Struggle

Some days I struggle.

I carry this sense of impending doom around in my pocket like loose change or leftover lint. I feel a little left of center, a little off balance. Maybe I’m crooked. Maybe I’m damaged. Maybe there’s too many things that I’ve left unspoken, and the weight’s got me bent… but still unbroken.

So now some days I breathe anxiety for oxygen and use anger for strength.
Cause I can only fight as hard as I hate.
And sometimes that fire lightens the weight…
But sometimes it burns me instead.

I never fear the shoe dropping, I fucking expect it and although the years have caused that to lessen, I’ve still learned well how to hold my breath in. I’m a little cautious or completely reckless, balance has never been what I’m best at.

I’ve carried this guilt my entire life, accepting blame for shit that’s not mine.
I was raised to feel responsible, for everything; and it didn’t go away when I got old enough to see. See how broken that thinking is, and how wrong my mom was in the things she did. I was born pure and molded into an apology. Never taught to stand up or fight what people blamed on me. I spent my first 13 years mostly saying “Sorry”.

But evolution is inevitable and eventually the change came. I got a new mom, learned what I didn’t need to say. I stopped accepting blame and slowly dropped the weight. But some things in life, never truly go away.

So some days I wake up, with a belly full of lead, from all of the times that I bit another bullet. And on any given day my spine made of steel can curve into a question mark because not everything is healed. But most of the time, I stand up for myself, I don’t accept blame and take care of myself. I don’t make choices out of guilt, I don’t back down from what I’ve built. I’m accountable for my actions, and nothing fucking else.

by Ashley King
© All Rights Reserved 2017

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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

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. 

8 Months Pregnant & Crazy Busy!

It has been way too long since I’ve written on here so I figured I would at least attempt to get something written down! First of all, thank you to all the readers who are still checking out my older posts and showing them love! I appreciate you! 🙂

Ahhh life, it’s been insane lately! I’m currently 34 weeks and 5 days pregnant and I’m loving every second of it! Truly. I know that makes some pregnant women hate me but I can’t help it (nor would I want to). There’s nothing in this world like feeling my healthy, amazing daughter kick around and do somersaults in the very core of my being. She means the entire world to me and I don’t doubt that I would do absolutely anything for her. Due to my jacked up ovaries I get ultrasounds every 4 weeks (another thing mommies to be hate me for) and I love getting to see her beautiful little face and hear her strong heartbeat so often. I think I would go crazy if I didn’t get to. She always clocks in in the 140 range as far as beats per minute and she’s been steadily gaining weight the entire time. At our last U/S they said she weighed 4 pounds 13 ounces! I’m carrying that around; not to mention the puppies a little further up north! She’s such an active baby and I can’t express how supremely grateful I am for that. I struggled with crippling fear that something would go wrong in the beginning of my pregnancy. That subsided somewhat once I started being able to feel her move but really, I was still nervous until I hit the point where she was considered viable even outside of the womb. That helped a lot. The chances of anything going wrong are much slimmer now. But the birth? That’s where the fear lives now. However, I find myself feeling strangely calm about giving birth despite the many things that “could” go wrong. Granted that may very quickly disappear once the time comes haha. But so far I find myself feeling as if everything will be okay, and I have faith in my ability to bring my daughter safely into this world. I’m much more afraid of the hospital making a mistake or something happening to me than I am of anything happening to her. I just have this calming feeling that she will make it onto this plane of existence healthy and whole, without any hitches.

bebe-2
The Single Greatest Love I’ve Ever Felt…

 

She is the light of my life. I questioned whether or not I would be able to have kids for many years due to my screwy ovaries but I don’t think anything in this world could’ve stopped her from being conceived. I believe with every inch of my being that she was truly meant to be here and it is my job to make sure she is healthy, loved, and cared for. It is my job to raise her into someone who will make this world better, not worse. It’s my job to give her a safe place to exist, to grow and develop, to learn and evolve. It is my greatest blessing to be the person who is to give her unconditional love and acceptance. It is my responsibility to provide her with an environment where honesty is acceptable, where her spirit can be exactly who it is and who it’s meant to be. And I have never felt more honored, or humbled, by anything else in my entire life. I believe that in some ways, people are who they are; but we’d be crazy to think that nature doesn’t play a significant role in the whole “nature vs. nurture” argument. Parents play an enormous role in what their children grow up to value, to appreciate, to believe in. Some of these things are left up to chance; but a portion of them are definitely instilled by the things and values that they’re raised around. My mommy raised me to value honesty above almost anything else. She also instilled in my siblings and I the importance of looking out for the little guy. To never be a bully, to defend the underdog. To be kind and strong. To stand up for ourselves without putting others down. To defend family; and that family does not always mean blood relation. She taught us many things and the older I get, the more I realize how much of who I am today I owe to her. I can only hope to have that same positive impact on my own child. God knows I’ve been shown a lot of what to do and what not to do.

