The Giraffe in the Room

Naptime was over. I cradled Samuel and walked into Summer’s room.

“Hello my dear Summershine, would you like a snack?” I asked.

“Yes!” She squealed, throwing her arms open. I’ve somehow honed the skill of picking Summer up while cradling Samuel, so I reached in and swooped her out of her crib, placing her on the ground beside me. I turned around to walk down to the kitchen and I heard her little voice.

“Wait!! My raff!!” (my giraffe).

“What?” I thought. I turned around and she was foraging through the toys that were barricading the giant giraffe into the corner of her bedroom.

To those who do not know the story of this giraffe, allow me to briefly share…

Summer’s first birthday was one of great celebration. She is the first grandbaby on both sides, so she is spoiled with ample gifts on each occasion. The first birthday was no exception.

Of all the grandparents, I must say my father is the most excessive in his gift giving. Not that the other grandparents do not spoil Summer with a ridiculous supply of toys and activities. My dad has just always had a knack for giving. Those who know him, know what I mean. He delights in giving generous gifts.

Somehow Summer’s existence has enhanced that gift-giving pleasure tenfold.

Before the birthday, my dad asked me what Summer would like as a gift. I replied, “Nothing too big. Nothing too expensive.”

To which he responded, “okay!” As if he understood and planned to honor that request.

The day before Summer’s birthday, I heard a crash on my front doorstep. Startled, I hurried to the door and peeped out of the window. There stood a box about 5 foot tall and 4 foot wide.

I opened the door and finagled the giant container into the house. Almost simultaneously I received a text message from my dad, “Did my gift arrive?!” he asked excitedly.


Yes. Yes, dad, your gift arrived.

This gift was a 4-foot tall giraffe. According to my father’s standards this was neither too expensive, nor too big (because “vertical feet do not count toward size”). The giraffe has since found a space nestled in the corner of Summer’s bedroom.

Until this day.

“Come on, raff,” Summer commanded the giant stuffed animal. She wanted the giraffe to come downstairs with us.

“Seriously?” I thought to myself. “Summer, I think the giraffe is rather happy in his corner,” I told her.

Nope. Apparently, the giraffe was not okay in his corner. According to Summer, he was starving, and dirty, and in need of some fresh air.

In an effort to avoid an utter meltdown, I agreed to tote the giant animal down the stairs, while holding Samuel. I informed Summer that once the animal was downstairs, she would have to move it around as I simply could not manage a 4 foot stuffed animal, an infant, our giant dog, and a toddler.

We made it down the stairs and, sure enough, Summer insisted the creature join her for every afternoon endeavor.


She dragged it into the kitchen for snack time. She hauled it into the family room to read books. She heaved it onto the dance floor and tried to hold its hooves so it would dance with her.

She had a tantrum because I wouldn’t let him sit on the couch. She had a meltdown because I would not allow her to let it outside to potty. I witnessed an epic breakdown because I wouldn’t allow her to bathe the giraffe (with real water and suds).

As the day lingered on and I watched her tote around this giant creature, I felt the Lord telling me that her handling of this giraffe mirrored how I took on unnecessary responsibilities. Responsibilities that are far too big for me. Responsibilities that were never intended for me to manage.

According to Strengths Finder, my number one strength is Responsibility.

I’m learning that while this can be a strength, it can also be a weakness.

Too often I take on responsibility due to pride. It comes from a desire to prove myself, impress others, gain control, or an unsanctified desire to help.

I want to live surrendered. I don’t want to drag around unnecessary responsibilities like Summer lugged her 4 foot giraffe around. I want to take ownership of the responsibilities God assigns me in this season, and allow all other gaps and needs to fall to the wayside.

While the responsibilities I take on my own shoulders are heavy and burdensome, the responsibilities God assigns to me are easy and light. He provides grace and strength to us as we tend to the responsibilities He gives us.

“For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” Matthew 11:30

Important Note:

**Ryan and I are extremely grateful for how generously our family members give gifts to Summer and Samuel. This post is in no way intended to be perceived as ungratefulness. Honestly, the excessive gift giving has become a source of comedy in our home! We consider ourselves (and our children) very blessed to have such generous families.**


Grace for the Broken Fan

It was a typical morning. Summer squealed her high-pitched shriek at Baylor while running circles through the upstairs bedrooms. I rocked Samuel in the glider, flashing Summer a smile each time she passed us by. Watching Baylor run from her with a goofy grin plastered all over his doggy face.

