“I’m trying to enjoy every moment. I really am.”
It was as if her words had somehow reached through the telehealth computer screen and struck a nerve deep within my core. I stared back at her and took stock of who she was at that moment.
Just one week earlier she experienced the birth of her first child—certainly a joyous moment for many.
But, for her, it was not.
She did not get to have the birthing process she had dreamed of or planned for during her entire pregnancy. No, for her the delivery was one that ended with her being whisked away from her newborn so she could undergo emergency surgery, leaving her husband standing there, alone and terrified in the delivery room, holding their tiny baby and feeling a deep sense of dread as he felt the pull between wife and child for the first time in his life.
Yet here she sat, only seven days later, desperately trying to build up her nursing supply so she can exclusively breastfeed her baby while also trying to work through the trauma of her delivery experience, while also trying to support her husband in his new role, and while also trying to please all of the grandparents, aunts, and uncles who want to spend time with the baby.
Her words echoed in my head: “I’m really trying to enjoy every moment.”
I stopped her before she could continue.
“Why?” I asked her gently. “Why are you trying to enjoy every moment?”
Her mouth fell open a bit, clearly stunned by my question.
She hesitated for a moment and then, with tears in her eyes, she choked out her answer.
“Well, I guess that’s what everyone says I should do. I know these days will go by quick. Everyone says I’ll miss them.”
I leaned in closer to the computer screen and said what I have had to say to so many new parents, “That’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself—to enjoy every sleepless night, every moment of a screaming baby, every unshowered day, every hormonal cry as your body recovers. These days can be dark, lonely, and scary sometimes. It’s OK to not enjoy every moment.”
She let out a long sigh and took a slow, deep breath as tears began to fall from her eyes.
“Thank you. Thank you for saying that. It’s true. I love my baby, but it’s not always fun right now.”
This exchange between therapist and new mother is one I’ve experienced countless times—and it never gets easier for me. Each time I see a new mom trying so bravely to live up to the unrealistic expectations our society places on her, my heart breaks while my blood boils. These pressures we place on new parents are prime examples of toxic positivity.
Enjoy every moment.
You’re going to miss these days.
These years will go by in a blink. Treasure each day.
Hold your baby every chance you get—they won’t always fit in your arms.
Sure, these sentiments sound lovely and come from a well-intended place. It’s true there are many aspects of parenthood that are magical, breathtaking, and will surely be missed when we look back upon those times, but, for the vast majority of parents, there are just as many moments we don’t ever want to relive.
Many mothers, especially during those challenging newborn days, can recall moments that left us in a puddle of our own tears on the bathroom floor, or left us so desperate for just five minutes alone that we locked ourselves in our closet for some peace and quiet, or left us kicking ourselves as we tried to fall asleep at night as all our mistakes from the day ran wild through our heads.
The truth is being a mom is hard, it isn’t always pretty, and there are plenty of moments that are just not enjoyable at all.
Before you encourage a new mom to “enjoy every moment,” instead consider what her reality may be like right now. Think back to the hard times of the early days of parenthood and connect with how low and lonely and scary being a new mom can be. Instead of offering toxic positivity, maybe offer some support, Let’s connect in a real way and give each other permission to love being a mom while also struggling with many aspects of it.
And, to the new moms reading this, know it is OK to not enjoy every moment. The reality is not every moment is worth remembering or treasuring—not at the newborn stage, toddler stage, school-age stage, tween stage, teen stage, or even adult stage. Treasure the good moments, give yourself some grace in the hard moments, and be honest with your people about your struggles.
I promise you are not alone.