You Are Me, I Am You

I kiss the corners of your piercing blue eyes and my soul explodes as you reward me with your toothless smile. I will never take you for granted.  

I listen to your giggle as you play with your Gigi and I’m encompassed by warmth, enveloped with love, destroyed by happiness. How did I ever know love before you? 

I watch you sleep, closely examining the rise and fall of your chest, listening to your soft snore and dream induced murmurs. I would give a million of my lives to preserve yours. 

I see you see things for the first time. Your eyes light up and focus in, your brow furrows in that curious way, and you examine. You take everything in and I spend a significant amount of time wondering what you learn from it all. I will teach you everything I know, and then I will learn more so I can teach you more. 

I watch you play with your hands. I love those little fingers and palms so much. You twiddle your fingers around each other and examine every inch of their magnificent creation, almost as much as I do. I wonder what things they’ll create, what they’ll touch and feel, where they’ll explore. I’ll show every beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. 

I see your head turn on a swivel when you hear my voice. I feel your heart slow when you’re upset and I wrap you up in my arms. I play with you, imitate you, watch you mimic me, and I have never loved anyone more. I see me in your eyes and I see you in mine. I hear my voice in yours when you yell just because you discovered you can. You are me, and I am you…

I will cherish you every moment. I will remember every second. I will embrace every day I get with you. You are not mine, but you are a piece of me. I do not own you, but I made you. You are my daughter, you are my life, and I will protect you and love you until the end of time. 

by Ashley King

© All Rights Reserved 2017

It’s A Shame

I always admired your ability to set your mind to something and actually attain it. I’ve never seen someone turn such a low salary into so much. Self control. When it came to money, budgeting, working a job you hated, you were a master. You have this unbelievable ability to say “no” to yourself, especially for an ex-junkie. And I truly admired that, mostly because I’ve never been very good at it. 

You’d get this tunnel vision for what you wanted. Me, then the apartment, the promotion, the Army. Next came the new job, the mortgage, the house. One thing after the next; you set your mind to these things and you got them all. But your superpower had a catch. Among your many other character defects, you were never able to focus on more than one thing at a time. Remember, “tunnel vision”. 

And really, it’s a shame. Because now you have your nice, new job. You’re on your way to being a soldier. You close on your beautiful home tomorrow. You have a pink room for both your daughters, one of them being ours… But in attaining all of these things, you forgot about us. And so you will move to your new house alone. You will learn just how deafening silence can be. You will experience loneliness in all of its unique agony. And really, it’s a shame. Because I would have given you forever. Had you only been kind and respectful. Had you paid us just a little bit more attention. Had you just heard me everytime you asked me what I wanted and my answer was “emotional support”. Had you only noticed that the woman sitting next to you was slowly disappearing, her spirit decaying living a life of cohabitation. Partners aren’t supposed to just coexist; they’re supposed to live life together. And in trying to build that life, you forgot about the people you were doing it for. 

My heart breaks for you. I never would’ve wished this on you. Ever. My heart breaks for me. I never wanted this. I wanted our family. I wanted our life. I wanted the man I fell in love with. But you lost him somewhere. And when you lost him, you lost me. My heart breaks for our daughter; because she deserves so much better than us; and she’s not even getting “us”. I will always give her everything I have to give. But I wanted us to do that, together. 

Really, it’s a shame. 

And forever is a lie. 

by Ashley King

© All Rights Reserved 2017

Ask Me Anything Monday

This is a little fun exercise I used to do last year that fell into obscurity between working and being pregnant. Soooo, I’m giving it a shot again. If you’re interested, ask away 🙂 

Submit any questions, queries, or random wonderings you may have! 🙂 As always, it can be a personal question about me or my life or it can be completely random. And I promise to answer it as completely and honestly as I can! There are no rules or limitations. Let’s go! 
Much love,

Ashley King

© All Rights Reserved 2017

Fuck The Rules

Since having my daughter I have discovered that there are more rules about how to raise your children than I ever thought possible. How to and to not feed them, when and what to feed them, how to “train” them to sleep, how to burp them, when to start the “cry it out” method (that’s if you’re not one of the “momsters” who think this is akin to child abuse). Everything in the world has been regulated, researched, and written within an inch of its life. It’s fucking ridiculous! So… my idea… is to fuck the rules..