Round and around they ran, until I heard a loud crash. Bracing myself for a cry, what I heard was worse: silence.

I stood up and hurried toward the direction of the crash. There she sat. In her room. Holding her fan, which was scattered about in various broken pieces. “Uh oh!” she exclaimed when she saw me round the corner. “I boke it.”

“Oh no,” I replied. “Yes, you sure did break it.” I assessed the damage, starting with her little body. She wasn’t injured (phew). But the (expensive) fan was, indeed, broken.

I got down onto my knees at her level and asked if she was okay. “Uh huh,” she replied. Still holding two of the fan’s pieces in her little hands.

“Summer, running around with Baylor is so much fun. But we must be careful. This fan was nice and special to mommy and now it’s broken.”

“I sowwy,” Summer said, looking up at my face. Her little voice melted my heart.

“It’s okay, baby. I forgive you. I know it was just an accident. Maybe daddy can fix it! When daddy gets home from work I’ll let you tell him what happened and ask him to help you fix it.”

We got up and I introduced a new activity in a different room. The issue was completely behind us. Until naptime.

As we entered her bedroom for nap, Summer turned to me while pointing at the fan and said, “Oh no mama! I assident and I so sowwy!” (I had an accident and I’m so sorry).

“Aw, baby, we already talked about this. Not to worry at all, accidents happen and we will ask daddy for help to fix it!”

Nonetheless, Summer continued to apologize. Every single time she saw the broken fan. All day long. Over and over and over again.

And with each apology, my heart broke.

I wanted her to really know my forgiveness. Not after the fan was fixed, but at that very moment. Broken fan and all.

Isn’t this how we regard God’s grace at times?

I know I’m a chronic apologizer. I over apologize, even when issues are not my fault. Even before the Lord! I will repent of sin, and then repent again minutes later when I recall my mess.

It was not until I faced Summer’s repetitive, unnecessary apologies that I realized how it must break God’s heart when we do not receive His grace. How He, too, looks us in the eyes with such understanding and compassion and says, “I forgive you. Let me help you fix it.”

The ache in my heart when Summer did not understand or receive my grace hurt me in a way I did not expect. I want her to know that she can be broken and accident prone in front of me.

And I know God wants me to know that I can be broken and messy in front of Him.

That it is His greatest joy to extend me forgiveness while teaching me to avoid future mistakes.

This is the Gospel. The fact that nothing separates us from the love and forgiveness of the Father. While repentance is a critical commandment, receiving grace is even more important. In fact, it is sort of the whole point.

We must be quick to repent and quick to rest in the fullness of the grace extended to us, without wallowing in shame.

Summer’s new, favorite saying is, “Uh oh, I aid a istake. Es okay” (uh oh, I made a mistake. It’s okay). Because, while her awareness of her mistakes is important to me, her recognition of the grace extended to make mistakes in front of me is invaluable.

What I am learning in this season is to live into the grace the Scriptures speak of without shame. To truly appreciate the grace extended to me without wallowing in shame or over apologizing for my brokenness.

To some, this may seem simple or juvenile. To me, it’s powerful.

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation”

Psalm 51:12

This is an adorable picture of my Summershine sitting at the breakfast table in her tutu “helping” her dada fix the fan.

The thing is, Summer could have tried to fix the fan all by herself, but it would not have changed the fact that I forgave her and it probably wouldn’t have gone over well. She is incapable of fixing such a complex problem and she is untrained in the skill of fan repairs because, well, she is two years old. She required her father’s help.

We can’t fix our sin on our own. We can’t clean up our mess well enough to earn God’s forgivingness, and our attempts to do so actually grieve the Father’s heart. We need our Father’s help. And I’m learning that, one “assident” at a time.

Samuel’s Birth – Part 2

As I waited for the anesthesiologist, I began to feel anxious.

This was the first and only time I experienced fear throughout the entire laboring process. I felt so dizzy and I was in such great pain.

The women surrounding me were prepping me for the epidural by telling me I couldn’t move while the needle was inserted. I thought, “There is no way I can not not move during these contractions.”

I put my forehead against Ryan’s and said, “babe, I’m so scared.” He looked me in the eye and said, “You are so strong. You are doing great. Just hold my hand.”

Sensing my fear, my midwife leaned in and whispered, “Ashley you are not alone. We are here with you.” I took a deep breath. The Lord used those words as balm on my fearful heart.

