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Postpartum: It’s Normal, But It Doesn’t Feel Normal

By The Welcome Baby Care Doulas

On Wednesday, Doula Jen compared the post-Christmas blues to postpartum reality and in doing so, talked about the bumpy transition as things “get back to normal.”

In our doula work, the word “normal” flies around a lot.  We talk of “the new normal” constantly, which isn’t a reference to this year’s sitcom, but rather a nod of encouragement; a reminder to gently let your new world with baby unfold rather than clinging to exactly who you were before.

Before baby, it may have been normal to take a three hour yoga class on a Saturday morning.  It may have been normal to throw a bag in the car and head to Chicago on a whim, to visit your best friend over a long weekend.  In the days and weeks and months following the birth of a child, the impossibility of these simple freedoms might be realized with a shiver of sadness and fear.  The new normal in doula terms, acknowledges what is lost, but also what is gained…a baby!

Postpartum doulas also often joke that 85% of our job is repeatedly answering the question, “Is this normal?”

Is it normal that I can’t feel my milk let down?  Is it normal that my baby has these bumps on his face?  Is it normal that I’m totally scared of having sex with my husband right now?  Is it normal to feel this worried?  

The doula, in turn, will say, “Yes that’s normal,” to most of a client’s questions, often adding, “and don’t worry…I would tell you if it wasn’t.”

In fact, we are trained to notice “not normal,” which comes in many forms postpartum…too much bleeding, too much crying, an improper latch.  We know when and how to say, “I think you need to call a doc.”

We also know when to offer up the word normal without being asked, when we sense a kind of sinking into doubt or embarrassment.  “What you are describing to me is totally normal,” we say.  Or, “I have seen this in so many homes.”

Recently, at the WBC office, we talked about this word that we lean on so heavily:  normal.  We sort of reshaped our blanket statement of encouragement, “Yes, that’s normal,” to include, “but it doesn’t feel normal.”

It’s normal, but it doesn’t feel normal.  

You are not the first person to do things this way or tell me these thoughts, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t rocking your world.  

Truly, most of what a woman experiences postpartum is on a pretty narrow spectrum of commonality.  For that woman, however, her life has been turned upside down, her heart inside out, and her mind reorganized to include a massive pile of new priorities.  Normal?  Yes and no.


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