The Connected Mom

If you have struggled with any kind of blue or depressive feelings after giving birth, this is your podcast. Ashley Hudson, LCSW, shares next steps for you or someone you love when postpartum challenges hit hard.

Show Notes

Did you know that at least 1 in 7 women suffer from postpartum depression or anxiety? Postpartum depression is considered the number one complication of childbirth. Listen in as we dive into these very real issues and how they can affect us and those we love. Ashley Hudson, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, joins us for a very real, practical episode. "You deserve to feel better." Please share!

Links Ashley mentions in the show:

If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, go to your nearest Emergency Room immediately.
Suicide hotline: Call 988
Text this Crisis Text Line (Text HOME to 741741)

Ashley Hudson is a lover of Jesus and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She lives in Denver Colorado with her high school sweetheart and two beautiful children. Through her practice, Pearl in Process, Ashley treats Trauma and Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders. Using a web of storytelling and practical teaching, Ashley strives to equip parents and their support systems to properly detect and respond to mood and anxiety disorders with confidence and compassion. Ashley teaches courses through her online platform, provides both virtual and in-person therapy, and has written several books available through Amazon.


Creators & Guests

Becky Harling
Author of How to Listen So Your Kids Will talk and several others. Podcast host of The Connected Mom. A dynamic speaker who is passionate about Jesus.
Ashley Hudson
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

What is The Connected Mom?

Form a deeper connection with God, more empathic connection with other Moms, and more intentional connection with your child.

Welcome to the Connected Mom Podcast, where we have real conversations helping you to connect more deeply with God, more empathically with other moms, and more intentionally with your child. I'm Becky Harling, your host, and we're happy you're here. And I have with me today my cohost, Sarah. Hey, Sarah.

Hey, Becky. So what is our topic today?

Hey, we've got a, uh, big one. We've got a guest with us today and I am excited about this topic. Hey, girls, before I introduced our guest, if you have struggled in any way with any kind of blue or depressive feelings after giving birth, this is your podcast and we want you to tune in to today's discussion. So our guest today is a friend of mine, Ashley Hudson. And Ashley is a lover of Jesus. A licensed clinical social worker, she lives in the in Denver, Colorado, with her high school sweetheart, two beautiful children. And through her practice, Pearl and Process, ashley treats trauma, perinatal, mood, and anxiety disorders. She uses a web of storytelling and practical teaching. Ashley strives to equip parents and their support systems to properly detect and respond to mood and anxiety disorders with confidence and compassion. Ashley teaches courses through her online platform, provides both virtual and in person therapy, and has written several books through Amazon. Welcome, Ashley.

Thank you, Becky. It's good to be here. I'm excited to be here with you guys.

Hey, we're excited to have you. So today we're talking about perinatal. I communicate for a living and can't say that word, but perinatal, mood and anxiety disorders. Okay, decode that for us, Ashley. We need that in common girlfriend language.

Yes. We call them PMADs for short. So, perinatal, mood and anxiety disorders include a whole spectrum of different conditions that can occur from conception all the way up until technically, perinatal includes that first birthday of the baby. But we actually see these symptoms can linger up until sometimes two, sometimes even three years, depending on the provider you talk to. So, uh, these conditions, while we largely think of postpartum depression, because that's the more common vernacular we have used, now that we've done more studies and we have more information, we know that it actually can present as anxiety, which is actually more common than depression. Um, we see conditions like OCD, bipolar, psychosis, PTSD, all of these different forms of conditions can surface during this season. And so what happens, and it's a common and honestly, it's really damaging misconception, is that we keep our eyes out for feelings of sadness, but we miss a ton of mamas who are really struggling with symptoms that don't match depression. They might be experiencing more obsessions or compulsions, scary thoughts, anxiety, et cetera. So it's important, and that's why we are really specific now with using that PMA. Um, so, yeah, it's much more than depression, but depression is definitely a problem, for sure that we need to address.

