Lynn Darmon couldn't shake the terror that her daughter was suffering from some sort of illness, despite doctor's assurances that the baby was healthy. Darmon turned out to be right.
We've all heard of mother's intuition: when a mom just knows something's wrong with her kids. But have you ever wondered if there was something more going on?
Michigan mom of two Lynn Darmon is convinced that has to be the case after she nearly lost her second child shortly after birth. For Darmon, it started as a feeling -- a sixth sense filling her with dread that something was wrong while her baby was still in the womb. It was "just a feeling that something was not right; that something wasn't feeling right. Not that something was wrong in the present with the pregnancy, but that something was going to come up, with the baby's health," Darmon told Elizabeth Vargas in an interview airing tonight on "20/20." "The feeling pretty much was, to prepare myself for it and to be able to recognize when it was going to happen," she said.
What exactly? She wasn't sure, but Darmon passed along her feeling to her doctor, who assured her everything was fine. "There was always a feeling, 'Well, maybe it's just my imagination,'" she said. Her daughter Ali was born healthy and happy, and just as Darmon was about to dismiss the bad vibes as parental paranoia, they came back with a vengeance. "Ten days into her birth, it was early morning. I remember holding her, and having that feeling, that something was really wrong with her." Her pediatrician encouraged her to go to the emergency room with Ali, mostly to try to alleviate Lynn's fears. Twice she brought Ali in and was returned home with a clean bill of health, but the feeling persisted and grew stronger.
Sensing the clock was ticking on her daughter's life, Lynn took Ali again, this time to Beaumont Children's Hospital. When they once again tried to send Lynn home, she dug her heels in. "They said, 'She is fine. Here are your discharge papers,' and I refused to sign them," Darmon said. She said that at that point the medical staff thought they had a mother who needed help, not a child. "And at that moment, they are thinking they have a mom with post-partum psychosis," she said. But before hospital staff could get her to see a psychiatrist, Pediatric Infectious Disease specialist Dr. Bishara Freij stepped in. "She was clearly concerned that there was something serious going on that nobody had yet to identify or explain," Dr. Freij told "20/20." "He said, 'You are so sure that there is something wrong with your daughter, you tell me what it is.' And I remember at that moment looking at my daughter, making eye contact with her and knowing immediately it was in the, in the abdomen. It just came to me," Darmon said.
Dr. Freij ordered a CT scan, and, as it turned out, Darmon had nailed it: Ali had a rare, undetected infection outside her small intestine which could have been fatal if not caught just in time. "She ended up being in the operating room really within two or three hours of the encounter," Feij said. Looking back, Darmon is convinced that her feeling wasn't just mother's intuition, but a paranormal phenomenon called a premonition. Dr. Feij isn't sure what happened that day, but to him, a mother's intuition or premonition is always something to take seriously. "I'm an older pediatrician and my mother still insists some of her intuition is better than our education," he said. "Sometimes, she's right."
Dr. Larry Dossey has studied and collected cases of the phenomena extensively for his latest book "The Power of Premonition." He says premonitions -- which usually warn of health problem, impending accidents or natural disasters -- often come to us in our sleep. "Roughly two thirds of people will acknowledge having some sort of premonition dream in their life," Dossey said.
According to Dossey, one of the most common types of premonitions he's seen are those experienced by mothers about their children. "There's an older term back in the 1800s [called] Mother Wit: what women just had for their babies. And if you look at premonitions, in the literature, the most common, is that of a mother for something happening to her baby," he said. Dossey added there are some clues to identify a dream premonition. "One woman said, 'The premonition dreams that turn out to be true are lit up from the inside.' So the vividness is one clue. Another clue is whether or not they're recurrent. Many of them that turn out to be true come back night after night as if they're clamoring for attention," he said.
Of course, it's not hard to find skeptics who dismiss all this as new-age blather. "If premonitions are real, the most convenient way to explain them would be that information is traveling back in time from an event to a person. And so if that is right, then pretty much everything else we know about physics is wrong. So that's kind of a big hurdle to get over," said Matt Hutson, a writer for Psychology Today and the author of the book "The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking."
Hutson believes there's a simpler reason behind what we think are premonitions. "We're always thinking about what might happen in the future, so it's easy to feel like, maybe I have anxiety for a reason, maybe I'm sensing the future. And then, looking back and labeling, a thought as an example of precognition that is mostly because of our tendency to see patterns in the world," he said.
But Lynn Darmon says it's hard to ignore one's sixth sense when it's been calling to you your whole life. Her premonition about her daughter, she said, wasn't her first. "The earliest memory I have, I was about five years old, uh, when my grandfather passed. I remember waking up feeling very sad for my mother and trying to explain to her that her father had just passed and she said, 'he is OK, you just had a bad dream.' And I kept saying, 'No, I, I am so sorry, Mommy,' and then about two hours later, she received a telegram that confirmed that."
Darmon said premonitions followed her all her life, but it wasn't until the incident with Ali that Darmon decided to embrace what she calls her gifts. She now works with clients in need of spiritual guidance. As for Ali, she is now a healthy 20-year-old and attends college. "Now I realize how special her gift truly is, and how lucky I am to have grown up with that and to have her as a mom," the young woman said. "I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for that."