The closer I get to these kicks and jabs and tumbles becoming a breathing, screaming, eating little person the more I can’t wait to meet her; and the more I know I’m going to miss being so close to her. Every night when I go to bed, I lie on my left side, place a pillow between my knees, wrap my right arm around my belly and tuck my right hand under the left side of my stomach. As I settle in, she does the same; slowly moving her body until her back is lying against the side of my stomach that’s touching the bed. She uses the side of my stomach as a hammock and kicks her little legs around until she gets in a comfortable position. Then she just relaxes, into the side of my stomach and the crook of the bed, her little hands and feet stretching out occasionally until she falls asleep. When I wake up in the morning I either roll onto my back or sit up and I feel her start to stir as she wakes up with me. Then she shimmies her way back to the middle of my stomach and does a bunch of twists and turns until she’s found her new comfortable position. As I wake up more, she wakes up more. Once I eat, she’s up and bouncing around, giving me many kicks and jabs to get to feel and smile at. I love this. I love it more than I’ve ever loved anything in the world.

bebe-1
Bebe girl using the left side of my stomach as hammock 🙂

My mom says she hasn’t seen anyone love being pregnant so much since my grandmother, and I feel honored to have that in common with her. My grandmother was one of the most incredible women I’ve ever met. She was endlessly loving and accepting and she had this way about her that put everyone around her at ease.  I remember the first time I met her (she was my foster grandmother mind you), I walked into her house and she greeted my mom and I at the door. She looked me up and down for a moment, gave me the warmest smile and a hug, and said “So you’re my new grand daughter? Are you hungry?” And then she fed me. We spent the afternoon talking about things I’d never discussed with adults before; like why Italian sculptures of men always have such tiny penises (they kept the rooms cold so no one would pop a boner) and what kinds of stupid and embarrassing things my new foster brother and sister had done in the past. Then as I was about to leave, my new grandmother stuck out her chest and said “Guess which one’s fake! Go ahead you can touch them!” See, I had just learned that afternoon that this incredibly warm woman had stage 4 breast cancer and had been fighting it for many years. She had gotten a single mastectomy at that point and was given a bra with one fake boob in it to hide the lack of breast tissue from her surgery. And she wanted to know if I could tell which boob was fake. So I grabbed a 60 something year old woman’s breasts. And the real kicker? I guessed the wrong one. I will never forget that woman for the rest of my life. Even in her last few years of life she never stopped smiling, she never withheld her love, she always hid her pain. Even when the neuropathy in her hands was so bad that soft fabric felt like razorblades, she still refused to let anyone else fold her towels. She was a powerhouse of a woman and she was just so fucking good. Everything about her was so good. If I can end up being half as strong, half as loving, half as incredible as her and my mother then my daughter will be just fine and will always know just how much she is loved. This is the legacy I want to carry on. Strong, loving women who take no shit from anyone and who defend their families. I am honored to be a part of this family and I am excited to bring my daughter into it. I can’t wait to see what kind of person she becomes with the many incredible influences that are going to be in her life. And I’m proud to say that today, I am one of those good influences. I have survived and overcome so much and I’ve done so without becoming a broken person. I can be a little rough around the edges and I’m definitely somewhat damaged but I am strong and loyal and compassionate. I am a survivor and a mother by nature and I will bend the earth over backwards and break it for this little girl. That is the least of what she deserves and the smallest bit of what I want to give her.

 

by Ashley Hebner

© All Rights Reserved 2016

Gratitude for My Bebe Girl

My little girl continues to grow every day 😍. We had a tiny scare recently when the last ultrasound said that she was 12 days too small and that the blood pressure in the umbilical cord was too high and could be stopping her from getting enough nutrients and oxygen. As it turns out though, they messed up my due date. So now Bebe V is due 1/18/17 instead of 1/7; which is fine by me because I’m still loving being pregnant. She was so active today and it was amazing. Granted she’s a very active Bebe as is, but I swear today she was making up for sleeping most of yesterday. It felt like someone was drumming their fingers all down the inside of my belly at one point.

