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.