There is no such thing as Mommy Instinct

It’s called common-sense and gut-instinct. It’s developed over your entire lifetime and based completely on your experiences. It can be either right or wrong based on things like whether a given situation is similar to the ones you’ve previously experienced and whether your reaction to those experiences was fair.

Pushing extremely large objects out of your vagina causes tearing, not psychic medical powers. If it did, most doctors would save the money on med school and just sit naked on a bowling ball for a day or two.

Thank you. That is all.

You will now be returned to your regular vaccine schedule, already in progress.


Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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  1. I don’t suppose I can nominate you for COTW, because “Pushing extremely large objects out of your vagina causes tearing, not psychic medical powers” is easily the funniest thing I’ve read/seen this week, by far.

  2. Huh. This is actually news to me. I mean, ever since I passed that kidney stone, I’ve been able to set things on fire if I really concentrate. I just assumed you girls got some kind of similar deal.

  3. “Giving birth is a great anti-depressent. After having a baby force it’s way out through your cervix, any day where a baby doesn’t force it’s way out of your cervix by comparison is a good day”

    Julie Burchill

  4. My daughter was born by c-section. Would my wife have a negative quantity of psychic powers? Actually, she is psychic: she always knows when I’m thinking about sex.

  5. OMG!

    “Pushing extremely large objects out of your vagina causes tearing, not psychic medical powers.”

    The best phrase on the magical properties of the motherhood! Ever!

    Actually, some hormonal changes might effect the emotional status of the mother following labor, and might lead to a condition called “maternity blues”. It might cause unbonding with the baby and in severe cases might even lead to infanticide and suicide.

    So, no mommy instincts there!

    Common sense is good, it doesn’t mess up with hormones :)

  6. After years as a parole officer dealing with women who physically abused, sold, molested and allowed others to molest their children and all the stories my sister has told me from her work in CPS I am sure there is no such thing as a mommy instinct, or a daddy instinct or a decent human being instinct. We are a bunch of blood thirsty barbarians and need loving people in our lives when we are ankle biters to teach us better.

  7. Fantastic!

    Yesterday I called my kid’s daycare to see if her father had picked her up as planned only to find out he hadn’t. She was left at daycare. My boss swears it was mom intuition that made me pick up the phone. No, clinical narcissism with sociopathic tendencies has a pretty striking pattern. Best way to provide a healthy environment for the kid is to predict the behavior using past experience and professional guidance. No woo involved.

  8. @Ashley.Ele: Oh, do I remember those days. She wouldn’t show up. And I would get the call. The only reason I ever bought a cell phone was so schools could get in touch with me when she would just blow off the kids. Or even worse she would have other people pick them up. Glad that is over and done with.

  9. @Gabrielbrawley: What worries me is when he DOES pick her up. Last time she was dropped off after spending time with him, she was so dehydrated from running around a park during an extreme heat advisory that she threw up her dinner ( oh, he forgot to feed her as well). Of course, she was also under dr. orders to avoid vigorous activities since the joints in her right leg were sprained…but since when do people listen to doctors? That afternoon I clearly predicted to a friend that he would bring her home limping and dehydrated even after being warned. It’s like I had a crystal ball.

  10. Pushing extremely large objects out of your vagina causes tearing, not psychic medical powers.

    There is an ignorant but serious question I have wanted to ask in an appropriate thread, and I think this is as close as I’m going to get.

    Is giving birth considered a pre-requisite (either officially or unofficially) for a career as a midwife?

  11. @infinitemonkey: I don’t know what line of work you’re in…but accounting, vaginas and watermelons are perfectly complimentary. Ok, maybe watermelons are like that one weird little shriveled bean in the bag from the grocery store, but I’m standing by vaginas and accounting.

  12. @Ashley.Ele: This sounds so much like mine. I picked them up from her house once and they started crying as soon as the car started. They were so hungy they were crying and asking me for food. I stopped at the first drive through I saw and got them as much as they could eat. I had a years long fight with an emergency room at a hospital where she lives now. She took my middle child in because he was so dehydrated that he passed out. Then she didn’t pay the bill and told the hospital that I would pay it. I gave the hospital my insurance information and informed them that she was legally responsible for all co-pay and other out of pocket costs.