I quite literally “lol’ed” because it tickled. I love it. I love this. I am so incredibly blessed and I refuse to lose sight of that. I feel like it is far too easy to get something you never thought you’d have and then take it for granted because you finally have it. Right now it’s easy for that not to happen because she amazes me everyday and this is all still so new and fun and beautiful. But I am determined to remain just as grateful even when it’s been 5 days since I’ve slept 3 hours in a row and she just threw up down my shirt…

I vividly remember being in the midst of thinking I couldn’t have children and seeing moms who were completely oblivious to how great of a gift they’d been given. I hated it. I hated that people who never wanted children (some even after they had them) seemed to get pregnant the easiest. I hated that they favored their phones and whatever man was in their life over their child. And I’m not a nazi people; we all need a break to just hang out and Facebook sometimes. But that is not the kind of people I’m talking about here. I watched one woman literally throw her child 5-6 feet away from her onto a couch because the little girl wanted a hug after the mom had been gone at work (and the boyfriend’s) for the last 15 hours and it annoyed her that her child wanted love. Because God forbid your flesh and blood miss you right?
I swore to myself that if I ever got the chance, I would embrace every moment, the marvelous and the maddening. And so far I have. Obviously I’m very early on in this journey through parenthood and I’m sure my sanity, my will, my everything will be tested within an inch of it’s life; but I won’t allow that to turn my child into my enemy or something that I take for granted. That sentence doesn’t even make sense to me honestly. I’ve seen people who act like that, but I just don’t get it. Being a parent is the highest honor and greatest responsibility that life has to offer. So why do so many lose sight of that? Or maybe they just never saw it that way to begin with….
But as I lie here in my safe, comfortable home and giggle as the life inside me makes my belly morph into insane shapes and practically vibrate from her furious kicking, I can’t help but feel like the luckiest woman alive. This child is a gift and a miracle. And I adore her more than anything or anyone in this world…

by Ashley King

© All Rights Reserved 2016

Morning Mindfulness

I fell asleep last night with my hands on my belly; one next to my left hip bone and the other on my right side, near the bottom of my ribs. I peacefully drifted to sleep to the feeling of my daughter’s hiccups. Her entire tiny little body jumping, making either side of my belly quickly expand and then retreat. I then woke this morning to way too many alarms and that little girl’s father cuddling me, prodding me to leave our warm bed. And as I woke up, so did our baby; her tiny movements becoming bigger kicks, reminding me that I have to pee (yet again) and that a pregnant woman’s bladder waits for no man. 

So out of bed we got, mercilessly greeted by the cold tile of the bathroom floor, and the warm retreat of my first world white lady slippers in Soccer Mom Grey. My belly starts to grumble causing my daughter to kick up a storm; all to remind me that I am no longer “not a breakfast eater”. My whole life I could never eat in the morning; it made me sick, as it was just too much too early. Now? I wake up ravenous.

So I write this to you, hunched over my kitchen counter, as I munch on these mini cinnamon Eggo waffles that I’m obsessed with (along with thousands of elementary school children across the globe). And as I eat my blood sugar rises, causing this little bundle of life in me to fully wake up and start kicking even more. See, what I eat, she eats. What I feel, she feels. When I become really stressed out or something scares me I now have her kicking feet to match the beat of my accelerated heart. When I’m hungry and my stomach grumbles, those same little limbs flail around reminding me that I can’t put off the next meal because she needs it, as well as me. And once I’ve eaten and she’s returned to bouncing happily in her warm home inside my being, I write short pieces about how this connection with her warrants me writing said pieces before I’ve even opened both eyes.

It’s the most incredible gift I’ve ever been given. She’s the most incredible gift I’ve ever been given. To be so tied to someone, their life intertwined with yours, their body dependent on yours, their movements to be felt in the core of your being, that is magic. This is the closest to heaven that I’ll ever be. And I have been tasked with the great honor of raising her, loving her, bringing up to be like the best women I know so that maybe when I die, I’ve left the world a slightly better place and her an incredible part of it.

