Why I Refuse to Pierce My Baby’s Ears

We’ve all seen it: a beautiful baby girl, in an equally adorable outfit, with miniature diamond studs in her ears. It’s cute, it’s a baby, what’s not to love? Most people will barely stop to notice the earrings; they’ve become so commonplace today. But if we stop to notice them, we can only come to one conclusion: her parent(s) got her ears pierced.

Let me be clear: I hold absolutely nothing against parents who choose to pierce their children’s ears. I write this today only to express why I, as a parent and a body piercer, won’t be making that same decision.

As a body piercer and tattoo artist, I’ve stuck more needles in people than I could ever count. The youngest person I will pierce (with parental permission and the correct releases) is a 13 year old; and even then, I will only do certain piercings. I also won’t tattoo anyone under 13; and frankly, at that age, if it’s something stupid or inflammatory that I’m 99% sure they’ll regret, I still won’t do it regardless of parental consent. That’s within my rights as the artist; and as an artist I feel that it’s my responsibility to properly guide my clients towards work they’ll love forever (as much as I can anyway) and to steer them away from bad choices. Other than this level of discretion, I love body modification in all it’s various, beautiful forms.

Because of this people close to me have asked me multiples times, “When are you going to pierce your baby’s ears?!” And my answer is always the same, “I’m not.”

My reasoning is simple: it’s her body. Why should I put holes in it without her permission? Because it’s cute? Because “She’s so young she won’t be able to pull them out“? That may very well be true, but who am I to say that she’ll want her ears pierced by the time she’s 13? And if she doesn’t then she’ll be left with scars after years of having her ears pierced when she didn’t choose them. The scars will be tiny, superficial at best; but they’re only one minute part of the problem I have with piercing an infant’s ears. Besides the scarring there’s also the initial pain and fear this practice causes an already emotionally fragile infant in a new world; followed shortly by the risk of infection, keloid formation, lobe tearing, and the choking hazard of the earring itself. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics says a child’s ears shouldn’t be pierced until they can care for them themselves and they don’t recommend ear piercings with a gun (the most common way of doing it) at all because ear piercing guns can’t be sterilized. That’s more than enough for me.

Her being my child doesn’t make her mine to do with as I choose, not in that way. If she needed a surgery to save her life that required me to choose something for her body that would leave a scar, then I would make that choice in a heartbeat. But something cosmetic, that’s done for the sake of being cute whilst having some serious physical risks? That I will not do. And that’s my choice as her parent. Should she want to get her ears pierced later in life then I’ll do it for her, or bring her somewhere to have it done. But it will be her choice for her body.

We live in this day and age where everything is about the outside appearance. And really, what other reason is there to pierce your child’s ears besides it being cute? There isn’t one unless you’re doing it for cultural reasons such as they do in India or Spain. Many parents choose to do it for various reasons; and again, I have no qualms with them. But just like they chose to pierce their baby’s ears, I refuse to pierce my baby’s ears. At least until the day when she asks me to do it herself.

by Ashley King

© All Rights Reserved 2017

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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 you 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

In Pursuit of Perfection 

Just a little bit thinner”, she said to the flesh that dared to stretch tightly over her bones. Razor sharp angles chiseled from years of practiced self loathing and starvation…

Just one more shot”, thought the boy who stared into the abyss that is amber colored poison. Dying to be a man, dying to gain the liquid courage this foul drink offered, courage to talk to the pretty girl. Dying to have a story to tell his buddies Monday morning in the locker room…

You’ll never be good enough. What the fuck is wrong with you?” she thought to herself. Another B+ on another exam that she studied 10 straight Adderall induced hours for. Her father’s voice rings in the back of her head… or is it hers?

Just a little bit faster” thought the kids. Running from death, running from life, running from existence itself. Striving for perfection, pretending not to care, stifled by the dichotomy of it all. Wanting to succeed, be better, be faster, be smarter, be… perfect. 

We stand at the precipice of our own sanity and every time, we jump. We hurl ourselves into oblivion in search of, well, we don’t actually know. We reach for a standard that was made by fuck knows who for god knows what purpose. There’s an invisible bar that’s been set and we will kill ourselves in an attempt to reach it. “Be better, faster, stronger, smarter, braver”. Be everything. Everything they said to be. Everything they want us to be. Everything that someone else was made to be, just not us. We are infinite. And yet, we stuff ourselves into manmade boxes. Boxes that stifle our uniqueness and limit our existence. And for what? 

The pursuit of “perfection”. 

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

The Sting of Nostalgia

Every time I hear people talk about nostalgia, it’s always in a positive light. Remembering a good feeling, a close friend, a happy time. They get that slight smile on their face, that far away look in their eye, and you can see that they’ve gone somewhere else entirely in their mind. Reliving something only they can recall that intimately. It’s beautiful.

That is not how I experience nostalgia.

