As my bump grew bigger and the start of maternity leave loomed, I began to hear it from acquaintances, friends and strangers:
‘Enjoy every minute’
It was as innocuous as all the other pregnancy small talk, and I didn’t think much of it as they waved me off towards motherhood with those three little words. I certainly wasn’t ‘enjoying every minute’ of pregnancy, but I was really looking forward to meeting the baby and enjoying every minute of this new adventure.
Birth was swift and uncomplicated. Not something I enjoyed every minute of – but a positive experience nonetheless. Euphoria hit before the cord was even cut. This was amazing – I really was enjoying every minute, just like they promised. I was enjoying getting to know this new and mysterious creature; gazing at him; cuddling him; sharing the news. Despite the aches and pains and bleeding, I was even enjoying my post-partum body. I marvelled at what it had just done, and promised never to be critical about its wobbly bits and stretch marks.
This was amazing – I was enjoying every minute.
Twenty four hours later, we were home. Just like that, we’d transformed from a couple to a family. Despite the sleeplessness and bafflement at it all, we were so focused on this new adventure. There was no overtired snappiness, because we were both so dedicated to this new little person. Together, we were putting our all into this, with only love and support for one another. Together, we were enjoying every minute.
The euphoria continued. Days and nights blurred into one and we were enjoying every minute of this wonderful journey. We took the baby to cafes, parties, bars and restaurants. Life was carrying on as normal, we told ourselves – but with the added bonus of strangers’ admiring gazes everywhere we went.
Then Day 4 hit. The day I’d been warned me about. Everything ached. I lay on the floor and cried. How could I be simultaneously this sore, all over? Didn’t my body know I was meant to be enjoying every minute?
I was meant to be keeping up with my old life, whilst embracing my new one.
I was meant to be brilliant at this, because everyone said I would be.
But anxiety was creeping in. What if the baby fell out of the sling while I hung out washing? What if I lost control of the pram at the traffic lights? What if I fell down the stairs and this precious bundle tumbled out of my arms?
Exhaustion gave way to snappiness, inevitably. What if we’d traumatised the baby forever by rowing about who was more tired? What if he thought I wasn’t up to being his mum because I’d cried into his soft little head while he slept? What if he’d somehow read my mind on that one occasion when I internally whispered ‘Go to sleep, you horrible little baby’?
The ‘enjoy every minute’ well-wishers had tricked me. It turned out that life with a newborn involved a lot of minutes of feeling guilty, or worried, or lonely. Of course there were many minutes to enjoy; but not every one of them.
I enjoyed a lot of the minutes of the baby groups – but not the ones where I felt alone in a crowd.
I enjoyed a lot of the minutes of breastfeeding – but not the ones where I resented being the sole feeder.
I enjoyed a lot of the minutes of our new family life – but not the ones where I felt we were just doing a job together, instead of having a relationship.
I enjoyed a lot of the minutes of going out with the baby – but not the ones where he screamed every time he was put in the pram and well-meaning strangers said ‘someone’s tired’ (yes, me!), or asked if he was ‘good’ and sleeping through the night.
In the early days, those three little words became so big.
I enjoyed so many minutes of getting to know this whole new person. But I wish I hadn’t wasted so many minutes trying to enjoy them all.
Now I have a toddler who seems to enjoy (almost) every minute – especially the ones spent in muddy puddles, or rearranging the shoe cupboard, or spotting a bus. He’s showing me that living in these minutes is the secret to enjoying them.