“I’m not alone. You all are here with me,” I whispered back to her. She scratched my back while we waited for the anesthesiologist or the baby – one was sure to arrive any minute.

I could have kissed Dr. Lutz, the anesthesiologist, when he finally graced the threshold of my door. They quickly briefed him on my progress and he rushed to my bedside. They said he worked faster than fast in order to get that epidural in me before I began pushing – by the time he got to my room I was about 10cm.

As soon as he gave it to me and they laid me back into the bed I felt 2 more contractions. The pain began to dull with each one. I felt the urge to push, but resisted. I closed my eyes and told my body to rest.

Later the midwife came in to check on me. Ryan was asleep on the couch and I had been able to get some sleep. She asked if she could check me and confirmed I was 10 cm. She asked me to just give a practice push just so she could gauge how this phase of labor may go. After doing so she said, “Oh wow! Let’s just have a baby real quick.”

I saw Ryan pop up from the couch. “Um Hello!? Who was going to wake me?” He said. My midwife laughed and said “Don’t worry, we wouldn’t have gone any further without waking you.”

Ryan came to my bedside and held my hand.

After 20 minutes of pushing, my nurse exclaimed, “Ashley open your eyes!!”

I opened my eyes to take in one of the most beautiful sites I’ve ever seen – my son. They laid Samuel on my chest and I excitedly screeched, “my baby!!”

At 5:14AM on November 30th we welcomed all 8lb 8oz of Samuel Lee Hudson into our arms.

I could not believe it. I felt a bond – a love – a soul settling solitude – a feeling of connection I honestly did not have immediately after my last delivery. I held his little hand and kissed him over and over and over.

As I was stitched up, I drank in every minute of skin to skin, not wanting anyone to take him from me.

It was literally the opposite of what I felt after I delivered Summer. It was not that I did not love Summer, I was just mentally ill and too physically tired to experience the fullness of this sacred moment with her. While I grieve the loss of having that moment with my sweet Summershine, I relish in every sacred moment and life changing revelation I’ve had with her and because of her since her birth.

My Summer Marie made me a mama. She taught me lessons no other baby could have. Her dynamic personality and joyful energy has brought me more humility, happiness and growth than I knew possible. It was through my relationship with Summer that I bloomed into a mother. It was in my labor with Summer that I fell into newfound freedom from my Eating Disorder. And it is in watching Summer love on Samuel that I am discovering just how many layers the soul is made up of and how deep our capacity for love runs.

After I enjoyed skin to skin with Samuel, Ryan took him and enjoyed some time of skin to skin as well. I watched as he held our little boy, enamored once again by just how handsome my groom is.


It was such a different experience to feel present in my body, to feel immediately bonded to my baby, and to feel happy.

I finally understand why so many people told me it was, “the best feeling in the world.”

My pregnancy with Samuel and his birth taught me to ask the embarrassing questions and to say what I want without shame. It taught me that a mentally healthy maternal experience is, indeed, possible – even in the wake of PPD – because we serve the God of mercy, grace, and redemption.

My PPD Update:

If anything, this birth and postpartum period has confirmed to me that PPD is real. It is real and it is ugly and it is a thief of some of life’s greatest moments. I now feel even more envisioned and passionate about providing a space for victims of PPD and PPPD to find healing and comfort.

I feel the most helpful decisions I made leading up to Samuel’s birth were:

  • Vulnerability with my birthing team (midwives and nurses)
  • Taking anti-depressant medication ~ I was on a low dose of an antidepressant at the beginning of my pregnancy. The dosage was upped in my third trimester and then again in the hospital immediately following delivery. It will remain at this higher dose until I’m sleeping through the night per my midwife’s recommendation. Dosages and the drug of choice varies a great deal depending on the individual. Ask your medical team for more information and suggestions. Contact Infantrisk with any questions regarding safety of specific medications during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
  • Taking a sleep aid ~ I am against sleep aids because they can become addicting so easily and I tend to prefer a more natural and holistic approach to wellness, but after learning how sleep deprivation impacts PPD, I decided to prioritize sleep this time by taking a sleep aid anyway. I began taking this during my 3rd trimester and have continued postpartum. For the first time I’m able to sleep when the baby sleeps! It has made a huge difference. Always consult your physician before taking any sleep aid while breastfeeding and/or pregnant!
  • Therapy ~ I met regularly with my therapist who helped me process my past two years with Summer and who also helped me flush out my fears and apprehensions with having a second (unexpected) baby.
  • Hiring superheroes as midwives ~ My midwives took extra time to discuss my PPD and review our plan for medications and evaluations at the hospital. They held an open space for any anxiety or sadness I felt, free of judgment. They celebrated with me at my lack of PPD symptoms and how our plan was working. They made me feel so confident in our plan for my mental health going into labor and delivery.
  • Reading “What am I thinking? Having a Baby After Postpartum Depression” by Karen Kleiman, MSW ~ I cannot recommend this book enough to mothers who have a history of perinatal mood disorders. This was such a helpful tool for me!