And so it’s morning like these, when I’m up too early and the air’s too cold, when I’m too hungry and I’m running behind, when she’s jumping around like a kid in a kick boxing class, that I am reminded that I am so incredibly blessed. That I’ve been given something I never thought I would have, that many women would die to have a chance at. And I’ll never forget those women, because I was once one of them. The broken and pained who believe (or who know) that they can’t have children. I never expected to be carrying this little bundle of life in the center of my being. But now that I am? I will love, protect, and cherish her with everything that I have. Because that is the gift I’ve been given. To have this little person who depends on me so much, who I will always put first, slowly growing inside my being, just waiting to escape to the outside world. Someday soon. ❤️

by Ashley Hebner

© All Rights Reserved 2016

The Pregnant Woman’s Burden

Men and women experience pregnancy completely differently. This may seem like an obvious statement but ask any woman who has ever tried to explain “being tired” whilst pregnant to their partner and you’ll see what I mean… They don’t get it. I’m not sure they can get it. To them “tired” means a bad nights sleep; to the mama it means a profound form of exhaustion that’s equivalent to the 59th gate of hell. When they hear “hungry” they think of the hunger that comes with skipping lunch; meanwhile their wife just went from completely content to “need a 5 course meal or I will die” in 6.4 seconds. When they hear “I’m afraid something will go wrong” they think, “Everything is fine” and say as much. But I don’t think a person who has never carried a child could understand the fear, the obsession, the outright terror, and the painstaking attention spent on every minute bodily change that a pregnant woman goes through. What I’m about to write is just MY experience. But I know many women who’ve thought and felt the same as me. Maybe not all, but for those of you that can relate, you’ll get it. I need to write this here, because if I don’t put it somewhere, I may not make it to tomorrow without losing my mind.

I’ve wanted children for as long as I can remember. When I was 11 years old I told my mom that I was “put here to be a mom”. You can’t imagine the devastation I felt when at 17 I was told that I had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), the leading cause of infertility in America. I spent the next 7-8 years getting a period every 9-18 months. I cringed when other women acted as if the absence of a period was a luxury to be had. My ex and I spent 2 years trying to conceive with no luck. I started to resent my body, hate it in fact. I wanted to will it to work. I wanted to curse it for failing to do “what all women should be able to do”. I felt like a failure; as a partner, as a woman, as a human being. I felt it to the core of my being with absolutely no compassion for myself. I openly admitted that if I was ever told I could not conceive that I would eat a bullet, because that would be a lesser pain than living in that reality. I also felt like a selfish bitch for being so disheartened when other women had spent their entire lives trying to get pregnant, had been told they were sterile, or had lost multiple babies. I knew if I ever did become pregnant that I would be at a much higher risk of miscarriage because of the PCOS and I knew I would obsess about it neurotically. I envied women who had kids without trying, I resented women who took their children for granted, and I wouldn’t walk anywhere near the baby section of any store for five fucking years. I cried, I prayed, I cursed the Gods. I thought it was impossible, tried to tell myself I could adopt, tried to make it something I could live with. All of this by 24 fucking years old. God forbid I had cut myself a break, right?

Then something crazy happened. My cycle went back to normal. I know that’s a lot of information, but this post isn’t for the faint of heart. For 10 months it was completely normal and the hope that I could be a mother someday, the same hope that had refused to die but instead remained hidden in the very bottom corner of my heart, started to blossom again. Every month I was the slightest bit late became a game of “You’re pregnant”, “No I’m not” between my partner and I. I just wasn’t willing to believe it was possible; at least not out loud. If it happened that was fine, a miracle really; but getting my hopes up all to have them dashed on the rocks of a negative pregnancy test? That was a pain I was unwilling to walk face first into. So I just assumed that month would come whenever it felt like, and it did. Then May 17th of 2016 happened. I was late and had all the usual symptoms of Aunt Flo being on her way; meaning my boobs hurt, I was bloated, I was eating way more, and was moody. My love was convinced I was pregnant, but he always was. Then all of the sudden my friends were too. Eventually I started to wonder myself. One day I noticed my ankles were swollen, on top of the rest of my symptoms, and I chose to buy the tests. Spending that money was immediately followed by constantly refusing to take them because “I didn’t have to pee” or “It wasn’t first thing in the morning”. Needless to say, my partner cracked and begged me to take one and said he would buy more if it was negative and my period still didn’t come. So I do the usual routine of peeing on the stick, saw that it said it had a “negative” symbol, and set it on the toilet bowl behind me. I got myself situated and turned around to grab it so I could show him and it wasn’t fucking negative anymore!