Here is a non-comprehensive list of everything I do wrong as a mom; because, fuck the rules.  I mentioned “momsters” above; these are the women who are convinced they know everything about parenting, and have no problem telling you everything you’re doing wrong. They’re the people who deprive their children of syrup on their pancakes because “it’s messy”, the ones who get mad at kids for moving too much or making too much noise or you know, being kids. They are the all-seeing, all-knowing, helicopters moms of the blogosphere and world. They lie in wait, anticipating showering you with shame because you dared to be different or..*dun, dun, dun* an actual parent. Well momsters, this post is for you: take a Valium and a deep breath. I’m about to shit all over your world…

1. NEVER PROP THE BOTTLE

Lady, I can prop a bottle like a motherfuckin’ boss. Wanna know why? Because mama needs two hands and Bebe eats every 3 hours like she’s starving to death. I can hear the momsters now: “But you’ll drown your baby! She’ll die you monster!” Honey, let me tell you, if you’re child isn’t capable of turning her head to the side or spitting out a nipple with the same defiance she spits out her binkie, then that is Darwinism at work. I’m sure somewhere out there there’s some heartbreaking story about a mom who drowned her baby with a bottle but let’s be honest, it would be one of very few (and she probably “propped” with duct tape). I make sure to prop Bebe’s bottle with something soft, like a blanket, so if she turns her head even the slightest bit or tries to spit it out, it comes right out. The worst thing that happens is her shirt gets wet; and guess what? You can wash those. And I get to actually drink cup of coffee while it’s hot (shocker right?!).

2. NEVER GIVE BABY A BLANKET

Seriously? What is this, Auschwitz? I understand that your child can suffocate in a pile of blankets but it is possible to keep your child warm without that happening. Currently, Bebe sleeps in a rock and play because it’s still relatively flat but it’s angled enough to help her with her reflux and I’ve found a way to let her sleep with a blanket where it doesn’t end up piled on top of her perfect little face (sorry, mini mom gush). Before I put her in the rock and play I lay a small blanket down in the basket with a little bit hanging off the bottom edge. Then I place her in and fold the bit of blanket at the bottom up over her little body. It comes up to her nipples, keeps her warm, and doesn’t suffocate her. And guess what? Warm babies sleep longer bitches! Everybody wins!

3. CLEAN THE PACIFIER WITH…

The sheer amount of things sold for cleaning pacifiers is appalling. Pacifier spray, pacifier soap, pacifier wipes. Seriously? For generation upon generation my family has cleaned their pacifiers with two things: water and mouths. Where my germaphobes at? Are you dying yet? I bet you are you little hand sanitizer toting mother fucker, you. I watched my mom do it so many times… the binkie drops, she picks it up, pops it in her mouth, and then pops it in the baby’s. And you know what? Nothing bad has ever happened. Hell, probably builds up the immune system. Now don’t get me wrong; if i drop the nuk in a rest stop bathroom, I’m using soap. But the parents who go full throttle because it hit the counter in the kitchen or the carpet in the nursery need to fucking relax! I promise, your child will be okay. We ate dirt and drank out of garden hoses and we’re fine. Anymore these days the food we eat is giving us cancer and you’re worried about your baby’s binkie touching a floor that you clean more often than your underwear? Get your shit straight. Plus science says that exposure to the microbial environment benefits children in a multitude of ways including, but not limited to: reduced allergies, heightened immunity, and lowered occurences of eczema and asthma. Science wins. Period.

4. “SHHH… THE BABY’S SLEEPING!!”

