Is 'Mother's Intuition' Real?

A Sandy, Utah mom credits “woman’s intuition” for awaking her before dawn on Friday, allowing her and her husband to intercept an intruder’s attempted kidnapping of their 5-year-old daughter.

‘We were asleep and I woke up — not to a noise, nothing woke me up,” an emotional Stephanie Edson explained Monday on Good Morning America. “I looked at my cell phone because it was next to my bed and it was 4:07 a.m., and I remember thinking, ‘I’m not tired, I’m awake, this is weird. I was fully mentally alert. Because I was awake, I was able to hear the things that were able to save my daughter.”

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Because she woke up, she and husband Aaron Edson were able to pry Lainey out of the arms of Troy Morley, who had entered their home just minutes before. The ordeal ended with Lainey safely back at home and Morley behind bars on a slew of charges.

But is Stephanie’s intuition-as-savior plausible? Experts say yes.

“Intuition is a way of knowing something, where you don’t know how you know it,” Victor Shamas, University of Arizona professor of psychology and author, tells Yahoo Parenting. “She didn’t know how she knew to wake up, but she knew to wake up.”

She’s also not the only mom on record who has used the powers of intuition to yank a child out of harm’s way. Several years ago on Mother’s Day, Michelle Mathis was seized by an overwhelming need to go and find her 2-year-old daughter. Minutes later, she found her floating in their pool, and saved her from drowning. Similarly, according to the same article, Andrea Alley of New Hampshire followed a gut feeling to get to her son’s daycare as quickly as possible; she arrived just after he had hit his head, and was able to take him directly to the ER.

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Shamas has seen plenty of examples of the intuitive process through his research, including in a well-cited study from many years ago in which more than 70 percent of pregnant women correctly intuited the sex of their babies. While some in his field would argue that intuition is actually based on logical processing outside of one’s awareness, Shamas disagrees. “I don’t know any mother who could logically infer the sex of her baby consciously,” he says. “So some other logic is at play. There could be other ways of knowing.” He notes that his colleague, Arizona State assistant professor of social work Joanne Cacciatore, has studied intuition in parents whose children have died, finding the parents knew that something was wrong in that moment, even miles away, and even with children that were grown.

According to Dr. Judith Orloff, a medical doctor and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California Los Angeles who has written and taught for years on the power of intuition, “Intuition is just another form of intelligence.” It’s knowledge that comes through gut feelings and hunches, which she sees as being just as valid and important as those that come through the mind. “Our western culture is over-intellectualized, so everything is in the head,” says the “Guide to Intuitive Healing” author. “You have to prove something with a double-blind study or else it isn’t true.”

Mothers, in particular, are well versed in intuition. “Some mothers feel their child is sick from 3,000 miles away,” she says, noting that the reverse is true, with children being very intuitive, as they’ve not yet learned to rely on linear intellect alone. “Especially when you love someone,” Orloff notes, “your intuition skyrockets. It’s a survival instinct.”

There are ways for anyone to tap into his or her intuitive skills, she says, and it starts with taking a few breaths to quiet your mind. Then, Orloff advises, “Listen to your gut and ask yourself a question, such as, ‘Should I take this job?’ Do you get a feeling of queasiness, a knot in your stomach? Or do you get a sense of, this would be great for me?” The answer, she says, happens so quickly that it’s more of a “transmission.” But that flash of knowledge, she believes, “is the key to happiness.”

It could also, apparently, be the way to save a life.