  13. If she has contributed nothing else to the world (and she hasn’t), at least Jenny McCarthy has singlehandedly and conclusively debunked the dictum that “Mother knows best.”

  14. @pciszek:

    I should have added I am asking this because I frequently get in arguments about “complimentary and alternative” medicine. I have absolutely no desire for a career that in any involves reproduction, human or otherwise.

  15. @Ashley.Ele:

    My boss swears it was mom intuition that made me pick up the phone.

    Sounds like sound Operational Paranoia to me. (Operational Paranoia is how you avoid an Operational Oversight, Possibly Serious.) Even if your ex was well-intentioned and mostly responsible, any such juggling situation calls for checks like that. Even couples who are still together have snafus because parent A was taking kids 1 and 3 to the [insert extracurricular activity here] and coulda sworn that parent B already knew that they were supposed to pick up kid 2.

  16. Okay, my vagina is hiding in fear at your statement, Elyse. Please help, you need to let it know that it’s okay!!!

    Seriously, I second (third?) COTW. I don’t care if it’s against the rules, that was GOOD.

  17. @Nicole:

    Tell your vagina it’s okay. The vagina doesn’t tear… she’s a strong one. But you might want to tell Miss Vag J.J. not to whisper a word about the tearing to her neighbor Perineum.

  18. @Elyse: Why does it seem like when I’m around you guys, I’m often wrong, but when I’m in real life, I’m often right? Is it because you guys are smart enough to call me out, and I use smooth rhetoric to worm my way out?

  19. @Elyse: Hehe, thanks for that. Still… eesh.

    I remember coming from a baby shower full of scientists and scientists’ wives, so they were sharing the whole medical rundown of having kids and what it does to your body. I called my mom afterward and said “What the hell is wrong with you? Why did you do that THREE TIMES?!”

    She replied that the worst part was getting us through puberty. ;-)

  20. There are “mommy instincts”. That is what causes bonding when times are good, and infanticide when times are bad. What causes postpartum psychosis is (I think) metabolic stress due to low NO and insufficient liver capacity to support glucogenesis to support lactation. There is an obligate need for glucose to make lactose. If the liver can’t make enough glucose because of either diet or liver problems, then sufficient milk of sufficient nutritional quality cannot be produced. In evolutionary time that meant one thing. The evolutionary “correct” response was to accelerate the inevitable and try again. The metabolic demand of early pregnancy is quite small.

    Pushing large things out of your vagina does cause physiological changes via oxytocin release.

  21. @Ashley.Ele: Married them and at least in my case had multiple children. In my defense she wasn’t noticible crazy when we married. Some of my friends with pschological training tell me that her behavior sounds like late onset schizophrenia. 5 years and 7 months and my youngest will be 18. Something I look forward to.

  22. @Gabrielbrawley: Yeah, it is…but if you’ve got 10 years of completely admissible mental health records with admitted physical & mental abuse, extensive drug abuse and is considered unstable by his psychiatrist…well, you at least get supervised visitation. It doesn’t help that he admitted to the therapist that he attacked our little girl while high on cocaine (started it back up behind my back) about 3 months ago. Mine groomed me into believing everyone was out to get him and were all liars. He is one of the most charming men you’ll ever meet. Didn’t help I was 24 and he was 36. Man I was young.

  23. Hey, if I mention episiotomies here will it derail the thread the way mentioning circumcision normally does?

    Also, as a former male baby, I apologise to all of the vaginas in the world. We’re sorry, please take us back.

  24. when people use expressions like “mommy instict” do you think they are literally claiming that mothers have a sixth sense?

    Imagine if I countered “there’s no such thing as gut instinct”.

    Sometimes I get the feeling that some of the posters here are overly pedantic.

  25. @drockwood:

    I am specifically referring to Jenny McCarthy’s claims that her Mommy Instincts told her that her child didn’t have any of the diagnoses the doctors were telling her and instead diagnosis-shopped until her Mommy Instincts told her that the doctor that told her it was autism was correct. And her Mommy Instincts have guided her in treating her son’s autism. And her Mommy Instincts told her not to get the MMR vaccine, but she didn’t listen. And her Mommy Instincts are always right. And she tells women not to listen to their doctors, but instead to listen to their Mommy Instincts.

