Well, readers, its definitely been a while hasn't it? January 2017 Asa and I wrote our last chapter, Chapter 3: Love is Enough. If it's been a while for you too, click here for the first chapter, here for the second, and last but not least, the third. I sat down knowing I needed to backtrack, to see where we had left off and what we had written. As I proceeded to read, slowly scrolling...tears completely pooled in my eyes. "Man, Babe," I texted him. "We should write a book!"
I'm not saying that because I think we are the best writers around; bless us, no. But I can literally see every sentence playing before me, as I relive every memory and moment of these first three chapters. I don't think I will ever forget our love story, but maybe I will? And if I do, I want to always be able to relive them as either I read our words or someone reads them to me. So with all of that said, where did we leave off?
At the end of chapter three, we were talking about our early years; how we were poor and that it never seemed to bother us. We talked about our date nights in, the quiet moments and the love we began to build. So much has changed since that first year and since the first few. Somehow we are soon celebrating our ninth year of marriage, but we have a lot that happened in the meantime. Growing up, for instance, I always told my friends that I wasn't ever having children.
"But, Ashley. You have TWO children," you might say. In the fourth grade, my oldest brother had a Grand Mal seizure and almost lost his life. I honest to God thought it was my fault because I can remember envisioning the night prior what life would look like if Nathan was different. I realize that sounds AWFUL, but my thoughts were very innocent in that; I honestly just wondered how our family of five would look if my brother didn't have the severe special needs that he did and does. I am the youngest and I have two older brothers. I woke to the sound of my mom screaming for my middle brother's help. When I ran into the room to see what was going on, I bolted and hid in my parent's bed. Dad was at work already, and Mom was on the phone with an EMT. Sean, the middle child, yelled at me to snap out of it because I was literally hysterical. [He's not a jerk, promise, but he too was terrified and overwhelmed and feeling as though he had to be in charge to help our mom AND to calm his baby sister down. It was a lot.] In the days to come, I remember being positive that I had heard the Lord speak to me, telling me that someday I would have a handicapped child. I allowed that fear to captivate my thoughts my entire childhood, and throughout the early adult years. I love my brother Nathan [who has Cerebral Palsy] DEARLY, but I knew firsthand what caring for such a special child looked like and in my heart and mind, I never thought I could be as strong as my mother in that regard. Asa and I talked about kids on our very first walk at the park together. We BOTH actually said that we didn't really want to have kids and that for sure there had to at least be a 'five-year rule.'
My whole life I wanted a family. Remember, I’m the kid who got a high chair and crib for stuffed toys when I was 8 years old. Something about family has always had my attention. That’s why in the early stages of our marriage I didn’t seem like myself. I legitimately didn’t want kids. I had grown accustomed to Ashley, to our marriage, to live with just her. Late night movies, sleeping til whenever we wanted, eating where we wanted when we wanted…we’d only been married 3 years but I was so accustomed to her, and I didn’t want anyone to change that.
Flash forward to our third year of marriage, when we were living on the second floor of our second apartment. It was small and quaint and had LOTS of windows. Asa and I were doing well; we loved walking our dogs around Old Louisville and we genuinely just loved being together. We had started going to a new church and became really good friends with a couple who we soon discovered, lived RIGHT across the street from us! My dear friend Allyson, oh how I loved and still love her! She had this really cool Christmas tree with 3D lights and you could wear special glasses to watch them do crazy cool stuff. She loves Friends as much as Asa does, and I would often go there to curl up in a blanket and watch episodes with her. One day, excitedly and nervously, she proclaimed to me that she was pregnant. OHHHH I was so pumped for her! But then why when I crossed the street to go back to our apartment, did I feel so angry and so bitter?! I remember being kind of mean to Asa in the coming days. I was short tempered and emotional, moody and irritated. I talked with my mom daily [go figure] and I asked, "Mom, why am I so upset about Allyson being pregnant?! I'm happy for her!" My mom, who pretty much has never been wrong about me EVER, replied, "Ashley because you want a baby." It all started to hit me so hard, that I even cried in an episode of Scrubs when someone found out they were pregnant. As I sat on the couch, feeling sorry for myself in a completely non-irrational way, Asa joked, "Ash, if you want a baby we can have a baby." I remember looking into his eyes and just melting into a gigantic love puddle. "First though, you'll probably have to come off the pill."
