire last year each time he left on a trip. Why would I choose to be alone? Wouldn’t it be easier to just let him back in? Part of me wanted to ignore the issue and paste the broken pieces back together, like a vase that had accidentally been knocked over. Even with all the cracks and ugliness underneath, on the surface, we could look – happy.

In moments when I feel unsure, I quiet the chattering in my head and bend my ear towards my heart.

On this September morning, without my boys to get ready and take to school, I set my alarm for 5:30am. I planned to start walking in the dark, down to the lake, along the path, and around the big point, in order to watch the sunrise, which my weather app told me would happen at 6:47am.

I made it to the uneven shore path and noticed the sky was already filled with a pale blue light. It was only 6:15 – did I have it wrong? I still had to get to the other side of the point. I started doubting, and the bully in my head chastised me. I was missing it. I had miscalculated the time, and this was obviously the worst spot someone could ever pick to watch the sunrise in the first place.

Why is the voice that speaks down to us so loud and the true, intuitive wisdom so soft?

I quickly shrugged off the opportunity to see the sunrise and turned my attention to the water lapping gently on the rocks, to the cool air filling my body as I breathed, and to my rapid heartbeat as I marched briskly up the stone steps to the top of the point. I made my way down the other side, through a grove of trees, and out onto a vacant pier. A fishing boat with two men in sweatshirts floated lazily along next to me. Glancing east, I noticed a golden sliver surfacing just above the dark grey water. The men in the fishing boat had put down their poles, and sat patiently with their phones extended, ready to snap a photo.

I hadn’t missed it – it was just beginning.

Relieved, I sat down on the edge of the pier. Dark trees on either side of the shoreline jutted inward, creating the perfect frame. We all watched as the orange, fiery ball rose slowly above the horizon. The men in the fishing boat became a black silhouette against the sun’s reddish glow, and the water glistened and wiggled under its reflection. We all remained still as the entire sky turned pink, and then orange, and finally blue again. The day was here – just when I had written the whole spectacle off.

I can trust myself, just as you can trust yourself. Think about all the times your intuition has led you to make a small decision, like holding someone a little longer in hug, or making a last minute phone call to check in on a friend. And then think about all the times your heart has led you to make big decisions, like giving breastfeeding one last chance, or leaving your safe career for a new, albeit riskier adventure.

The more you acknowledge your intuition and how it speaks to you, the stronger it becomes and the easier it is for you to understand – a dream, a whisper, a gut reaction… an actual person or event that shows up just at the right time.

You know what to do – because it is who you are. So bend your ear toward your heart, and listen.