    Also, I specifically said that “Mommy Instincts” are the same as “gut instincts”, and went on to exlplain what a gut-instinct exactly is. So I don’t really understand your point? Did you even bother reading past the title?

    I guess my dry, humorless, overly-clinical, pedantic ways have no place in skepticism. I guess I should go back to my day job where I pick apart jokes and explain why they’re not funny. (But you see, a “pianist” and a “penis” aren’t even close to the same thing… and they’re not the same word. It’s not funny.”)

  26. @Elyse: “I” get your point. I’d like to write “we,” since this is an active, vibrant community for skepticism and a bit of fun, and I’d like to think myself a part of that. And, of course, Jenny McCarthy is the devil incarnate, but that is beside the point.

    Hugs and love, you dry, humorless, overly-clinical, pedantic woman.

  27. @Nicole: Thanks! Btw, she is definitely a tiny skepchick. She doesn’t believe a damn thing I say. It’s always, “Where’s your evidence, Mommy?” and, “‘Because I said so’ is a logical fallacy.”

    Ok, so she still can’t pronounce logical, but we’re working on it.

  28. @Elyse: okay okay. Fair enough.
    In my defence nothing in the post explains it’s a response to something Jenny McCarthy said. So it was an understandable mistake on my part.

  29. I can’t believe no one has made a joke about the taint yet! And yet, here I am, speechless.

    Taint Misbehavin’? Taint She Sweet? Taint no thing but a chicken-wing? I’ve seriously got nothing.

    Maybe I should take this as a sign to stop trying to force jokes.

  30. I always liked Bill Cosby’s description of childbirth pain: “Guys, it’s like taking your lower lip and pulling it…over the top of your head!”
    My wife tends to agree after two kids…

  31. @Elyse: I’m glad you posted this. As a mom, I too am sick of people behaving like motherhood is magical and turns a woman into some kind of demigod.

    On a personal note, I became clinically depressed during my pregnancy and it continued until my son was at least a year old. I took very good care of my son, but I felt like a some sort of nanny robot. Like I knew the baby needed to be cared for, but I had no emotional attachment to him.

    I know my body was rebelling against me and it’s not really anyones fault that I was depressed, but, damn, all that talk of mommy insticts and people telling me that I would know my child better than anyone else sure felt like salt in my wounds.

    I didn’t bond with my child when he was born, I didn’t feel any mommy insticts at all, I had no idea what his cries meant (everyone kept telling me that mother’s *always* understand their babies cries). My mother went so far as to tell me that having a baby is like constantly walking on a cloud.

    So, when people would tell me all these wonderful, magical things about motherhood…which I wasn’t experiencing…I felt like crap. Like I was some sort of failure as a mother.

    I now know that I wasn’t a failure and while it took a long time, I did eventually bond with my son and I love the little guy to pieces. My life is 1,000 times better now than it was before I had him.

    I realize that post partum depression would still exist regardless of whether or not these crazy myths about motherhood were so popular, but it certainly doesn’t help the situation when young mother’s are setup to believe that something will happen to them that isn’t going to happen.

  32. @LadyMitris: I’m glad you shared this story. Too many people don’t share the bad parts of having kids and being a mother because they’ve heard all these wonderful things and think they’re some kind of kid-hating freak. Nobody wants to admit that they’re not a “natural” at parenting.

    I have no children, but happened upon one day while surfing. (My husband thinks my goal is to read the entire internet.) Anyway, she’s funny and candid, and talks openly about her “failures” and her struggles with being a mother (as well as her joys and successes). She occasionally goes into the woo (she struggled with vaccines), but usually she does research and tries to figure out what makes sense.

    I think more mothers should stop trying to perpetuate the idea that motherhood is magical and everything is roses and rainbows once you have kids. Chances are these women who told you all these wonderful things were altering their own memories of what it was like because they didn’t want to admit that it was hard for them, too.

  33. @otherAmanda: “…they didn’t want to admit that it was hard for them, too.”

    Between the peer pressure, the myths and the stigma of admitting there’s “something wrong” with their mood/mind, it’s not surprising to me.

  34. Oddly, it was from witchcraft (O these many moons ago ;-) ) that I learned how to do the “eyes in the back of the head” thing that mothers are famed for. Starhawk called it “soft vision”, but once I got the hang of it, I immediately recognized what it was “really for” — keeping track of excessively mobile kids.

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