It was just a normal day at The Kennedy, NCCF’s Short Term Family Housing program in D.C.’s Ward 4. The Kennedy, which serves as a temporary home for homeless DC children and their parents as they transition to stable housing, can be a busy place in the mornings with residents heading off to school, work, or other appointments, but this day was about to get a lot more interesting for Ashley Walston, a residential assistant who started in February of this year. Ashley’s calm demeanor and kind heart make her an asset to The Kennedy, but her skills would be tested that day in ways she never expected.
Ashley was working the front desk, as she often does, when a heavily pregnant resident came down with her two small sons complaining of discomfort and asking for assistance. Realizing the potential emergency she had on her hands, Ashley sprang into action and found a colleague to help dress and calm the young boys. The boys, who were understandably scared for their mother, were trying hard to be brave with the older boy working to help comfort his younger brother.
Now that they boys were being attended to, Ashley turned her attention toward the mom, who was by now having strong contractions. She summoned emergency services and when the ambulance arrived Ashley climbed right into the ambulance along with the resident and held her hand as she was being examined. The young boys, now dressed and ready to go, were delivered to the ambulance in the event of a quick departure for their mom. The contractions were intense and the resident felt pressure and the desire to push. She looked up at Ashley and said “I don’t want to have my baby in the ambulance.” Ashley reassured her that although she may have no choice, Ashley would not leave her and her boys alone.
As the pain worsened, and it became apparent that the baby would be born right then and there, Ashley summoned all her skills and worked to continue to calm the little boys all the while holding hands with and supporting the mom. Suddenly, and as quickly as it all started, the mom squeezed Ashley’s hand as hard as she could and into the world came a much wanted baby boy.
As Ashley reflected on this event, she said “I have never encountered anything like this . . . I felt overwhelmed and relieved. I began to cry along with the resident and her sons. I was as proud of her and that baby as any family member could be. I was glad that I happened to be at the desk that day and was there to help her bring new life into the world, right outside the doors of the Kennedy.”
The resiliency of human life is remarkable. Mother and baby (as well as two proud older brothers) are all healthy and well, and on track to depart The Kennedy into safe and stable housing. Ashley and all the staff at NCCF get to witness the miracle of family each and every day in big and small ways, and for that we are profoundly grateful.