Our Privacy/Cookie Policy contains detailed information about the types of cookies & related technology on our site, and some ways to opt out. By using the site, you agree to the uses of cookies and other technology as outlined in our Policy, and to our Terms of Use.


I Should Have Trusted My Mom Gut

Photograph by Getty Images

"I'm not that mom," I promised, looking into the emergency room doctor's eyes as I clung to my limp child. "I'm not a hypochondriac. This is the first time I have ever brought her to the ER. I swear she's not just tired. Something's wrong."

I was pleading at this point, but there really wasn't any reason to be. He knew something was wrong. He agreed with me. In fact, from the moment we walked into the ER, we had been treated as though this was a true emergency — rushed into a room and greeted by a doctor within minutes.

So why did I feel so desperate to justify this visit? Why did I feel the need to repeat those same words at least three more times during our visit?

"I'm not that mom."

I wish I knew the answer. In retrospect, I wish I had been able to handle that visit with enough confidence in my mommy gut that I didn't feel the need to convince everyone around me that I wasn't crazy.

But as it turns out, I didn't have that confidence, which is probably why even though I knew within five minutes of attempting to wake my daughter that morning that something was wrong, it still took me an hour and a half before I finally made the call to take her to the emergency room.

And only then after I had posted her symptoms online and been reassured by several others that this was, in fact, an emergency.

I was terrified of being brushed off as an over-reactive mom in the midst of a situation I was sure required some sort of urgent attention.

You see, she didn't have a fever. She wasn't throwing up or exhibiting any signs of pain or distress. But maybe that was part of the problem — she wasn't exhibiting much of anything at all. My normally rambunctious child had slept for over 14 hours before I finally attempted to wake her, and then she struggled to keep her eyes open for more than a few seconds at a time. I had never seen her like this before. Even when she had been sick in the past, running up to a 104-degree temperature, she had never been so lethargic. I couldn't get her to talk, to respond to anything I was doing, to eat or drink – I couldn't get her to do more than cuddle against me, her eyes fluttering open for brief periods of time, but never really focusing at all. The poor kid couldn't even sit up on her own without flopping over.

Yet still, it took me an hour and a half to declare this an emergency.

I hate myself for that. I'm angry that the fear of being a hypochondriac mom overrode the gut feeling I had from very early on that something was truly wrong with my baby.

It's hard. Helicopter moms have become so stigmatized in our world today that no one wants to be associated with that. There has even been a growing group of "bad mommies" who seem so intent on distancing themselves from helicopter moms that they veer off in the other direction — sharing with pride the many moments during a day when they allow their children to run amuck unsupervised while they chug their wine and high five each other for being so uninvolved.

For the record, I don't particularly want to fall into that camp either.

But usually, I pride myself on being the kind of mom who knows when to intervene and when to step back and allow my daughter to navigate her own world. It is important to me to be the mom who understands when to react and when to observe. In this moment though, I had no idea what the right answer was. And I was terrified of being brushed off as an over-reactive mom in the midst of a situation I was sure required some sort of urgent attention.

And so I clarified, again and again, that I was not that mom — to a doctor who seemed to need no such clarification in order to believe me.

My only hope is that when and if that day comes, I'm willing to trust my gut a little more than I was this time around.

In the end, it turned out that my little girl had likely ingested something. A pill, the kind of thing that would have knocked her out. Probably a painkiller, based solely on the fact that she gave no reaction at all to getting a catheter at the hospital, which for most people is a fairly painful event. Within about 12 hours though, she was back to her normal self. It was a long day of coming very slowly out of her haze, but by the time whatever it was had cleared her system, she was acting as though nothing had happened at all.

At some point in the previous evening my child, who I try so hard to be a good mom to, managed to get her hands on a pill of some kind and ingest it. And the next morning, we wound up in the ER with me somehow hyper-concerned about being viewed as the kind of mom who overreacts.

I'm proud of exactly none of that.

But after talking to friends, I came to realize that I'm also not alone in that fear. We all want to be supermoms. We want to be the ones who can remain cool under pressure and who can decipher an emergency from a wait-and-see event. The difference for a lot of moms is that they at least have a partner there to help them make those decisions. For me, there is no one else in the world that knows my girl as well as I do, no one waiting in the wings to help me ascertain how serious a situation may be when she simply isn't acting like herself.

So in this instant, our first emergency situation, I had to rely entirely on my own gut when making that decision. Unfortunately, I just wasn't as confident in my gut in that moment as I should have been.

Thankfully, my girl is just fine. Fully recovered from her day of pill popping. For my part, I would prefer we never have to experience anything like that again — the sinking feeling I had in the pit of my stomach when I knew something was truly wrong but I had no idea what. Still, it is inevitable that another emergency will at some point present itself. That's part of parenting, right?

My only hope is that when and if that day comes, I'm willing to trust my gut a little more than I was this time around, willing to make the decisions that I know are right in the moment — without allowing myself to be overrun by the fear of being wrong.

Of being that mom.

More from toddler