When Bringing Baby Home From the Hospital Goes Bad

Linda Sharps

I feel like I've seen a thousand heartwarming images of new moms bringing their baby home from the hospital for the first time. Older siblings cavorting around in celebration, doting family members bearing gifts, festive balloons, and hand-crafted signs that read, "WECOME BABY SMITH WE LOVE YOU!!!!!"

So sweet. So memorable. So totally and completely unlike my own experience.

My first son was born a few weeks early, after a totally routine prenatal appointment resulted in a surprise blood-pressure-related Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect Vaginal Birth, Go Directly to Hospital and Have Baby Pried Forcefully From Your Orca-Like Midsection outcome. I hadn't even gone on maternity leave yet, much less lovingly packed my hospital bag or stocked the freezer with wholesome casseroles.

As a result of being wholly unprepared for the whole "Hmmm, could we see you in Labor & Delivery in, oh, about 10 minutes? BTW I hope your vagina is shaved!" thing, when my husband and I arrived home with our new son, it was less than picture-perfect. In fact, it was pretty much a total nightmare.

Everything crashed in on me at once—hormones, post-surgery weirdness, the weight of our new responsibilities. As I limped in the front door, I took one look around and instantly became convinced we'd taken a newborn from a sterile safe haven to an environment teeming with potentially deadly contagion and filth.

The house hadn't exactly been immaculate before I'd disappeared after that fateful OB appointment, and in the days since as my husband had been shuttling back and forth to the hospital, he'd left all sorts of random crap lying around and, worse, food sitting out. Every surface looked like it was crawling with germs, and our lovable Labrador suddenly appeared to me as a panting, grinning collection of dirt and allergens.

I remember carefully placing Riley—a tiny, fragile bundle nearly consumed in his comparatively massive carseat—on the living room table, where he sat there looking exactly like some sort of bizarre Amazon delivery. I remember sobbing hysterically as I lurched around trying to push a vacuum cleaner without bursting every last one of my C-section stitches, and baring my teeth at my husband like a rabid possum when he tried to get me to stop.

Oh man, what a night. I couldn't even tell you what happened after that, except I'm certain no one slept except the baby. I couldn't stop thinking how I routinely let houseplants wither and die, and now I had an actual human being to take care of, WHY OH WHY HAD NO ONE STOPPED ME.

Eventually my brain recovered from its dramatic transformation into a postpartum Whack-a-Mole game and I began enjoying/routinely complaining about new parenthood, but I'll never, ever forget that first day we came home. In my memory, it's rivaled only by one other moment in terms of overall fear and distress: the first post-surgery poop. (The horror. The horror.)

What was your baby homecoming experience like? Happy fairy tale, or freaky Stephen King story?

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