Yeah, mhm, I mean, there is becky brought it up like the baby blues. We kind of have that vernacular, too. Um, and then the postpartum depression, which is a real thing, and then postpartum anxiety that you just mentioned. So can you tell us a little bit of the difference and then maybe physiologically why some of that's happening? Because I remember when I had, um, my kids, it was like, well, it's just a bunch of hormones. Like you're kind of out of whack. And is that true? But if you could kind of tell us what's the background on some of these?

So the thing with pregnancy is you create more estrogen. You create three times the amount of estrogen in one pregnancy than you do your entire life when not pregnant. And these hormones impact your brain, right. It's not like your brain is going to go untouched by the slew of hormones that take over. And so when you give birth, there's a really steep drop in that estrogen. And the impact can be something like sadness tearfulness. And for some moms, that tends to kind of go away after seven to 14 days. Um, I think, depending on, again, who you talk to, it's not as black and white as we would like it to be. But if a mama is predominantly sad and not able to sleep when the baby is sleeping, maybe she's having some escape fantasies is what we call it. So you might hear her say, gosh, I regret having a baby. I just want to fall asleep and not wake up. Um, things like that. That would be what we would consider on the more depression side of things. And quite honestly, moms who struggle with anxiety also have those thoughts. Um, suicide, you might be surprised, is the leading cause of death for moms in the first year postpartum. And Colorado has one of the highest numbers.


Um, but that's not just Colorado, obviously. There are moms in all different states that, um, take their own lives. And it's really sad. And a lot of that is not just depression. A lot of it is they're so overwhelmed by the anxiety in the season, especially with COVID um, that they just don't know how to manage it. And the hormones like you're describing, Sarah, those fluctuations only make it that much harder.

I was thinking, um, I know several moms who have delivered in the last couple of years, and the birth itself has been wildly traumatic, not gone the way. Everybody comes up with a little birth plan, whether they write that down or they don't, or whether they imagine it in their head. And then the birthing process doesn't go the way they want it to, and it could be really traumatic. And then there's the whole problem of, like, they get home and babies not nursing. Everybody has pitched them this whole idea that nursing is going to be this beautiful experience. And, I mean, it can be, right? But it can also create a lot of anxiety. Like, what am I doing wrong? I can't figure this out. I'm having problems. And I just hear a lot of moms that have given birth just feeling categorically overwhelmed. And so how do we know when something switches? I mean, I kind of think every young mom after she delivers needs support. Right? But how do we know when it's greater than that?

Yeah, that's a good point, Becky. You just said a lot of really good things. I think that when you see the predominant feeling is sadness or overwhelm. My number one phrase that I throw out at moms is if you don't like the way you're feeling, you deserve to feel better.

Hey, that's good. Ashley, would you say that again? Our listeners need to hear that again.

Yes. If you don't like the way you're feeling, you deserve to feel better. This is a sacred season that the Lord calls us to live fully in our bodies. And if we are trudging along and it feels like you are walking through wet cement that is half dry, this could be so much easier and so much better. And the Lord has better. And, uh, there are people who have been trained in treating these conditions, such as myself, and we want to be able to help those moments out. And I think one thing you said, Becky, that is so important is it's hard to not personalize these situations that are so outside of our control, such as a birth or a Nikki experience, or difficulty nursing or latching. All of these are really hard things that culturally we've just kind of thrown out as, oh, your body's supposed to do that, or it's just birth. People do it every day. Well, to these moms, every mom as you know, who's given birth, it's not just birth and it's not just nursing. It's hard work. And these are hard decisions. And in a culture that is so judgmental, it seems at times, and just wrong opinions, moms have a hard time getting their footing and knowing who they are as mamas. Um, and that's only compounded by all the opinions that are available online and at our fingertips and all the stories people are sharing. And so I think if you see a mama who is having trouble sleeping when the baby sleeps, is tearful, unable to leave her home, is not talking a lot like she used to be. If she seems to have had some personality changes, that's the time to kind of just lean in and be a good listener, um, and then provide some resources if she's open to them.

