The Golden Hour • Ashley Doelling

28 weeks 5 days

The Golden Hour is the uninterrupted skin-to-skin time experienced by mother and baby in the hour immediately following birth.

Mothers of preemies often wait days, and sometimes weeks to hold their babies for the first time.

And though we’ve waited, when the time comes for us to revisit the golden hour we missed following our births, we feel just as bonded to our babies, and the moment is equally unforgettable.

Ashley Doelling is a Kansas City, MO-based Postpartum Doula, and mother of 2.

Ashley Doelling / 28 weeks and 5 days The first time I actually held him in my arms.

During your pregnancy, when you thought about meeting your baby for the first time, what did you hope for, what did you see?

I was planning for an unmedicated birth. I saw myself laboring around a hospital room, maybe on a birth ball; in my mind it was like all of the birthing videos you see floating around social media. I would push, baby would come, I would cry and laugh, my partner would cry and laugh, and we would just be euphoric.

How many weeks pregnant were you when you gave birth?

I was 28 weeks and 5 days.

What was your baby’s birth weight?

He was 1lb 15oz or 899g.

Were you able to see, touch or hold your baby immediately after the birth?

No, sadly I wasn’t. I was under general anesthesia from an emergency C-section.

When did you see your baby for the first time?

I had him on a Friday at 5:09am and it was Saturday afternoon before they let me out of bed to see him.

Do you remember the first time you touched your baby?

Yes I do. They rolled me up to the isolette. I was still weak from being bedridden for 4 days and having just had surgery. The nurse asked if I wanted to touch him and of course I said, “yes” though I was very nervous. I put my hand in and gently stroked him. The nurse then told me that because his skin was so thin that I needed to gently pat him and not rub. I was afraid I had broken him. It stuck with me for a while.

The first time I touched my son.

How many days old was your baby when you held him/her the first time?

He was 6 days old when I “held” him, which was really just lifting him up through the isolette so that the nurse could change his bedding. The first time I held him in my arms was when he was 12 days old.

How did it feel, to finally hold your baby in your arms?

Looking through my journal, this is how I described it, “it was such a happy feeling to have him in my arms, and it made me feel a bit more like a mom. I hoped that he was comforted, that I wasn’t a stranger to him, that he knew I was his mom.” I remember being concerned about the CPAP and IVs and whether he was cold or I would break him but overall it was excitement. It was the first time I really felt I could bond with him.

What would you say to the mother, who’s just given birth prematurely and hasn’t held her baby yet?

I would say, “Mama, I know your heart is hurting and that you might be angry, sad, resentful, and every emotion in between. You have a right to feel everything you are feeling. No one expects you to hide those emotions. Let them out. Have a good cry. Scream in the shower if you need to. And when you are ready, sit down next to your amazing little fighter, touch them with a touch that only a mother has. Feel your fingers on their skin and know that the day will come when you can wrap that baby in your arms and never have to let them go. But for now, just be there.”