NO! That’s a hard no. Do you know what happens when you make everyone tiptoe and whisper every time the baby’s sleeping? You end up with a baby who sleeps like shit. Yeah, good joke universe. I’ll be the first one to request everyone be a little quieter (i.e., not silent, but not screaming) when the baby has just fallen asleep and I’m trying to transfer her from my arms to her rock and play without waking her; but the rest of the time? It’s a normal noise level for my little one. I wanted to be able to do the dishes, listen to music, and walk normally when my child was sleeping so I did all those things while she was sleeping from the very beginning. From the day she came home we made the same amount of noise as we always had. As a result, my girl sleeps like a rock. As I typed that my mom rang the doorbell, causing her two golden retrievers to start barking like maniacs within 7 feet of my sleeping child’s head. She didn’t even flinch; and yes, her hearing is perfect. I’ve met children whose parents kept a silent household while they slept; and to this day, nap time and bedtime rule their households. They can’t have visitors, they can’t get chores done, they can’t talk at a normal level; their lives are controlled by an 8-20 pound tyrant with poor sleeping habits. My child is the light of my life but her sleep time is my free time and I’ll be goddamned if silence is a required part of that.

5. NEVER SAY “NO”!!

I actually read an article that said to never tell your child “no” because it’s “too harsh for your little prince/princess”. Are you fucking kidding me?! Now I can understand using more explanatory sentences such as “Please don’t do that or you may hurt yourself”; BUT sometimes a child needs to hear a quick, concrete “NO”. There seems to be this new-age parenting belief that telling your child “no” will make them lose faith and confidence in you and that it makes them feel as if their lives are limited. This is bullshit! I’m sorry but we were told “no” quite often as children and it made us respect our parents; not to mention, it sometimes when executed in a swift and sudden manner, saved our lives. The parent is the authority figure and no means no; not “I’ll give you ____________ if you do what you should be doing anyway”, and not “No until you whine so much that I cave.” No. There’s no reason you can’t explain the reason for the no after the child has stopped the undesirable behavior; but trying to calmly explain why a child should stop something when they’re neck-deep in it rarely works out. Stop the behavior, then explain.

Building your child’s respect in you takes time and it isn’t always easy but this watered down version of parenting that has become the norm today is not making our children better, smarter, or more confident. In fact, research has shown that children now are more cocky but have less actual self-esteem because they’re constantly told how amazing they are when they haven’t actually earned it and they aren’t given enough opportunities to build themselves up. Helicopter parents have stopped their children from trying things (like monkey bars or contact sports) that they could work at and succeed in, thereby creating real confidence in themselves. And momsters everywhere are demanding other parents raise their children how they do, in whatever way the latest fad demands; and more times than not, the only purpose this serves is to create even more entitled, bravado filled, demanding little brats. Sometimes you have to give and take with your child to get them to listen with the least amount of friction, I get that. But if we’re constantly bribing our children do what they should be doing in the first place then all we’re teaching them is that 1. They’re the ones really in control and 2. They deserve rewards for doing what they’re supposed to instead of something that requires an actual effort. And then we wonder why they’re so entitled? Jesus! My generation has traded in good old-fashioned parenting for bartering, bribing, begging, and conceding. So to that, I say FUCK NO. The better way is not always the easiest way; but it is what’s best for our kids and that is our fucking job: to do what’s best for our kids! I choose to parent my child in the way that I see fit, the way that works for us, regardless of what that article on parenting.com says is best. I believe in keeping my child safe, healthy, and loved. I also love her being happy; but it is my job to be her parent, not her friend (at least until she’s adult). And sometimes being a parent means that your child is not always happy. But if you do a good job, at least you won’t raise a raging doucehbag. I leave you with this..

“If you’ve never pissed your child off, you’re probably not doing your job.”

ashley thingy 2

by Ashley King

© All Rights Reserved 2017

Being A Mom…

The love of my life, my reason for living, my motivation to be more, be better, be everything… weighs just over 9 pounds and has existed for all of 6 weeks. 

I get the greatest peace from watching her sleep and I use the edges of my fingers to wipe the milk off her cheek. And there has never been happiness like this before. 

She is everything I have ever wanted…and so much more. And I never knew what love was until I met her. I remember imagining it, fantasizing about it, thinking I could understand it. And now? Now I understand that I could’ve never been more wrong before. I could never have dreamt this. Imagination, in all its freedom, isn’t capable of wrapping it’s fingertips around even the essence of how much a mother loves her child. There isn’t a mind in the world that can conjure the way it feels to look in eyes you made for the very first time. There is no poem or song or perfect set of words that could even come close to describing the way it hurts to love someone so fucking much. Nothing could describe the way that one moment changes your entire life. It’s just not really real until they cry. But once you’ve labored and pushed and gutted your insides all to make this little person “really” be alive and they cry the first time? Everything is different. The bottom has just dropped out and everything you once knew is now different. Your beliefs and what matters to you changes. You see everything from this whole new perspective that you never knew existed. The world is full of dangers and all the sudden you sense it…

