A Mother's Intuition

A mom learns to trust her gut and advocate for her daughter’s health when nobody else would listen.

By Nili Zaharony

Motherhood, especially early on, is riddled with questions and insecurities. The following story taught me, in a very real way, that I know my kid better than anyone and it’s ok to tell the doctor that he’s wrong.


My first, a baby girl, was such an easy baby. I had a miserable pregnancy, so I suppose this was karma giving me a break. She was a laid back, happy baby that amazed everyone with her chill and accepting attitude. On top of that she was determined and would work endlessly to reach new gross motor milestones, most of them on the earlier side of the scale (not that I’m bragging).


At 5 months old, we had a day and night in which she screamed non-stop! She had never done this to us before. At the time we chalked it up to teething or gas or whatever the usual suspects are for an unhappy baby.


After a few days though, she wasn’t screaming or fussy, but she wasn’t well. She wasn’t eating, playing, or exploring with her previous levels of enthusiasm. I was exclusively nursing and was waiting for her to recover from the virus so that I could introduce solid foods (sweet potatoes I’d excitedly made for the next big milestone).


I made an emergency appointment with the pediatrician. He told me he thought it was a virus and it would pass in a few days. Over a period of two weeks we visited the pediatrician 3 times, had countless email exchanges with updates on how she was feeling, and multiple calls to the nurse’s hotline.


Each time I got the same answer – it’s a virus, give it a couple days. Meanwhile, the light in her eyes was fading and she became increasingly placid.


Towards the end of this two-week period, I picked up my now 5.5-month-old and her head flopped backwards, as if she no longer had the muscle tone to hold it up. This was my last straw. I called the nurse’s hotline again and thankfully, the voice on the other line told me to, in so many words, “screw the pediatrician” and take my baby girl to the ER.

... The lesson I take away is that I know my kids best and it is up to me to: 1) Trust my gut. 2) Push when I know that something is wrong. 3) I am their best advocate.

Within two minutes of getting a bed in the ER, the medical staff started asking us about construction sites and honey. Huh? She was exclusively breast fed and we both work in tech. I had no clue what they were getting at, but they did.


After our two-week saga, we were in an ambulance being transferred to the pediatric ICU at another hospital. Baby girl had contracted infant botulism and 3 different pediatricians kept telling me it was just a simple virus.


She spent four days in the pediatric ICU and then was transferred to pediatrics. I lived in the hospital for a little more than two weeks as she recovered and re-learned how to eat, lift her head, and roll over.


We, thankfully, caught it early and she made a complete recovery with an amazing care team. But the lesson I take away is that I know my kids best and it is up to me to:

  1. Trust my gut
  2. Push when I know that something is wrong
  3. I am their best advocate.
Nili Zaharony
Nili Zaharony

Nili is mom to two children and a blessing on the way.

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