I provide such specific information about my process not to overshare, but to encourage, normalize and inform other mothers or fathers who may be struggling.

If you are a parent trudging through the mud of PPD, have hope! There is so much freedom and possibilities for a different experience now and with any future babies God gifts you.

Samuel’s Birth – Part 1

Well, I suppose it is about time to share the story of Samuel’s birth…

The story is lengthy, so it will be shared in two parts.

It was November 17th

I anticipated my afternoon visit with my midwife because I had decided that I was going to let her check my cervix for dilation, which I never did with Summer. Knowing that women can remain dilated for days or weeks, I didn’t want to get my hopes up with Summer and become frustrated should labor take long. But this time was different.

Though Samuel was not due until December 1st, I had started bleeding and wanted to be aware of any progress since we were planning to drive to Castle Pines for Thanksgiving.

Castle Pines was a 40 minute drive from our hospital, and because I was positive for Strep B, they told me I needed to be at the hospital in plenty of time to receive two bags of antibiotics. We didn’t want to risk any complications by going to Castle Pines if I was close to labor.

I arrived to the clinic and immediately felt the familiarity of mild contractions. I braced myself for what I thought could be labor. My midwife said based on my symptoms it seemed I was quite close to labor. She checked and I was 4.5cm. She said he was nuzzling his head against her hand during my exam, which she said felt so weird and awesome (only midwives would think such a thing!! I thought, “how creepy!”) “Looks like Samuel may be joining us for Thanksgiving!” she said.

Well, Thanksgiving came and left, and Samuel remained in my belly.


I continued to have mild contractions on and off. I caught a cold and fought that off over the Thanksgiving holiday, which was super fun being over 38 weeks pregnant and all. We returned home after Thanksgiving with my mom in tow. She would remain in our home until baby Samuel made his debut.

That Monday the 27th I began vomiting. Ryan called the midwife who confirmed this could be signs of early labor, especially considering I had been dilated over 4cm for 11 days. She asked him to call back when my contractions were 10 minutes apart – they suspected Samuel was going to come very quickly because of how long I had been dilated and how low I was carrying him.

Days passed and I waddled myself back into the clinic on November 29th, this time with Ryan by my side. I wasn’t miserably pregnant or anything. In fact, I still loved being pregnant! I told the midwife I just felt bad for my mom and husband who were playing the waiting game. I felt like I could not give them any information other than admit to having contractions that felt sporadic and unpredictable.

She checked me again and I was 5cm. Samuel once again nuzzled his head against her hand. We discussed various natural ways to induce labor. She offered to strip membranes, but I denied. She said she felt confident Samuel would be arriving within the next 24 hours and that we should make preparations. She reminded us that we must call when the contractions were 10 minutes apart and probably begin heading to the hospital soon thereafter due to my need to have medication and how quickly he may come.

Ryan and I walked out of the clinic and squeezed hands. We knew this would be our last night as a family of 3. We stopped by Smashburger and picked up supper. We went home and ate burgers as a family with Summer and my mom. We watched movies and did puzzles and snuggled.


For the first time, Summer told us she was excited to meet Samuel. When we told her she was going to get to meet him soon, she cheered and ran to the front door and waited, thinking he was going to walk through the front door! Our eyes welled with happy tears as she showed such anticipation to meet him. What a relief her joy was since previously she had shown ambivalence and contempt toward the idea of having a brother.

We went to bed around 9pm. At 10pm I began having stronger, more consistent contractions. I grabbed my phone and went up to the nursery to rock in the glider and time them.

After I had 5 contractions 4 minutes apart, I realized I should probably tell Ryan. I went into our bedroom and woke him up. When he saw the diagram on my phone outlining the frequency of my contractions he leapt out of bed, grabbed the bags, and asked me to get in the car immediately.

I waddled to the car, hoping that we weren’t going to the hospital too early. I would feel so very silly if we drove all the way to the hospital just to be turned away

By the time we got half way to the hospital my contractions were 2 minutes apart and growing in intensity. I gripped the handle bar of the passenger seat. Ryan snapped on the hazard lights and sped up.