I could never know that love could be so big and whole and all encompassing that it’s almost suffocating… but in the most incredible way. I never knew love could be so utterly, completely, and wholeheartedly terrifying. The moment I first laid eyes on her I felt more love and sheer terror in the same instant than I ever have in my life. And I wasn’t afraid of breaking her. 9 1/2 months of her kicking inside me taught me just how strong she is. No, I wasn’t afraid of dropping her. I wasn’t afraid of being alone with her (much). I wasn’t afraid of all the things people talk about. I was and am afraid of all the things parents WON’T talk about. All the things that suddenly become too terrifying to say out loud. 

I am terrified of never being enough. Of never being able to give her the whole world I know she deserves. I am terrified of everything the world may someday do to her. Of the things she’ll have to endure. Of the pain she’ll have to feel. Of the feelings that will get hurt and the cries I won’t be able to console. I am terrified of SIDS and rapists and kidnappers and bad drivers and the blanket getting too high on her face and that funny gasp she makes when she’s asleep. I am so utterly afraid of losing her that the thought literally makes me sick to my stomach and not just because of what I would lose; but because of this incredible little person that the world would lose. I don’t think I could survive it; because this love I have for her is so enormous that if I don’t have someone to give it to, I’m pretty sure I would cease to exist. 

I am also afraid of her pain. Because it cuts so deep it feels like it’s gutting me. When she was a week old she had an allergic reaction to her diapers. This reaction left her with two chemical burns on her cute little butt cheeks. And she screamed. And screamed. And screamed some more. And I felt like I was being gutted. Like I had failed as a parent. Like if I was good enough I could make it all go away and the fact that I couldn’t made me insane. Powerlessness has never felt so real. Or hurt so much. All I could do was buy nine kinds of butt paste, use washcloths instead of baby wipes, give her baths and turn my heat up so she could lie naked and air out. I did everything right and logically I knew that. But being a parent taught me that even when I do everything right, I will still always want to give her more. I wanted to snap my fingers and make it go away. I wanted to find the magic butt paste that would heal it in a day. But it took two weeks. And in those two weeks I did everything. I consoled her, cried with her, gave her to her dad so I could take a breather, bounced her, rocked her, and ran home to my mom. Because Gigi is magic and could make the crying stop. Being a parent taught me that my child being in pain hurts me far worse than any pain I’ve endured myself. 

Being a parent taught me that it will never be about me again. And it shouldn’t be. Every choice I make, action I take, and decision I weigh is now premised by “How will this effect her?” I drive slower, eat better, am much calmer, and I’m constantly trying to be the best version of me I can be. And every single day I fall short of what I think she deserves. But I know being good enough for her means questioning whether or not I’m good enough for her and that my very fear of never being enough is exactly what makes me enough. Because I will always work harder for her. I will always push further. I will always do everything I can to be the woman that she can look up to the way I look up to my mom.  

Being a mom taught me that I can love someone with every ounce and inch of my existence and that loving like that feels like the greatest blessing I’ve ever been given. Being a mom made me more forgiving of other moms because now I know just how hard it is and I also know that I probably still don’t have any idea of how hard it can get. Being a mom taught me that I know nothing; but also, that my intuition can tell me anything. I know which cry means hungry and which one means bored. I know when she’s in pain and when she just needs to be swaddled. I know when I’m just too exhausted and stressed out and she can sense it in me and it’s time to go to Gigi and get some help. I know that something as simple as “having a gassy baby” can mean non stop crying for hours of the day that could drive any parent crazy. I know that giving a bath to a 7, 8, 9 pound baby can be terrifying… and slippery.

