I was stupid.


I did things myself, without help.

Now I cringe at the mere thought of the words rolling off my tongue.

“We want to spend the first week alone to bond as a family, Mom. You can visit a week after he’s born.”

But I didn’t know… so many things.

Then I discovered:

  • The only time my son actually slept for more than three hours straight was immediately following birth.
  • He stayed asleep if held and instantly awakened when laid down.
  • Nursing hurt. Bad.
  • My son retracted his tongue, eliminating the cushion of his lower jaw enabling him to chomp on me with full biting power.
  • My feet swelled with fluid so it hurt to stand.
  • How uncomfortable stitches were.
  • I had a fever for twenty-four hours when my milk came in coupled with violent shivers.
  • How much it hurt to have milk come in.
  • The pain of simple breathing when full of milk.
  • The itchy irritation of adhesive stuck on my back where I couldn’t scrape it off.
  • The meaning of true exhaustion.

I took nights, so my husband could sleep. I had days too, because I was the milk wagon.

My son cluster fed, nursing ten hours a day, biting me raw until I cried at the thought of experiencing this supposed perfect moment.

I had ten or twenty minute power naps, nodding off while nursing, accumulating in five hours of total sleep over the last three days.

I wondered why I ever wanted to be a mother.

Friends stayed away, any calls brushed aside. I ran around the house topless, in button down shirts never re-buttoned – always in demand.

Too tired to care, but figured I’d spare everyone else.

On day four my friend Heather called.

“Hey, how’s it going?”

I smiled. “Fine… I’m a little tired and…”

My words continued, but the faked cheeriness vanished, transforming into tears as I broke down and confessed my misery, until my entire body wrenched with sobs.

“Would you like me to come over tonight?”

I hesitated. I was a mother now. I wasn’t supposed to need help. I only had a single baby. She had two children.

But I couldn’t go on like this.

“Yes. Please. Thank you.”

She arrived several hours later, a glowing halo sparkling over her head.

“Here, I’ll show you how to give him a bath.” We filled the baby tub just a bit, using it to splash water on my son, avoiding future belly button, as he screamed.

“Go. Shower. We’re fine.” She cradled my still crying son, wrapped in a towel, as I fought to snatch him from her, knowing I could quiet him.

“GO!” She waved me upstairs.

My husband and I climbed into the shower together – our first time alone. Not for intimacy or sex, but to scrape the evil adhesive off my back.

It was heaven.

For two hours I relinquished control. I didn’t have to be strong or pretend to know what I was doing.

I asked questions.

It marked the turning point and I will never forget what Heather did for me – carving time to help even with a three year old and a five month old at home.

I called my mother shortly after I had my second positive pregnancy test.

“How soon can you get here before your second grandchild is born and how long can you stay? Forever?”

My lesson learned.

* * *

The Red Dress Club Writing Prompt:

It’s a fill-in-the-blank-for-your-own-prompt Prompt:  
The first time I ________-ed after _________-ing.

I filled it in with:

The first time I admitted I needed help after coming home from the hospital with my first child.

Concrit is welcomed, as always.


About Kelly K @ Dances with Chaos

Kelly K has learned the five steps to surviving of motherhood: 1) Don't get mad. Grab your camera. 2) Take a photograph. 3) Blog about it. 4) Laugh. 5) Repeat. She shares these tales at Dances with Chaos in order to preserve what tiny amount of sanity remains. You can also find her on her sister blog, Writing with Chaos ( sharing memoir and engaging in her true love: fiction writing. It's cheaper than therapy.
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24 Responses to Help

  1. alicia says:

    Found you on rememberred. I love this story. I can totally relate when I had my daughter. There are so many things that you just don’t know. What a great friend you have to come over in your time of need.

  2. Tracie says:

    I am SO glad that you had your friend Heather who came over and helped!

    I remember those days of not asking for help, and feeling like I was drowning, until a friend called me and offered that much needed help.

  3. This is so beautifully written. It’s hard to ask for help sometimes. You have a smart friend 🙂

  4. Between the description of you in the button-down shirt and “I was too tired to care, but figured I’d spare every one else” (which has 1 tiny typo, FYI), I could see you frenzied and confused walking around in a fog, something I can remember after each of my kids.
    I hope your 2nd time around went much more smoothly!
    Came from TRDC linkup.

  5. Lilu says:

    Oh, my… Just reading made me stressed. I know I couldn’t do all that by myself. I remember when my little brother was born we’d be around my Mom a lot so that we could take care of him for a while, my sister and I. It was good the best way he slept was on someone’s tummy, didn’t matter if it was Mom.