We got to the hospital and found the elevator leading up to the Labor and Delivery Unit.

As we rode the elevator, I remember reflecting on my moments ascending that same elevator when I was in labor with Summer. How scared I was. How tired I was.

This time felt totally different. Though I felt unsure of how this would go, I felt fearless and excited.

We got to the L&D floor and a nurse escorted us to our room. It was the same room we were in when Summer was born! I climbed into bed and the nurse said she would need to confirm that I was actually in labor before officially admitting me.

When she checked me, she was surprised to discover how dilated and effaced I was. She admitted me and called the midwife. She asked if I had a birth plan and I laughed telling her the only plan I had was to get the baby out of me.

It’s comical how different this experience was. For Summer’s birth I arrived with at least 5 copies of my birth preferences. This time I had none.

Ryan and I began to make ourselves at home in the room. As we advise all of our friends, you are paying a ton for that space – make it your own! Though we did not decorate, we helped ourselves to pillows and warm blankets. We adjusted the lights, turned on some music, and diffused some oils. We made it our own.

The nurse asked if I wanted an epidural noting that my last birth was unmedicated. I told her I was open to an epidural this time. After research and prayer I had already decided that I would have an epidural this time, but I did not want to get it too early.

Unlike my labor with Summer, I did not feel any sort of conviction from the Lord regarding this delivery other than feeling inspired to prioritize my mental health throughout the entire process.

I asked the midwife when she recommended I get the epidural. She advised I wait and get it when I could no longer talk through or sit still during contractions.

I was able to breathe and talk through contractions even up until I was just over 7 cm. Around 8 and a half cm I told them I was ready to get an epidural, but by that time they said even if I wanted to get an epidural, there likely would not be time. At the pace I was progressing, they said we would have a baby within the next few minutes.

I continued to labor. I remember praying aloud through each contraction. I remember my nurse giving me the most amazing back massage I’ve ever received while Ryan whispered encouragements. I remember rocking back and forth on the birthing ball and thinking “I’m really doing this. I’m in pain and tired but I’m still excited to meet Samuel!”

Suddenly I felt extremely dizzy, nauseous, and unable to breathe. I remember struggling to stand up and move.

The next thing I knew I was laying on my back with an oxygen mask hovered over my face. I heard Ryan telling the midwife that I was beginning to show signs of transition. So the midwife decided to check me. I was 9 cm. “Transition now? At 9 cm?? This is so weird,” I thought.

Suddenly I got this feeling in my gut. This feeling that I couldn’t shake. It was this nudge that I needed to get an epidural. Not the epidural temptation that typically takes over one’s mind during transition, but almost like a Holy Spirit nudge. An inkling that I would regret not having gotten it.

Throughout this pregnancy and even throughout labor the Lord was teaching me to just ask the embarrassing question and just say what I want without shame, despite how ridiculous I thought it sounded.

So I spoke up. “I want the epidural,” I told the midwife.

She let me know that at this point in labor I would likely be pushing by the time the anesthesiologist walked into the room. I told her that I understood it was a gamble and I would take the chance.

I remember waiting for the anesthesiologist to come and thinking the contractions were at their peak – convinced I was not going to make it. But I wanted to. I asked Lord to delay things…

To be Pulled Across the Battlefield: How to Support Someone with PPD


I drove circles around the OB office for what felt like hours. I left 30 minutes early to drive these circles just to try and get my baby to fall asleep so that I could have a minute of silence during my follow up appointment.

Continue reading “To be Pulled Across the Battlefield: How to Support Someone with PPD”

A Thief Ignored: Paternal Postpartum Depression

Click here to view an excerpt from Good Morning America on Paternal Postpartum Depression

It had been two weeks since I started medication and two months since I started therapy. The world was beginning to look a little less blurry, and my role as mother was beginning to become not only palpable, but enjoyable. It was as if I was experiencing the newborn fuzzy feelings people told me about, despite the fact that my baby was nearly 9 months old. I was grieving the loss of those 9 months, but I was so excited to be in a different place mentally.

Yet something still was not quite right.

Though everything else in my world seemed to be bouncing back to normal, one of the most precious parts of my world remained broken: My husband.

