The Phrase Every New Mom Needs to Keep in Her Back Pocket

Several months ago, I saw a video on social media. The video depicts a frantic new mom asking her seasoned mom friends a series of questions. While each of her inquiries is different from the rest, it’s also exactly the same.

“If my child doesn’t poop for three days… is it normal?”

“If my boobs are constantly swollen and in pain while breastfeeding… is it normal?”

“If I want to run screaming out of the house whenever my baby wakes up from her nap… is it normal?”

“I know I’m not supposed to let my baby sleep in my bed, but she absolutely will not sleep anywhere else and we’re losing this battle. Is this normal?”

The new mom in the video desperately wants to know that her kid, and what she’s experiencing with her kid, is normal.

Oh, how I could relate.

Right after I gave birth to my first son, Dax, the nurses in my postpartum recovery room warned me not to put him down to sleep on his stomach. They would swaddle him and put him on his back, and walk out of the room. Seconds later, though, he would wake up and begin choking. For the first three weeks of his life, I agonized over this. I ran to my mom friends, saying, “Dax can’t sleep on his back. He can only sleep on his stomach. The nurses tell me this is extremely dangerous, but he keeps choking and I’m worried he’ll actually die this way. Is this normal?”

I eventually resolved that, regardless of what the nurses said, Dax had to sleep on his stomach. He slept like a rock from then on, and he never choked again.

When I chose to breastfeed Dax for longer than six months, the matriarchs in my family (none of whom breastfed their children) told me I was probably mentally damaging him. So I ran to my mom friends and pled with them again. “I don’t think I’m supposed to wean my son yet. But I’m afraid I’m damaging him. Is this normal?”

I ended up comfortably and naturally weaning him when he was two-and-a-half years old. At nearly six now, he is almost TOO independent of me.

When my second son, Case, would only sleep if he was in my arms, and would refuse to take a bottle of any kind, resulting in nearly hours-long hunger strikes and frustrated babysitters, I consulted my Facebook friends, typing, “I know so many people say that co-sleeping is dangerous, but Case will not sleep unless I’m holding him. And he might be starving himself, because he absolutely will not take a bottle. He waits until I can nurse him. I’m at my wit’s end. Is this normal?”

He’s almost three now and has been sleeping in his own bed since he was one. He also never starved to death, and while he never took a bottle, he started eating solid food right at six months old and drinking water out of sippie cups.

To the nurses in my delivery room, and to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it is not normal for babies to sleep on their stomachs. But it was normal for us.

To my family, it was not normal for me to breastfeed my children at all, let alone for as long as I did. But it was normal for us.

To my friends on Facebook, it wasn’t normal for babies to share beds with their parents, or to not leave bottles with babysitters because there was no point. But it was normal for us.

Now, whenever a new mom comes to me pleading for validation, I have the same answer.

“It might not have been normal for me, and it might not be normal for the moms in your group, and it might not be normal according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, but it’s still normal,” I say.

“It’s normal for you.”