Yeah, I'm glad you brought up the resources because I was literally, at this point, about a year ago with a, ah, very dear friend and she actually was recognizing, um, some of these things. So I guess two part question, Ashley. What are the things as a support person that we can be looking out for with a loved one or a friend. And then what do we do? What's a good place to start? Obviously leaning in, being a good listener. But what if it really takes more even than that to help?

Absolutely. That's such a great question. There's an organization called Postpartum Support International and it's postpartum. Net. They are a great hub of resources. They have information for support systems. They have help for mom, help for dad. They have free support groups that you can call into from the comfort of your home. Um, they are actually the organization that trains many of us who specialize in, um, these conditions and treating these conditions. So that would be my first place that I would send people as postpartum net. They also have a directory. I believe it's, but I can give that to you guys. You can throw it in the show notes. Um, and that is a directory where you can actually type in your zip code, hit your insurance. I think there's a category for faith preferences, like if you want a Christian therapist, um, and press Enter and it will give you all the people who are qualified to, um, support you in your local area. So those are some great resources as far as what you can do. There are some screening tools online, like some really formal ones. There's the, um, I think it's a postpartum assessment screening scale. We call it the pass. There's also the Edinburgh, which is probably Sarah, what you received when you went for your follow up. And um, maybe even pediatrician might have given it to you. While that's helpful, mamas are quickly able to lie on those. And it's common, right? I think I lie.

I'm great.

Everything's peachy.

I mean, so good.

My appointment was summer, my six week. I was so tired and just so over stimulated that I got to that waiting room and I handed her over the counter to the person at the front desk and just said, I can't do it. And they were like, okay. They handed me the Edinburgh screening and I used that with flying colors. But there were so many indicators that I was unwell and they were also easily missed because we use this black and white way of screening mamas. Um, so anyways, I tell you that because that's accessible. Obviously. I would never suggest that someone other than a clinician use it for diagnostic purposes, is available for you to look at and talk through conversationally with your friends and family members and say, gosh, becoming a parent is hard.

No kidding.



Amen normalizing. That do not say, oh, you're just tired. Oh, this is just parenthood. Oh, welcome to mama hood. Those phrases are not helpful. Also, and this might sound kind of triton or, I don't know, unsupportive of the church, but phrases like God has a plan. Ah, this is meant to be those sorts of responses can honestly be really dismissive and make matters worse. So actually taking her seriously, saying, hey, this could be something that's treatable, and is actually if you can take out the personalization of it, there is nothing wrong with you as a mom. God called you to motherhood. You are actually designed for this. There are things changing in your brain and the result is this. So if you can kind of externalize the symptoms in the situation so that it isn't a matter of character flaw, um, but a condition just like the cold or a flu that is that can really help as well.

Yeah, I wonder too sometimes. I think just, um, offering practical help as well. Like, okay, I remember when one of my daughters had her fourth, and she I'm like, what do you need from me? And she's like, here's what I need. I need you to take the other three kids down to your house and leave me alone for a week so I can bond with this baby. And I'm like, great, I can do that. But what I love out of that is I think moms need permission to say what they need, because I think there can be some confusing messages even in how the church presents selflessness, like, oh, I should be able to push through this, I should be able to do this, I should be able to do that. And I think letting go of that and, uh, being able to say, hey, this is what I need right now, I need to sleep, I need to come up with a different plan than nursing. Maybe for a while.

I don't know.

The whole nursing thing has been interesting to me because there's so much guilt around that. And it's like, okay, hey, that's a personal decision. Just make it and do the best you can. But I don't know where all that guilt comes from anyway. I suppose that's a different topic, but I think it can really feed into this. And the whole guilt thing, like, why am I so tired? Why am I so messed up? Or why am I so sad? Or why is mother's motherhood so hard? So, Ashley, from your perspective, how does a woman who's feeling that guilt approach God in that time?