    Nice post =)
    Thank goodness for helpful friends =P

  6. KG Waite says:

    I think the best part of this whole thing is your call to your mother, “How soon can you get here before your second grandchild is born and how long can you stay?” So nicely done.

  7. Galit Breen says:

    Oh I’m teary because I was the same only for so, so very much longer.

    You described that topless, fearful, somewhat hurt pride time perfectly.

    I loved the words “relinquished control”- powerful, brief, poignant.

    Damn it’s hard being a mom, isn’t it?

  8. Leighann says:

    Oh Kelly.
    I experienced all of this.
    Thank God for heather!!

  9. Wendy D says:

    Asking for help is really hard. But accepting help is harder. Sometimes we don’t ask, others just know. You were so right to tell your friend to come. You could have said no, many people will, thinking that they could get by on their own.
    There are always things we don’t know. Always times we need help. I’ve learned to ask and accept it too.

    • I think my friend “asked” in more of “I’m coming over unless you specifically tell me not to” sort of way.

      She knew. She’d been there.

      I never could have asked her outright at that point. If she hadn’t offered…

  10. Carrie says:

    I remember this so clearly. I isolated myself in my home with my first, afraid to venture far, afraid to relinquish control. And if my husband DID do anything to ‘help’ I criticised.

    It did go so much smoother the 2nd time around. I had learned my lessons.

    I love your frantic pacing, it totally emphasizes the feelings a new mother goes through

  11. Amy says:

    This took me back. Being a new mom is so hard. You have a wonderful friend that knew that and was there to help you.

    And a great mom for staying “forever” after the second baby 🙂

    • I managed to get my mother to stay for three weeks after my daughter was born.

      I cried when she left me alone with TWO kids who always seemed to need me at the same time.

      Which is another story entirely…

  12. Chasing Joy says:

    Great story and what a great friend you have.

    I hope to remember many of the things youu learned when ever I have a child 🙂

    Stopping by from the red dress

  13. tulpen says:

    Asking for help is tough!

    Love that you wanted your mom to stay ‘forever’. Mine would drive me up the wall in 30 seconds.

  14. Jackie says:

    I too suffered in silence for the first few days of my oldest’s life. Reading this opened a floodgate of emotions for me as the memories came back. I learned too that help is no longer a bad thing!

  15. Tina says:

    I liked your descriptions of your pure desperation. And that damned piece of adhesive is put where it is, I believe, just to aggravate new moms!

  16. Elaine says:

    I love the image of the halo over her head! My nieghbor with the same name (Heather) rescued me after my 1st pooed ALL OVER me in the first two weeks. She as my angel then too.

    I’m so glad you knew to ask for help the second time! 😀

  17. Elaine says:

    Oh I meant that my first pooed ONCE all over me, not for 2 straight weeks. Thank God! LOL!

  18. TheKirCorner says:

    I am so glad you had Heather, that you said YES to the offer of Help.

    I have to admit, I never shied away from it, I mean I still have moments of “I’ll do it” but I learned early on with twins that you have to divide and conquer, you can’t say NO to people wanting to give you a little assistance. Being on Bedrest and the awful throwing up I did through all 35 of my PG weeks, I was taught the lesson early and often, I just couldn’t do it myself, sometimes I think that bedrest was a blessing in disguise, it helped me to reach out and let go.

    thanks for sharing this with us. So glad your experience with Lil Diva was different!

  19. Oh, this brought back HORRIBLE memories of when my 7yo was a newborn. The exhaustion and helplessness, the tears and desperatioon and PAIN!

    I think inst5ead of saying “over the last three days” I would’ve phrased it “in the first three days.”

  20. Geez.. commenting on my phone sort of sucks. =/

    So ANYWAYS, I was trying to add that I thought the FIRST rather than LAST lended more to the urgency of the timeline. Otherwise, beautiful job capturing the emotions of a new mom. =)

  21. angela says:

    Everyone needs a Heather! It is so, so difficult to ask for help with the first one, so everyone should have a friend who just butts in 🙂

    Your imagery is spot-on here, especially the unbuttoned button-down shirts and utter, absolute exhaustion.

  22. Thank God for Heather. That she knew to call. That you let her in.

    I spent the first 3 weeks at my parents house after giving birth. I was a single mom.
    My mother took most of the night shifts while I slept. I didn’t breastfeed. And reading? Thinking I’m glad I couldn’t.

    Beautiful writing, as always.

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