Continue reading “A Thief Ignored: Paternal Postpartum Depression”

When Your Heart Races Away: Postpartum Anxiety Disorders and Psychosis


I’d like to say I’ve entered into this pregnancy unscathed by perinatal depression or anxiety, but I would be lying.

Around week 11 I sensed a shift in my body and mind. Things felt heavier. Even brighter moments seemed to be dimmed by a black film that I just couldn’t shake despite prayer and moments of worship with Jesus.

My husband noticed my changing mood and demeanor, and we consulted my OB for advice. Ultimately, we decided it would be best for me, given my history, to begin taking a very low dose of my medication again and return to therapy.

Before I began re-taking the medication, we were on vacation. I was standing next to a kitchen counter overlooking the beach. Suddenly, I experienced a sudden loss of breath. It felt like my heart was beating out of my chest and my forehead was perspiring despite my standing still. I felt myself getting light headed. I tried to focus on my breath, but that seemed to make things worse. I felt utterly anxious, but could not identify why. It felt like I was physically drowning.

It was, what I presume, was the beginning of a panic attack, a symptom many people with anxiety disorders experience regularly. I quickly picked up my phone and texted my best friends asking for prayer. Having been educated in perinatal mental health, I knew this experience was likely a symptom of fluctuating hormones due to the pregnancy. Thankfully, the symptoms subsided. I began my medication shortly thereafter.

I wish I could better articulate the strange sensation that I experienced in that moment of panic. It reminded me of some fleeting moments in my postpartum period after Summer was born. Moments I would worry about going crazy and accidentally hurting her out of my sleepless rage. Fear that I wasn’t cut out to be her mother. Having the most horrendous and unspeakable pictures flash before my mind’s eye of me harming her that I knew were not only absurd, but ungodly.

My postpartum experience was much more marked by depression than anxiety, but the tricky piece is that many times women experience bouts of anxiety even when diagnosed with depression. Anxiety is a symptom of PPD. But, there are some women who more prominently identify with anxiety over depression. These moments of panic – of fear – of crushing thoughts that carry heartbeats away – are daily experiences driven predominately by hormones and biochemical imbalances for women with Postpartum Anxiety (PPA).

Postpartum Anxiety

We tend to place postpartum depression and anxiety into one group because so often the illnesses occur simultaneously in women during the prenatal and postpartum period. There is, however, a remarkable difference between the two illnesses. While PPD often manifests as a sort of agitated anxiety among other symptoms, some women experience PPA (postpartum anxiety) exclusively.

Approximately 6% of women experience prenatal anxiety disorder.

10% of postpartum women experience postpartum anxiety disorder.

Symptoms of Postpartum Anxiety:

  • Agitation
  • Inability to sit still
  • Excessive concern about the health of baby or self
  • High alert
  • Appetite changes – often rapid weight loss
  • Sleep disturbance – difficulty falling and staying asleep
  • Racing thoughts
  • Constant worry
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations

Though not all women with PPA experience panic, many women with PPA suffer panic attacks.

Symptoms of a Panic attack:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Sensations of choking or smothering
  • Dizziness
  • Hot or cold flashes
  • Trembling
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Numbness or tingling sensations
  • Restlessness, agitation or irritability
  • An episode will wake one out of sleep

Most women report feeling a genuine fear of dying, going crazy, losing control, and an inability to return to normalcy during these episodes.

PPA is treatable with medical help. Women with a personal or family history of anxiety disorders, previous perinatal depression or anxiety or a thyroid imbalance are at risk for experiencing prenatal or postpartum anxiety.

Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder  

Postpartum OCD is a form of an anxiety disorder that includes the classic symptoms as listed above.

Perinatal women are 1.5 to 2 times more likely than the general population to experience OCD.

3-5% of new mamas and some new fathers will experience some symptoms of P-OCD, though they may not officially qualify for a full diagnosis.

70% of women previously diagnosed with OCD experience a recurrence of symptoms during pregnancy.

Postpartum OCD most often occurs with PPD.

P-OCD Symptoms

  • Intrusive, repetitive thoughts or mental images – usually of harm coming to the baby
  • Tremendous guilt and shame
  • Hypervigilance in protecting infant
  • Mamas overly focused on harm avoidance and minimizing triggers
  • Compulsions where mama does certain activities repetitively to reduce fears or obsessions (like repeatedly washing infants clothes, re-ordering items, cleaning constantly)
  • Fear of being left alone with the infant

The most important attribute of this disorder is that mamas are horrified by these intrusive thoughts or images, and acknowledge that they are unlikely to ever happen. Women with P-OCD often say these thoughts occur randomly, and they find them extremely disturbing. Because these women identify the thoughts as bizarre, they are considered as anxious in nature and not delusional.