Yeah, gosh, that's, uh, so good. I think that as moms, we learn really quickly that I did this blog post a long time ago. I don't even operate the blog anymore, but it was called I'm, um, Unfit for Motherhood. And it was kind of this journey of me recognizing, like, oh, I am not cut out to be a mom without him. I really can't do this and I'm not supposed to. Um, and so I think going to the Lord with that guilt, which I think you guys had a, um, podcast on that recently, but goal to him with this feeling of I should be able to do this, and I can't. It's, um, a humbling process, but allowing yourself to even just say that out loud, write it down, write a prayer out. If you can't say it out loud, I can't do this and know that that's okay. We talk a lot in the field of, um, mental health on self compassion. Like, use that. Allow the Lord to provide that compassion for you. Allow Holy Spirit to come and provide that Holy Spirit or that compassion for you. And the problem one thing I love that you said, Becky, is you said two things. One, you offered support to your daughter. Right. The thing with postpartum anxiety and depression is sometimes by the time people say, how can I help you? They don't know. M moms don't know.

That's good.

They're out of they have no idea. And so what can sometimes be more helpful is saying, I am here for you. I can take your younger ones to the park, I can do your laundry, or I can bring you a meal. What would be best for you?


Leaving some tangible options for those months that you, you know, are either going to be resistant to receiving help, um, or just too overwhelmed to even articulate what they want. The other thing that I think is really important to remember is the way the church is designed. When we read Acts 242 to 47, we are given this picture of a life on life and community living that is simply not popular and really hard to access in our world right now. And we are not meant to do motherhood in isolation. We're not meant to do it with what we call aloe parents. There's some great books out there on aloe parenting, but we are meant to do this as a tribe, as a group. Uh, and our kids are meant to have and they need other faces and other adult providers. In some cultures, mama actually only gets a small percentage of time with the baby compared to all the other mommies who are helping nurse and change. And so there's a myth in our country that is just so damaging, and that is that we're supposed to do this all alone. And so, as Mama goes before the Lord with this guilt, I think learning and dismantling one of this is the expectations that are built by culture, and one of this is the expectation built by God and by His Word. One time, I was so just at the end of myself, and I was struggling with postpartum depression, and I just felt Holy Spirit whisper, jesus wasn't sleep trained, and it rushed my yes.

Can you say that again, Ashley, a little bit? One more time. That's a profound statement right there. Go ahead.

Jesus was not sleep trained. And I think, as I meet with moms, they're like, if they don't get their sleep, then all of a sudden, they're not going to be able to meet their milestones. If they don't meet their milestones, they won't make it to kindergarten. Then all of a sudden, they're like, then he's going to be in jail and, uh, we're never going to be able to see it. It's just like we go from this place extremes and catastrophizing such minute details. I think it's important to put all things in perspective, get to the word of God, and know where are my building blocks at and how do I want to navigate this.

You know, Ashley, it's funny that you shared that story because I remember giving birth to my son and, um, he was number two and we were in Sudan, so we were living in Africa. Um, birth was not easy by any stretch of the imagination, just being in an African hospital. And I was so tired after that. And here in the United States at that time, everybody was saying, don't take your baby in bed, don't take your baby in bed. And I got to Africa, and I'm like, I've been duped because the whole rest of the world does this. In parts of Africa, there's no separate bedroom for your child because they're all living in one hut. Right. And so I remember thinking, okay, my whole philosophy, um, on parenting changed. It became sleep at any and all costs. Now, I know there are risks out there, uh, with all of that, and I'm well aware of that, but I just think giving yourself permission sometimes we don't give ourselves grace, even though God does. God's eternal nature is grace. He gives us tons of grace. It's we that have the problem sometimes with grace. Were you going to say something, Sarah?

Well, I love stories, Becky, and I think, actually, you probably wouldn't be in this work if you didn't see God redeeming and God restoring things. Do you have a story of maybe a mama who was hesitant to seek out help or maybe her family helped her get some support? Uh, just without names, but maybe a success story? Because I know sometimes when you're in the thick of it, you think, well, that worked for other people. But mine is different. I've heard that before. So do you have maybe a good news story you could share, as we've talked about all of these tips and steps?