I’m not lacking in happy memories, I have many; but I think perhaps my mind has somehow been trained to only experience nostalgia about negative times in my life. I say this because what other people experience as nostalgia is not what I experience. I get the longing in my chest, the momentary dissociation from reality, the feeling of “being there” all over again; but it’s almost always about times that I’d rather not relive, times where I existed right on the edge of my own destruction. The strange part is that despite the common negative association I have with these memories, I still experience this sense of longing for those times because of the nostalgia. My mind attaches a certain fondness to them even though logically I know that those times in my life were fucking terrible. The heart knows no reason and it does strange things. I don’t think it’s the bad times that I miss so much as the feeling of being out of control, accountable to no one, free from all expectation and sense of responsibility, reckless with no intention of living to see 25. There’s a twisted sense of romanticism that people like me view self-destruction with. The appeal of destroying oneself before anyone else can, on your own terms, in your own way. I spent the first 22 years of my life trying to end myself in every way that a person can. Absolute emotional, mental, physical, psychological, and spiritual destruction. And I’m just damaged enough that sometimes my mind tries to trick me into thinking that those 22 years were when I was the most “free”. Delusion.

This is why nostalgia is a dangerous thing. Lately there’s been a pictures that’s been dancing through my mind, toying with my thoughts, digging up mixed emotions. It’s a still frame of the view out of my bedroom window in the first apartment that was ever officially mine. I lived there from 18 to 23 years of age. Of those 5 years, I spent 3 1/2 in active addiction, trapped in constant suffering, buried alive in the depths of my own self-destruction. And there was my bedroom window. I watched so many seasons come and go through that window. Always developing and changing at the same speed with which my life was passing me by. The brilliant, too bright, blue summer sky, mixed with leaves of green and the sounds of children playing in the alleyways. The unmistakable August heat and pleasant birdsong that slowly morphed into the auburn, orange, and yellow leaves of fall. The smell of burning wood and dying plants married with the developing crispness in the air. I always enjoyed that crispness at first; but I could never avoid knowing that it would be followed by the painfully shortened, grey days of winter. When the air bites at you like a rabid dog and doesn’t back down, no matter how many drugs you pump through your veins. I would watch the snow fall in the light of the street lamps at night, looking so beautiful and peaceful, in stark contrast with the utter disaster that my spirit and life had become. I always felt that the winter would be the death of me and just when I couldn’t take it for another second, I would wake up one morning to the sweet smell of spring in the air. A refreshing sense of newness that made even a broken, strung out woman think that maybe, just maybe, life could be good again some day. Those spring days gave me the slightest glimmer of hope, no matter how hard I had tried to drown it out under the weight of irrepressible anger and opiates. I would sit on my bed, staring out of that window, knowing that just beyond the invisible prison I had turned my “existence” into, there was another life, a better life, a better way. There was a chance, just there beyond my fingertips, that if I dared, I could reach out and grasp. It was whilst staring out of this one window that I waged wars on myself. Constant bloody battles inside my mind between resigning to dying as I was, and daring to fight for more; for anything other than the endless suffering that I had sentenced myself to in an attempt to control my own fate. It was agonizing, even at the time with plethora of chemicals I was using to dull myself out with.

And therein lies the trouble with remembering things by the seasons. I have not returned to that apartment, that window, that city, for many years; and yet, whenever the seasons change, I am transported to a place where I am 22 again and I’m sitting on a bed, drowning in suffering, watching the seasons change through my bedroom window. My mind becomes momentarily trapped in the nostalgia, trying to convince me that there’s something to miss, that there is any fondness to be felt for these times in my life. The cold winters remind me of waking up too early, too sick, from my body craving the medicine that was supposed to fix it. The beautiful spring reminds me of being trapped in the worst kind of prison man can condemn himself to, watching everything I couldn’t quite grasp pass right before my eyes. The summer creeps into my bones, tears them back to a time and a place where I tried to be happy, to escape my circumstances, thinking that a little sunshine could cleanse the filth that I had buried my soul in. And the autumn… the beautiful, burnt orange fall days; they remind me of the way that my spirit always maintained a constant ember buried deep inside itself. An ember that dared to glow in the midst of a bleak existence, begging to be stoked, brought to life by anything, including all of the wrong things I tried to make myself feel alive with. These memories are intricately laced deep within my subconscious. They’re tied to so many other things that I could never even begin to express them all in these words.

Memory is a twisted lover in that way. It’s impossible to reinvent and display with the same intensity with which it is felt. You simply can not perfectly capture or explain it. The way it can feel like the stroke of warm and welcome fingertips on exposed flesh; or the violence of a battering ram as it decimates the door it was never meant to break through. How it can sing a sweet lullaby that lulls you to sleep, convincing you that you’re safe and secure; or be the unforgettable sting that lives just on the edge of a razor blade. It is the beautiful bird’s song on a perfect spring day; and the sharp pain of winter sleet on an exposed and unsuspecting face. My memories are always stained with nostalgia, entangled in a violent embrace that could startle even the most steely nerves. I’ve never had the luxury of being able to recall something without also experiencing every bit of it all over again, to the core of my being. Memory does not demand nostalgia; but nostalgia can not exist without the memory to fuel it. For me, the two dance together infinitely. Sometimes it’s beautiful and wonderful, the kind of number that brings tears to the eyes of those blessed enough to witness it. And sometimes it’s tragic and sudden, catching me off guard, too painful to ever choose to watch, but impossible to ignore once it’s begun. Either way, when the nostalgia comes, there’s no silencing it. It’s there, clawing its way out of and back into the depths of my soul, the marrow of my bones, the dark recesses of my mind. It demands to be heard, felt, experienced, all over again. Sometimes this is a blessing: a beautiful reminder of the good times. But mostly, it’s just a curse: a part of me that is inoperable and terminal. It’s an affliction that I spent many years trying to escape. As David Jones once said, “It is both a blessing and a curse to feel everything so very deeply.”  