Perhaps the most interesting research shows that women with OCD have higher levels of oxytocin in their spinal fluids. Oxytocin is a hormone that allows us to see the danger in our child’s world, which is necessary to mothering and raising a child. Oxytocin is extremely high in postpartum women, and some women have more oxytocin in their systems than others. This hormonal flood could cause our mothering instincts to go into overdrive, causing an unnecessary amount of worry, harm avoidance and obsessions.

One helpful question a woman who is experiencing intrusive thoughts and images can ask herself is, “Is this logical? Or is this the oxytocin talking?”

Another key reminder to those suffering from P-OCD is that “thoughts do not equal actions.” We have many thoughts throughout the day upon which we do not act. Allow the intrusive thought to be one of those thoughts.

Like PPA, P-OCD is treatable. Women who fear they may be experiencing this form of postpartum anxiety should consult their doctor for guidance.

Postpartum Bipolar Disorder

Postpartum Bipolar Disorder is often misdiagnosed, and misunderstood because it can look an awful lot like severe depression or severe anxiety. In fact, 60% of women with bipolar disorder present initially as depressed.

Postpartum Bipolar has one of the highest risks of suicide of all the perinatal mood disorders. For that reason among others, it is important we understand the signs and symptoms of this particular illness. Improper identification or treatment can result in a worsening of symptoms.

Many women are diagnosed with Bipolar for the first time during pregnancy and/or the postpartum period, possibly because it can be triggered by sleeplessness.

There are two types of Bipolor Disorders: Bipolar I and Bipolar II. The main difference between Bipolar I and Bipolar II is the severity of the mania. Bipolar I has manic episodes (more severe) while Bipolar II has hypomanic episodes (less severe).

The criteria for this diagnosis is that symptoms must last longer than 4 days and interfere with daily functioning and relationships. With Bipolar II, The manic episodes are less apparent and the highs and lows are not as extreme. Sometimes those with Bipolar can suffer from psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations or delusions, therefore this diagnosis can be quite dangerous.

Bipolar I Symptoms:

  • Periods of severely depressed mood
  • Periods of mood much better than normal
  • Euphoria or agitation
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Racing thoughts
  • Increased productivity
  • Noticed by others
  • Rapid speech
  • Increased energy
  • Grandiose thoughts, inflated sense of self-importance
  • In severe cases, delusions and hallucinations

Bipolar II Symptoms:

  • Periods of severe depression
  • Periods when mood is much better than normal
  • Rapid speech
  • Little need for sleep
  • Racing thoughts, trouble concentratin
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Continuous high energy
  • Overconfidence
  • Hypomanic episodes often appear as normal behavior and are not as obtrusive or disruptive to typical daily functioning

Postpartum PTSD

Approximately 9% of postpartum women have postpartum PTSD. This can be caused by a number of traumas including, prolapsed cord, unplanned c-section, use of vacuum extractor or forceps during delivery, baby going to NICU, baby having health issues or extremely difficult temperament, feeling powerless during the delivery, women who have experienced former sexual trauma, women who experienced severe physical complications related to childbirth or pregnancy.

It’s important to remember that trauma is always in the eye of the beholder. What may seem traumatic to you may not be traumatic to someone else, and vice versa. 

Postpartum PTSD Symptoms:

  • Intrusive re-experiencing of past traumatic event
  • Flashbacks or nightmares
  • Avoidance of stimuli associated with the event(s)
  • Persistent increased irritability, difficulty sleeping, hypervigilance, exaggerated startle response
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Feeling a sense of unreality and detachment
  • Persistent, distorted sense of blame of self or others
  • Numbing and disassociation
  • Diminished interest in activities
  • Inability to remember certain aspects of event
  • Isolation from family/friends/providers


Those who suffer from postpartum PTSD tend to avoid aftercare, experience impaired mother-infant bonding, the partner who witnessed birth also suffers PTSD, sexual dysfunction, avoid future pregnancies, exacerbate future pregnancies, and elect planned C-sections for future births.

Postpartum Psychosis

Postpartum psychosis is an extremely rare and dangerous mental illness that occurs in 1-2 in 1,000 postpartum women. This illness is what most of the general public think of when referring to perinatal mental illness due to media coverage of those who have suffered this particular disease.