Yeah, gosh, it's hard to even think because I'm flooded with these stories.

Yay. Well, that's good. That's encouraging.

I love getting to see the, uh.

Or maybe just in general, like how you see the process. Go.

I can share some of my own story and share.


Uh, that'd be great.

Um I had my daughter. She was a planned pregnancy, and, um, we had a great pregnancy. I'm one of the freaks that loves being pregnant. And I just had a marvelous time. And then I had her, and everything went according to my plan because I am like a one on the enneagram. So I had a plan. Everything was fine. And we got home and all of a sudden, everything was not fine. I shouldn't even say we got home in the hospital, things were not fine. I did not feel like I was in my body. I did not feel like I was bonding with my baby, which is a pretty common symptom of postpartum depression. And this fell I personalized it like I was saying, it became a character flaw. Something is wrong with me. I'm not the mother I'm meant to be. So fast forward a few months, and I think this is important to know. Usually these symptoms occur and surface between three and six months, so it's not this immediately after. And oftentimes by the time they increase, these symptoms present an increase in intensity. All supports have been removed from mama and the family system. And so I had tremendous support in an amazing family system, and yet I still felt so isolated and so alone. And you could have thrown me a life raft, and I would have just said, no, thank you. And I got to this point, Sarah and Becky, where I was about to take my own life, and I realized that not all moms have this story. This happens to be my story. And I'm really grateful for the way that it ended, because I happened to have a friend who felt like he heard the Lord say, go check on Ashley. And he came over in the middle of what was happening and walked in, and I heard the doorslam, and I was like, nobody's supposed to be here, ryan's supposed to be at work, etc. Went downstairs and he was there. And he was like, I just felt like I was supposed to check on you. What's going on? And it was that day for me that my life was saved by the Lord, by the grace of God. Um, again, I realize that doesn't happen for all families, so I feel very fortunate. But from there, I began to I went up for prayer one day at church, and there was another mom who said, this happened to me. This can be better for you. And she gave me a hug and just said, there is so much support out there. And she gave me permission to not only get prayer, but to also access trained therapists in the community to find some support groups and to be able to not feel ashamed, shame. It buries us. Then he uses that. Um, and he was using that for me. And so as soon as I began to talk about it and get the and access the support I needed, I began to feel better. And I can't tell you how many moms come to me and say, gosh, I suffered so badly with my first. I'm not sure I want to have another kid. One of the greatest gifts. There's so many beautiful aspects of working in this field, but is working with moms who are climbing out of this really dark space, seeing the Lord heal redeem and set them free and then turn around and they're expecting. Their second and third and fourth and getting to walk this journey and see life multiplied the way the Lord intended and celebrated the way it was designed. And it just warms my heart. It's so fun, and I'm so glad.

Well, and what a beautiful story, Ashley, because you see how God redeemed your story or is now using it, and now you can really compassionately come alongside of other moms and say, hey, I really do understand, um, because I've been there, and it's just really beautiful. And thank you, because I'm guessing there are mamas out there right now listening, thinking, I had no idea other people felt this way. I just really love that. So thank you for sharing your story. Um, we are almost out of time, but I want you to give mama, um, just some practical steps. Like, if somebody's listening to this podcast and they're like, she's talking about me because I've got so much anxiety, how do you know? Right? I'm having panic attacks every night, or I'm feeling really sad, or I feel so overwhelmed, I'm wondering why on Earth I even became a mama. What should be their next steps?

Ashley um, well, I think that is a great resource. So that's the first place I would start. I would, um, go to that website and find a therapist. We go every year for an annual checkup, but we kind of have this weird view of therapy. Like, we only go if our lives are completely broken. And unfortunately, that's not helpful when there are things that are preventative. And so even if you identify just a little bit with something that I've shared, I think everyone deserves the extra support, extra the baseline of support that a therapist could offer in perspective. Um, advocate for a Christian therapist, if that's important to you. You have permission to be picky, and you need to be able to find someone who is a good fit for you and where you are at in your journey. I would then say, uh, do write a list. I have all my moms do. I say write a list of what is causing the most anxiety to the top five to do or anxiety provoking situations and share it with your partner and maybe your best friend, share it with you and let them take one through five for you. And then lastly, I have people list out the top five sensory inputs that are draining them and the top five sensory inputs that bring them life and comfort.