It started off as a “hypothetical” conversation (we all know what that really means). To be honest, I didn’t have as strong of feelings about kids as I had imagined. I wasn’t jumping at the chance to have my big family, and I wasn’t mourning the loss of “our time” but felt oddly at peace, content might be the word for it. Our conversation quickly turned into planning. When should she come off the pill, when should she start prenatal vitamins, would we need to move, can we afford this, are we ready for this, etc. At the time I heard a piece of advice that I believe is true in most situations with major life choices. There will always be a reason NOT to have kids, or NOT to get married, or whatever the major life event is, but you’re more ready than you think you are.
Once we made our decision, I remember joking about how I dreaded the whole “trying” part. “Sex every day? Damnit!” But truthfully I kept waiting for horrible mood swings, and Ashley to change her mind. I kept waiting for medical issues, or something wrong to just happen. But the truth? The truth is the idea of starting a new life with Ashley brought me so much peace that nothing else mattered. That’s when I started to daydream about kids starting at Christmas trees, and Saturday morning pancakes, when I thought about first steps, and first words…how could I not want this? How could I not want to watch Ashley share her heart with someone that was half her and half me? And so? We
I remember meeting with my doctor and she instructed me to start prenatals and to be on them for three months [ideally] before getting pregnant. So Asa and I did calendar math, and I prayed a lot. The fear that I had felt for ALL those years had diminished. It wasn't 100% GONE, as I had a lot of fears of the unknown along the way, but I felt at peace which was something I hadn't before. We talked about how we really wanted a summer baby because we were both teachers, and we wanted my maternity leave to coincide with our summer schedule. It's funny how God works things out and how when letting go of the control and demands, He just shows up. We started trying to get pregnant mid-May, and for three months we saw that it wasn't the right timing. Someone gifted me ovulation sticks in September, and it was incredible to me how technology could show me by a smiley or sad face if I was ovulating or not. I remember the exact time the smiley face appeared, I was going to photograph my friend Erin's son for birthday photos. Tonight's the night, I thought to myself. I KNEW I was going to get pregnant!
Sure enough, about 3.5 weeks later in early October, my period was late. Only by a day, but I took a test anyway. The lines were SO faint, and I had to squint REAL hard to see them. I remember calling Asa up to the bathroom, giddy with excitement, but nervous that I was wrong. I called my sis in law Jana and she sped over. "Oh, you're pregnant! That's positive!" She actually took some photos of Asa and me, and I was starting to get SUPER elated. I called my mom and told her that I wasn't 100% buying it but that I would take a digital test at work the next day and let her know. Jana and I work at the same school, and she brought me the test. I can remember drinking SO much water that morning and holding my pee for what seemed forever. It was a no-kids day, and I texted Jana that I was going to use the bathroom. She met me at the restroom and we waited there, laughing and talking for a few minutes while we waited for the flashing symbol to read the news. Two minutes, (felt like twenty), minutes later, the word PREGNANT appeared. We squealed and laughed and hugged and I called Asa as soon as I got back to my room. [Yeah, I'm terrible at surprises, Y'all].
Children are such an interesting creation. I could easily paint a comical picture of all the hardships associated with being a parent, but they’re cliche and old. The truth is, it’s so hard to articulate how much your heart will grow, how much love you can feel because feelings this euphoric are not typical. But as I type this, I watch my son run around the room playing, and he stops to stare at the snow. As his little inquisitive mind forms new questions and his little body surges with energy and he smiles so big his eyes close, I can tell you that my heart is full. Watching Ashley grow from a young lady overwhelmed with tests in a coffee shop, to now being a mother of undeniable character, gentleness, patience and unconditional love, my heart is full. But the best part of having Ashley and the kids is that my heart is never actually full, they always seem to know just the right way to make it grow.
The nine months of that first pregnancy were magical. I didn't mind one bit my body stretching and growing, the bump growing from the size of a lime to that of a pumpkin. There were times towards that the end that I feared something was wrong, maybe that he wasn't moving enough or he hadn't hiccuped that day. Asa would pray aloud each time and I always felt a surge of peace. Our son was born June 15, 2012--a healthy 8.2# babe, and we had the sweetest summers of our lives. There are a lot of fears that I'm sure are normal when planning for a baby, but I am so grateful that I didn't allow mine to hold me captive. From one baby to two, and my multiple fears within that predestined OOPS; I realize the blessing that is children, and specifically, OUR children. Watching Asa go from a husband to daddy, to the protector and safety of our home, I fall in love with that man multiple times a day. We often ask where time has gone, when did our children go from babies to the four and five-year-olds they are, and we know that these days are fleeting. Watching me grow from a small child to a grown woman, I believe that God has smiled, knowing all along of the two babies he would create for me.
**Thanks to my beautiful sister in law Bethany, for snapping some photos of us for our anniversary! And happy 9th, dearest Asa!**