Robbing Yourself of Joy

Today I spoke to a friend about the baby she’s expecting in a few short weeks. It’s her very first baby and she couldn’t be happier or more excited. She told me her mom wasn’t going to be able to come to the birth, and she was extremely hurt over it. To her, it felt like a dismissal of the importance of this event. She was calculating which of her nieces and nephews births her mother had been to. She was doing the math on which events in her past her mother had showed up for, and which she hadn’t.

I have the benefit of a lot more experience with having babies, and my mom has been there for 2 out of 5 of them. I tried to tell her that while it was wonderful to have my mom there, it truly couldn’t make a new baby any better than it was. For me, bringing home a new baby is the most magical time I’ve ever experienced. I totally give myself permission to forget all extraneous responsibilities, and focus only on the immediate needs of myself, my baby, and the rest of the people under my roof. If we eat loads of takeout, no worries. If we are grabbing clothes to wear from the laundry room floor, perfect. If homework is occasionally forgotten, that’s fine. If the house is a mess, all is as it should be as far as I’m concerned. I love what a new baby does for family unity. We all feel closer because we’re all so irrationally crazy about this new person.

Side note: It’s ok if you don’t experience bringing a new baby home in this way. Trust me, once I come out of my newborn stupor, I’m right back to worrying about dinners and homework and laundry. The permission I give myself to let it all go is both glorious, and short-lived.

I’ve wanted my family to be there when they were able so that THEY could have even a small sliver of the joy we got to experience, not because it could make it any more extraordinary than it was.

What if this experience is enough?

Although she wasn’t asking for coaching, I tried to show her that she was robbing herself of the full joy that she could have with the birth of this baby. Here is this wonderful event, that she was looking forward to more than anything she’d ever experienced. And she was choosing to take away from all the happiness available to her by focusing on the story she was telling herself about what it means that her mom wouldn’t be there. The only person who was really missing out was her mom, who had told her how disappointed she was that she couldn’t come. My sweet friend was creating a problem when there was no problem, as we all sometimes do.

Our brains tend to focus on what’s not going right instead of what is, even when what is is much, much bigger than what isn’t. Sure, it’s a bummer that her mom won’t be there, but it could just be a bummer for her mom, not for her.

Stop putting conditions on your joy

When we look to other people to validate our accomplishments, milestones, and rites of passage, we put conditions on our joy. What if these experiences are enough on their own, even if others can’t or won’t be there to cheer us on? What if the only people who miss out are the ones who aren’t there to enjoy a slice of the happiness pie?

She was telling herself that having family there for the birth was super important. That it would somehow be less wonderful if no extended family could come. Someone else might have been stressed because their mom IS coming, when they’d prefer she didn’t. Still others might prefer the visits to come after the baby has been home for a couple weeks or months. Simply put, it’s not a fact that more family being at a baby’s birth is important or even good. It’s a story we choose. And if it’s working for you– meaning if the people you’d prefer to come are coming– then keep your story. But if it isn’t, there’s no harm in letting that story go; in telling yourself that actually, this is going be perfect, just as it is.

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