Can you give us an example of that, Ashley?

Yes, absolutely. For some moms, if I say what are, like, senses, so, sight, smells, taste, touch of those, what are some that cause you like when they are triggered or when someone's putting smells in front of you or touching you, what drains you the most? And a lot of moms will say, oh, the noise I m just can't handle. Oh, the clutter. I can't do the clutter. Uh, it's helpful, kind of, from most intense to least intense. Write out what those are and then do something about them. So if it's clutter, have one room in your house that is clutter free, that doesn't have the kids in it, right. If it smells, then put the diaper trash can outside. If it's touch, then have some boundaries in place that protect you and talk about that with your partner. And then also dance. We don't really pay attention to the sensory input that brings us calm and relief, but like, lavender or, um, kind of a weighted blanket is a good example of touch. Sometimes fabric that brings them, like, a sense of calm or a cup of tea that really brings them a sense of calm. And so knowing what those are for you can be really important as you begin to kind of learn how to regulate your nervous system in the season. That can be really overstimulating.

Yeah. That's so good, Ashley. Thank you. Um, we have to wrap up, but I could talk about this for another hour, I think, because this is so great, and I want our listeners to walk away with hope. First of all, whatever you are feeling guaranteed in the journey of motherhood, other moms have felt that way too. And you need I loved what Ashley said about community. Uh, it truly does take a village. And we were meant to mother in community with other mothers. We weren't meant to do the journey alone. Um, and, um, just going to the Lord in prayer, because prayer can really be calming. And maybe for you, that's lighting a candle and just admitting to God that you are completely and categorically overwhelmed. I love the way the psalmists do that. They just dump it all out authentically before the Lord, and we have permission to do that. And then reaching out in the show notes today, we will have some of these websites where you can reach out for help. Um, don't do it alone. That's I think what I want to come back to. Don't stay isolated because, as Ashley said, you deserve to feel better. And motherhood is a marathon. It goes on for a lot of years. And so take care of yourself along the way so that you can be that mother that you want to be. Go for therapy. It's no shame in that. In fact, I think it's an honor to be able to process with somebody else and have them give you feedback on your thoughts. Ashley, would you just close us out in prayer and pray for those listeners out there that might really resonate with this topic and say, hey, she gets me?

Yeah, absolutely. Father God, we just come together and thank you. Thank you for the. Work of the cross and for, um, the way that you call us toward freedom. And right now, I just pray for the moms that they don't feel that in their bones, they feel tired and they feel drained and they feel overwhelmed. And, Lord, I just ask for grace. I ask, Lord, that you would multiply the littlest bit of energy that they might have to pick up the phone and call someone for support. I pray that you would meet them in the places of fatigue, in the places of undoneness, Lord, that you would come and with Your Holy Spirit, that you would bring comfort, Lord, that you would just blanket them with acceptance in the places where they're doubting their calling of motherhood. I just come against that in Jesus name. And I ask, Lord, that you would come over them and speak truth. I pray for followers of Jesus to come and be beacons of light and love to these moms during this time, Lord. And I pray that you would just empower them by the strength of Your Holy Spirit to seek out the support and that you would go before her and find just the right person to come alongside her in this journey. We love you, Jesus, and it's in Your name we pray. Amen.



Hey, friends. Thanks for joining us today on the Connected Mom podcast. And we hope you'll join us next week for another episode. And if you like today's episode or, you know, a friend that might need this episode, would you share that on your social media and then in the show notes today, we will have ways where you'll be able to purchase Ashley's books. And so this was a great conversation. Ashley, thank you so much for joining us. This was incredible. Sarah, great to see you again, as always. And join us next time for the Connected Mom podcast. Bye.