Those who suffer from postpartum psychosis are at risk of committing suicide and/or infanticide. The onset of this disease sets in usually within 2 weeks after delivery.

It is important to note that postpartum psychosis is a completely different category than PPD and PPA, with the exception of Bipolar Disorder. 86% of women with postpartum psychosis met the criteria for Bipolar Mood Disorder. Many women with Bipolar Mood Disorders may experience psychotic episodes during periods of mania.

Postpartum Psychosis Symptoms:

  • Delusions or strange beliefs (usually containing religious symbolism; ex: that baby is possessed by a demon)
  • Hallucinations (seeing someone else’s face instead of baby’s face or hearing voices)
  • Insomnia
  • Feeling very irritated
  • Hyperactive
  • Confusion/disorientation
  • Difficulty communicating
  • Rapid mood swings
  • Waxing and waning (Can appear normal for stretches at a time between psychotic symptoms)

Those who are highest risk for postpartum psychosis are those with a family history of bipolar disorder or previous psychotic episode.

It is critical to note the difference between OCD and Postpartum Psychosis. Those with OCD know their intrusive thoughts are unhealthy. Women with Postpartum psychosis do not recognize their thoughts are unhealthy or abnormal.

Infanticides (the murdering of infants) are one of the most critical risks of postpartum psychosis. The homicide rate of infants is 8 per 100,000 in the United States. Infanticide most frequently occurs with psychotic symptoms rather than PPD.

Women with postpartum psychosis rarely have a history of abusing children. Infanticides usually occur as part of a concomitant suicide attempt (mother’s desire for both self and child to die). The reason for wanting to include the baby in the attempt is due to an altered state of thinking: she wishes to not abandon her baby and does not want to burden other people with her child. Typically women with psychosis genuinely believe their actions are in the best interest of the child. 

Postpartum psychosis is a treatable condition through medication and psychotherapy. Though this condition is rare, it is imperative to be educated about the disease and watch for signs and symptoms of this illness among postpartum women.


If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, arrangements can be made (if safe) that include you remaining with your newborn and/or pumping regularly to maintain a breastfeeding relationship, if that is important to you. Do not remain silent for fear of being hospitalized, stigmatized or requiring medication. Better is possible. Happiness is possible.

If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, go to your nearest Emergency Room immediately.

Suicide hotline: 1-800-273-8255.

You can also contact someone for a live online chat at this Suicide Prevention Live Chat link

Text this Crisis Text Line (Text HOME to 741741)

To Clearly See the Blur: Baby Blues and PPD


“I started to experience a sick sensation in my stomach; it was as if a vise were tightening around my chest. Instead of this nervous anxiety that often accompanies panic, a feeling of devastation overcame me. I hardly moved…I wasn’t simply emotional or weepy…This was something quite different. This was sadness of a shockingly different magnitude. It felt as if it would never go away”

~ Brooke Shields, Down came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression

I clutched my pillow and attempted to hide my ugly cry from my baby. I allowed the pillow to muffle my noise and soak up the tears. I kept the lights off.

“This must be normal,” I thought. “This must be that ‘heavy love’ – the ‘it’s so good it hurts’ sort of love – maybe it’s just hormones…”

My husband peeked his head in on his lunch break. “How ya doing sweetie? Let’s plan to see friends tonight. This is what community is for!”

“No, thank you,” I responded.

Continue reading “To Clearly See the Blur: Baby Blues and PPD”

Pulled to the Front: My PPD Journey


I backed out of my driveway onto the rainy road to make my way to Loveland, Colorado. This was my first alone, overnight trip away from both Ryan and Summer. I was excited and nervous.

As I prepare for this upcoming birth, I began to realize that I wanted a babymoon getaway for just me and Samuel (the baby boy in my belly). Up until this point, I did not realize that was the true craving of my soul, but it was.

I wanted a space to be with Samuel, alone. To bond. To ponder. To pray. To consider all the places I’ve been and the places I may go.

Continue reading “Pulled to the Front: My PPD Journey”

Sledding in Summer

I buckled my joyful little toddler into her seat after our trip to see Ryan at Starbucks. Now that we live further from his store, these visits are quite a treat for both of us.

Lately, a typical morning begins with me sipping coffee while listening to her chant “Bye-bye to dada” next to the front door in her pajamas.

About twice a week I cave. Extra caffeine, a breakfast sandwich made by someone else, and a kiss from the Ryan Hudson is hard to resist.

Continue reading “Sledding in Summer”