But above all else, I know that no other little face in the world can make me melt the way hers does. I know that I will never be this tied to another human being in so many ways ever again. I know that I need to cherish everyday, even the bad ones, because they will all fly by far too quickly. Being a mom has taught me that I could never have known just how blessed I would feel when given the incredible gift of molding and loving another human being. There just aren’t enough words… We don’t have the right words to even come close to expressing this. But hey, I tried…

by Ashley King 

© All Rights Reserved 2017

Nursing at 7am

It’s 7am and you’re nursing for the fourth time in the last 6 hours. I am exhausted.. beyond all belief. My stomach is grumbling and angry from lack of food and whatever thing has been wrong with it lately, my back is on fire from hunching over in one hundred wrong different ways, and my head is pounding because mama needs some caffeine. And none of that matters. It’s all dulled at the edges by the feeling of your small, warm breaths on my chest. I can’t hear my stomach grumbling over the sweet little coos in your exhales and the squeaks you make when you’ve fallen asleep and wake up to find that the food is still right in front of your face. Choosing to breastfeed is the most insane thing I’ve ever done and stuck to. I always planned to; but never in a million years could I have imagined how exhausting it would be. It comes easily to some people; but not to you and I little one. No, we had to work for it. When you were born, you were so tired from the jaundice that you struggled to stay awake long enough to nurse and as you got older your slightly recessed chin made it hard for you to latch. So I pumped the milk instead; 8, 9, 10 times a day. I felt like all I did was pump, bottle feed you, and put you to sleep, all to start over again as soon as you were out. 

Still I tried everyday to latch you at least once. I was doing it so that my milk could change based off of what your saliva told my body you needed. And then one day you actually latched and started to eat. I swear it was like the clouds had parted for the sun to finally shine through. You would only nurse for the first few minutes when the milk was really flowing, but it was something. And everyday we worked on it. Some days you nurse until you’re almost full and only need to eat a little from the bottle. Other days you just scream anytime I try to get you to latch and I have to pump some more (which never gets enough out now) and then supplement with the formula that your tummy has never taken to. 

Who knew feeding a child could be such a battle?

Sometimes I swear I’ve read every article in existence that explains different tricks to getting your child to latch, or tells how to up my supply so there’s a heavier flow to keep you interested longer. I’ve read articles about getting the most out of pumping, what supplements you can take, hot compresses, breast compressions, hand expression, watching videos of your baby to induce let down. And that, I’ve read about let down, hindmilk, foremilk, different kinds of nipples, nipple confusion, and sooooo much more. It’s enough to leave anyone rocking back and forth in the corner with a box of Thin Mints and White Collar on Netflix (because Matt Bomer is yummy.)

But, it is all worth it at 7 in the morning when you’ve finally latched and eaten your fill and you look up at me, coo, smile, and pass out milk drunk. 

It is all worth it. And I wouldn’t trade this time for anything in the world. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. 

by Ashley King

© All Rights Reserved 2017

Note: to any moms who need support with breastfeeding or are in search of some of the information I mentioned above, I recommend checking out the following websites..

http://www.lllusa.org (La Leche League. They’re the gods of breastfeeding information and support. You can even call them and speak to lactation consultants who will walk you through anything they can.)

http://kellymom.com (A blog site with “evidence based information on breastfeeding and parenting”. It’s run by a mother of 3.)

http://www.babycenter.com (This is the website for an app I used my entire pregnancy and continue to use now that Baby T is 6 weeks old. It has articles, discussion boards, community support and an all around wealth of information. Just a personal like of mine.)

Good luck! Don’t give up! It will get easier. 

Grief is A Cunt

June 24th of 2016 I was sitting on the balcony of my love’s parent’s beach house and I got the call. The call that every person who has ever loved an addict dreads getting. It was my mom and she asked me if I was sitting. I know what that question means. I expected to hear that maybe an aunt I didn’t really know or someone I went to school with had died. That is not what came out of her mouth. When she told me it was you I just sat there for a minute. I asked her if she meant YOU you, praying that she was talking about some other Joey, any other Joey besides my little brother. Anyone but the man who had a one year old at home, who had gotten clean before and was happy, who just one year prior had talked me off a ledge when I was freaking out. But she was talking about you.