by Ashley King

© All Rights Reserved 2016

For My Daughter…

Being pregnant has brought up so much for me. Mostly, my childhood. Yeesh. I could spend hours thinking about the great multitude of things that I had to experience that my child absolutely will not. I learned many things growing up but most of them fall within two categories: what to do and what not to do. 

I will always put this little girl first. 

I will never invalidate her feelings. 

I will always show her respect, regardless of her age. 

I will never put her in a position to betray her own conscience, beliefs, or heart. 

I will create an environment where honesty is acceptable. 

I will never punish her for not reading my mind or for telling the truth. 

I will always protect her to the best of my ability. Completely and fiercely

I will never choose a man over her. 

I will teach her how a woman deserves to be treated. 

I will raise her to be worthy of other’s respect. 

I will teach her to be strong without being a bitch, how to be compassionate without being naive, how to be giving without becoming a doormat. 

I will explain to her all the things that were never explained to me. I won’t leave her just barely treading water in a sea of new experiences and questions. She’ll be taught about periods and boys (or girls) and sex. She’ll know what’s okay and what’s not. I will be someone she can always talk to (even if she refuses to.) She’ll be taught to follow her gut, because it will guide her long after she buries me. 

I will pass along the words of my mommy, my grandma, my friends. I will do my best to pass along my years of hard earned wisdom, to help her learn from my mistakes… and to take a step back and let her learn from her own. 

I will do her the favor of not always breaking her fall, for she has to hit her knees if she’s to learn how to get back up. But I will also be there to catch her when she needs it. 

I will not abandon her. 

I will never give her reason to question my love for her. I will challenge her to question her motives though, and the motives of those around her. 

I will protect her innocence. 

But I won’t let her walk into the world blind and unprepared. 

I will teach her that “No is a complete sentence”. It requires no explanations, no qualifiers, no fuss. I will teach her how to use this word to protect and defend herself. 

I will balance as much of her life and upbringing as I can. 

I promise her, and myself, that I will do all these things; but I’ll do them without being a control freak (most of the time). 

I will show her (and remind her) how deeply loved, immensely adored, and uniquely special she is.

I won’t take her shit. I won’t turn a blind eye. I will be her mother, not her friend (at least until she’s an adult anyway, at which point I’ll still be “mommy” whenever she needs). 

I will give her fair rules and the consequences will always be the same; not changing by the day leaving her not knowing what to expect. 

I will be loving, consistent, kind, patient, and understanding.

I will always accept her truth. 

I will never make her feel like she has to hide herself from me. 

I will teach her how to love herself. 

Raise her to have a strong backbone. 

I will show her how to define herself; so that she never allows the world, a man, an experience, to define her.

I will raise her to believe in herself, enough so that she challenges even me when she believes in something. 

I will be her mother, her confidante, her shoulder to cry on, the ear that listens to her, connected to a heart that will never judge her. 

I will give her everything I can that I never got, or got so late. I will live up to the mother that my mommy has been. 

I will raise her to be a good woman and a good person. 

I will give her the best of me that exists within the deepest pits of my bare soul. 

I will treat her as my daughter, the love of my life, my flesh and blood, the greatest gift I’ve ever been blessed with. 

by Ashley Hebner

© All Rights Reserved 2016

Afternoon Kicks 

Feeling this life that’s cradled inside me, is the closest to heaven that I’ll ever be. Her squirms and her punches, she kicks and she lunges. I never could’ve imagined being this lucky. This life inside me is nothing short of a blessing. 

I never thought I would get to have kids and then she surprised me, so unexpected. Now I’ve been blessed to feel her movements, and nothing so little has ever felt so big. It’s truly mind blowing that this is my kid. 

I wait for it each day, for her to wake up, and with each little kick, I fall more in love. She’s literally a part of me and part of me can’t grasp that, cause years ago I truly believed, that I would never really have this. 

I remember being bitter, jealous of other moms. It always seemed they took for granted, this gift I prayed to love. But the timing wasn’t right, I took a “not yet” as a “no”, and now my heart bleeds for those who will never get to know. I remember that pain all too well; and on some nights, it creeps in still. It tells me I’ll lose her, that she isn’t mine to keep, so I hold my belly and pray to God, to keep her healthy. However, part of me honestly believes, that this gift wouldn’t be given, to then be retrieved. So I talk to her and sing to her and revel in her kicks, praying every single day, that she survives until she lives. 

I love you Bebe. 

by Ashley Hebner 

© All Rights Reserved 2016