I always thought I would cry, or maybe scream, or possibly just pass out where I stood. I did none of the above. I just stared at it, squinting at the little plus sign like it would disappear if I blinked. And my jaw dropped. I walked into the living room with my hand over my mouth. My love is a decent sized man, more bulk muscle than lean. I have never seen a big man jump up and run over to me as fast as he did. The light in his eyes when he saw my face and said “WELL?!?!” was a sight I’ll never forget. I showed him the test, he smiled this enormous smile, and proceeded to just hold me for a few minutes. The first thing I remember saying was “Is that thing real?! That says pregnant!” And that’s how it started. 1,047 words later and I am finally at what I really want to write about. Are you one of those people who ignores a post that says it will take more than 4-5 minutes to read? Because I am some days. So if you’ve made it this far, I want to thank you. Thank you for reading this. You’ll be one of the few to know what it’s really like to be pregnant, in my head. This is my life today…

Being pregnant is feeling like I can’t do one more thing in the day, like I will absolutely crumble if I have to go on… this generally occurs around 11am. That’s slowly getting better but I seriously doubt I will ever go back to “normal” again. Being pregnant is despising the fact that I work at an onsite office with only 1 porta potty, that I share with 10 other men, when I have to pee 15 times a day. I drive to Wawa Monday through Wednesday. Being pregnant is being gut level terrified that something will go wrong. It’s being worried that I don’t eat enough dark green vegetables, that I ate too much cheesecake last month, or don’t consume enough protein. I’ve never obsessed about every single thing I put in my mouth so much. “Is shellfish okay? Can I survive without caffeine? Is two cups of coffee too much? Will it really hurt if I eat Ramen just this once because I’m too tired to function?” This is my life now. If I forget my prenantals for two days in a row (which has happened all of once) then I feel like I’ve irreparably damaged my baby. I have found myself absolutely hysterical while driving down the road, in the middle of my workday, because I am so afraid that when I go to this doctor’s appointment tomorrow this baby won’t have a heartbeat. I cycle between having faith and believing everything is okay, and being convinced that something is wrong. I then have to talk myself out of believing that because I’m worried that the stress of believing that will hurt the baby. I’m a fucking lunatic. I am terrified of losing this child. It is my greatest fear every single day.

I have these nightmarish daydreams of waking up covered in blood because I’ve lost my baby. Every single time I pee I check it for that same blood and then think about what a mess I would be if I was a woman who spotted throughout my pregnancy. I fall asleep every night praying to every God there is and to every dead relative I have to keep this baby safe. I lie there and try to will the Gods to make this baby move. I swear I felt “him” at 13 weeks; which is possible, but also unlikely. I wish I could just feel that again though. It gave me peace. My friend Lauren says I’ll feel better once I can feel him move but I’m afraid I’ll never make it there. I’m 16 weeks and 7 days pregnant. Women without PCOS are at a 15-25% risk of miscarriage; with PCOS, it’s closer to 45-50%. At 17 weeks, without PCOS, a woman is at a 3% risk of miscarriage. Since I have Type 2 PCOS, meaning no insulin resistance and no obesity, I shouldn’t have quite as high of a risk of miscarriage as some women, especially since I’ve gotten past the first trimester. But you know what? My mind doesn’t give a single flying fuck. I am still plagued with this gut wrenching, hysteria inducing, uncontrollable fear that the world’s greatest gift to be given will be taken from me. I pray to reach the day where my baby is in my arms, where he is “real” and tangible, where these fears transform into a world of other fears about actually raising and protecting him. I constantly struggle with feeling like this pregnancy “isn’t real yet”, despite my ever growing belly and boobs. I’ve only had one ultrasound and that was 8 weeks ago to confirm the pregnancy. Now I have another appointment tomorrow. I have been counting down the days for the last month, becoming more insane by the day. I want nothing more than to hear his heartbeat, to see him move, to know he is real; to hear and see that he IS there and he’s alive. I want that more than I have ever wanted anything.

But I’m not there yet. I’m here, typing to you in an attempt to not lose my fucking mind in the next 16 hours and 21 minutes until I am at the hospital, ready to be called in to find out the fate of this baby that I’ve done everything I could to protect. I am a breathing ball of fear and nerves and palpable insanity. I am a mother, for today at least…

by Ashley Hebner

© All Rights Reserved 2016