THE BLOG

Surviving That First Crazy Week of Motherhood

07/08/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011
  • Tom Roston Freelance journalist and blogger for PBS.

It may be rewarding but it sure isn't easy being a mom. That's never more true than that first week after birth when the first-time mom, fresh from the hospital, arrives home totally unhinged by the earth-shattering birth process, the miracle of creating life, sleep deprivation and the abject terror of parental responsibility.

All moms (and dads, too) have war stories of just how whacked out things can get. But for this Mother's Day, let's hear from four moms (names have been changed) who told me their stories. If you want to share your experience of your first week, post a comment below.

Joanne: My son had been in the Intensive Care Unit for ten days. About a week after he came home, I'll admit, I was a little anxious. I was wondering, "Is he OK? Should he be home? Were the doctors right that he could be released?"

My husband had gone to work. I had been eating a bowl of cherries. Not just a few, but like a whole bowl. And there was a thunderstorm. There was a crash of thunder and I went to check on our son. I saw these foamy bubbles coming out of his mouth. I thought he wasn't breathing.

I called the pediatrician's office, but they weren't there. I picked him up and ran down the street in the rain to the hospital. I was completely disconnected.

I ran into the ambulance bay. I told them he wasn't breathing, that he wasn't okay. They took him to the pediatric emergency room. And then I started to vomit. I vomited for hours. And, because of the cherries, they thought I was bleeding. I was incoherent. I felt like no one was listening to me. So my son was in the pediatric side and they took me to the adult side, and my husband was running between us.

My son was fine, but they kept him overnight. I went home.

He had probably been having the best sleep ever. This was so outside how I normally live my life. It was irrational panic. I think I was so overwhelmed from being a mom. But the incident snapped me back to being me. It allowed me to find my center.

Chloe: My husband and I were undecided if we wanted anyone to be at our home the first week. We originally thought we were going to be alone, but then when my parents came to my apartment and they saw that everything was upside down, my mom stayed on that week. My mom and I were getting along pretty well, but on the third day, things started to build up.

There is vulnerability, a helplessness, especially when you have a c-section, as I did. It's like, okay, now I am a mom. But my mom is there -- and I turn into a baby.

Things began building up. The pediatrician said we didn't need to bathe the baby so soon but in the morning, there's my mom bathing him.

And then, that same night, while the baby was sleeping, my mom was cooking dinner. One of our cats jumped on the counter and was trying to get into the food. My mom chased him under the table and then she picked him up by the tail. I absolutely lost it. I felt that that was the last boundary to be broken. I flew off the handle. She was hurt and embarrassed, and I went into the bedroom with the cat and the baby.

Just then, our elderly neighbor came to see the baby. It was really not the right time, but while I was talking about it with my husband, my mom walked out. She just left. Dinner was ready, the table was set, but my mom disappeared. There was no note. I ran out into the street to look for her until my husband brought me back home.

After a few hours, my mom returned. She said she went to a movie. I lost it again. We had an even bigger meltdown.

It was all so intense. I felt very protective about my family. And the baby slept through all of it.

Gillian: They released us from the hospital and we were, like, singing. We weren't there long, and things were going well. And then, the first night, everything went wrong. Henry began chewing on me.

We weren't sure what the problem was. Was it a bad latch? I wasn't sure if his mouth was too big or too small. I was shooting from the hip. The latch seemed fine in the hospital. Everything had been great.

So I called a lactation specialist. And then another. But it was Murphy's Law: none of them were in town. That weekend, there was a lactation specialist convention somewhere and they had all left. I called eight, but we were on our own.

I was crying, having a fit. My mother didn't breastfeed me so she didn't know what to do. Of course, my husband didn't know. He went MacGyver and tried to create a contraption that would allow Henry to latch. He used adhesive, a nipple shield and a jerry-rigged nylon stocking stretched taught. He got it all at CVS. But it didn't work.

So then I began pumping, but I was bleeding so much after the baby had chewed on me. There was blood in the milk. But the breast milk was like gold. It was sacred. So I would pump, and then I would let the blood settle to the bottom of the bottle, maybe a quarter of an inch of blood, and then I would skim the milk from the top and throw out the blood.

It was complete comedy. I was crying hysterically and then laughing.

Miranda: After the cocoon of the hospital, it felt like we were spit out into this frightening world. It was the middle of winter, and it felt to me like the coldest day of the year.

When we got home, our cat looked to me like a monster. She looked like a lion. I was thinking, "Get her away from my daughter!" Our apartment heat was very erratic, so I was cold. And Eve wasn't eating yet. My milk was not coming in and she was crying and I started to think, "How are we going to feed this child?"

I didn't think about formula. I had been nervous about formula. And I was under the influence of exhaustion, fear, insecurity and insanity.

So, I'm thinking she's going to freeze to death, and she's not eating. It was just panic. And then my husband, Caleb, went into escape mode. He's a computer consultant and he just went to his computer to work. I got really mad at him. And I began crying. And then Caleb started crying. We were both crying on the couch.

We called his stepmother because she's a nurse. She calmed us down a little. And because Caleb and I are arguing about whether it's too hot or too cold, we asked my sister to buy thermometers to gauge the temperature in the apartment. She had just had her first child three months before, so she raised the possibility that she could breast feed Eve, but we agreed that neither one of us could afford the cost of therapy for doing that.

So, as our family started filling up our one-bedroom apartment, I started feeling reassured. And, of course, as soon as I was calm and could drink and my blood pressure went down, that night, my milk came in.

I was in a half-sleep state, feeding the baby, when I began hallucinating because she was feeding from me like this beast. She was so hungry. And I hallucinated that she was this animal morphing between a hyena and a baby. It was bizarre. But it was then that I began to realize she could fend for herself.