You were found dead on your best friend’s couch, overdosed on heroin. My heart broke for him having to find you like that because I know that nothing in the world will ever scrub that image from his mind. My heart broke for your mother who just lost her youngest child, her baby boy. My heart broke for your brother who you idolized, followed, modeled yourself after, because I know that on some level he will always blame himself.  My heart broke for your son. Your beautiful one year old son who’d just been so prematurely robbed of all the amazing qualities you had to teach and pass on to him. Now he will only hear the stories…of how his father was as loyal as they make them and would go to war for any of the people he loved, how you were sometimes impulsive and reckless and would go to jail if it meant defending one of your own. He’ll only get to hear about your laugh that could light up an entire room, your smile that could drag anyone out of a dark place, your wild nature but soft heart. There are so many things that made you who you were, some good, some bad, some in between; but they were you. And I know you would’ve been an amazing force in that little boy’s life.. had you not died. THAT breaks my fucking heart. I’ve cycled between being in denial, devastated, depressed, angry, enraged, accepting, and then devastated all over again.

This month is dedicated to devastation. December 23rd marked the 6 month anniversary of your death and I’m stuck in the dreaded place of “what if?”. I sit in these meetings, the same meetings we went to together, and I feel like someone’s gutted me every time I hear the chairperson ask “Is this anyone’s first time at a meeting?”, “Is this anyone’s first time at this meeting?” I can’t wrap my head around why you can’t magically pop up in the back and say, “My name is Joey and I’m an addict.” I would kill to hear those words coming out of your mouth again. But you just had to have “one more”. And now you’re just fucking gone. No magic, no wishing, and no amount of praying in this world will ever bring you back. Your absence has just left this giant fucking hole in the lives of those who loved you. Your death had me staring at that last sentence trying to figure out if “love” or “loved” was the proper way to write it. “Loved” because you’re gone, “love” because the care people have for you didn’t die with you. I just left it the way it is because I couldn’t decide.

I’ve told myself that you’re not in pain or struggling anymore, I’ve tried to reason with the grief that everything happens for a reason, I’ve written about you, talked to you as I was falling asleep, replayed so many memories through my head in an attempt to celebrate your life instead of mourn your death. But you know what? It doesn’t fucking work. Grief doesn’t give a fuck that you’re not suffering anymore. Talking to you at night doesn’t magically give you the ability to talk back. Looking at your prayer card on my mirror every morning is not the fucking same as you being here. Death is unforgiving. I had only known I was pregnant for a month when you died and I was still in that place of not telling anyone because I was so afraid of losing her and god knows you weren’t always easy to track down. My brother died without ever knowing that I was blessed with the one thing I always wanted. You’ll never meet my baby or get to hold her. You’ll never sit back with me and watch our kids play together. You’ll never hear her laugh or get to make fun of me trying to make costumes for some school play some day. I’ll never get to punch you for busting my balls about being a stay at home mom or a housewife. There’s so much that you’re not going to see, that we’ll never get to share now, and I’m angry. I’m fucking angry because you got so close. You got that time clean two summers ago and you were happy. You had learned enough that you were actually able to help me instead of me helping you. I remember how amazed I was at how much you had grown in the months you’d been clean. You were living your life far away from the world of active addiction and you had this light in you that could actually match all the darkness you always seemed to carry with you. But that darkness won in the end, I guess. We all have it, that darkness; but you were always so sensitive to it. It just dug its way into you on so many different occasions, pushing you over the edge at the worst possible time. You would do good for a short while, but you always were your own worst enemy. You’d get so close to your life getting better and you’d hit the self destruct button because you didn’t know any other way. It was brutal to watch, enraging to try to talk you out of, and heartbreaking to see how badly it hurt you even though you always did it to yourself. You were never perfect but you never pretended to be. You owned your flaws, even if sometimes a little too much.

I never thought you would die.

You were my invincible little brother.

And you fucking died. And I can’t do anything to change it.

I handle hard things well but I can’t seem to find a way to swallow this one.

You’re supposed to fucking be here! To raise your son, to talk shit with me, to meet my beautiful daughter, to go fishing and rafting and swimming. You always had this light inside you and the world just isn’t quite as bright without you in it. I know that’s cliché and you’d kick me in the face if you were here to hear it, but it’s actually true with you. You’re supposed to be here, laughing and learning, loving and living. When people say that life isn’t fair they always forget to mention that sometimes it’s just outright fucking cruel.

by Ashley Hebner

© All Rights Reserved 2016