The stories behind the faces- An inspirational portrait project
We deal with people all the time in our day to day lives, but there is so much going on that we don’t talk about. This is one of the stories behind the faces. Ashley is an entrepreneur, a hairdresser, wife and mother.
Alicia: Tell me a little about what you do?
Ashley: I’m a hairstylist and it’s a rewarding job too because it has do with helping women’s self esteem. It’s neat making people feel beautiful everyday.
Alicia: What are some of the things you learned these past years?
Ashley: I would say the last couple of years have been life changing for our family for good and bad. I don’t even know where to begin. Adjusting to my daughter Marley passing away. Then having my son Kasen right away. I’m going to cry. It’s interesting to see how much life changes.
When we were going through all those life changing events we didn’t realize how much of an impact her life had until later. Just seeing Kasen at 9 months, the same age that Marley was when she passed away is difficult, they are so different.
Alicia: For those that don’t know you Ashley, can you share a little of the background story?
Ashley:I can start with life when Marley was diagnosed with her disorder. I remember I was cleaning the house. Marley was just 3 months old. I was trying to get things done around the house so I could enjoy the rest of the day with her. I went to pick her up from her swing because she was crying. I started nursing her and two seconds after she just stopped as if frozen. I tried to get her attention and you could tell she had checked out. I took her to the hospital and they dismissed her and they said it was acid reflux or something. So, I went home and we had friends over. Then it happened again and this time they saw it. So we went back to the hospital. She was diagnosed with a rare seizure disorder where a small portion in the front of her brain didn’t form correctly.
A few months went by and they were so confident that they could take that portion of her brain out and she could live a normal life. There was a less than 5% chance that she would need a blood transfusion but her blood got contaminated. Three days later we had to pull her off all the monitors.
We didn’t want to come home for a long time. When we finally did come home and saw all of her stuff sitting out, her highchair with cheerios around as if life would go on as normal, was hard. Having to explain that to our older son Travis was very difficult because we have never lost anyone in our family. To explain death to him in a way he would understand and help make paradise real to him was challenging.
Shortly after that, my husband and I decided that we didn’t want Travis to be an only child. At the same time I was planning to be done at two children. I had to readjust my thinking. I’m so grateful that I did. It gave us something positive to look forward to. They are such cute little brothers. It’s made such a positive impact on my family.
Everyday in my head I picture 3 kids. There’s picture I have at home hanging up on my wall of Marley and Travis and it would be perfect just to add Kasen in there. I also think about missing out on what I would have done with my daughter. Just the other day I went and got my ears pierced because I would have done that with Marley.
It’s nice to work from home because I get to spend as much time as I can with the kids. We did so much with Marley even in her short nine months. It’s really neat to take every moment as precious.
Alicia: So it changed the way you think about life?
Ashley: Yes, I’ve learned to be in the moment whether it’s with the kids, family with friends, cherish those moments.
Alicia: What are some of things you have done to get through this and find your new identity?
Ashley: Honestly, it does help to talk about. At first I wanted to push people away but now, I’m finally talking about it. I also look for the positive in each day. A close friend of mine said, ”Sometimes you can’t look at the future at all. Just be in the moment each day even if in only the next few minutes at a time.”
Alicia: So, if someone where in this position in losing a child, what would you say? How do you climb out of that?
Ashley: Obviously, there are different stages of grief and sometimes you want to be angry. It will take time. Being around positive people really helps. I have reached out to other people that have gone through something similar. No one quite understands unless they have been there. There are still people that have lost a child and I still see them struggling, even if it’s been 20 years. So realizing those feelings will always be there but learning how to cope with it.
Alicia: We are always changing and evolving, right now what is your goal and purpose and life right now?
Ashley: Living simply. I’m so into doing my thing and having fun.
Alicia: If you wrote a book today what would the title be?
Ashley: Be happy in the moment.
Alicia: What is your definition of security?
Ashley: I automatically want to say money but money is not everything. I think having those certain people in your life that you know you can feel comfortable around whenever. Like you don’t have to have makeup on and you could talk about anything.
Alicia: So the last thing is, do you have a question that you would like to ask me?
Ashley: What was your childhood like?
Alicia: I’m the oldest. So I took care of my siblings a lot. I was usually the one who took care of things. I’ve always had to be the one who had to speak up for other people. I learned it the hard way, because at first I didn’t know how to speak up for myself. It taught me how to have courage. Being the one to speak up about the things that people didn’t want to talk about, it was uncomfortable. I’ve found myself in that position my whole life.
I have learned not to be overcome by fear, not to think too much about what people will think when I use my voice. I’m proud of myself for being the one that shows the strength to give others a voice. It has taken so much work on my part to hold other people up in times of distress but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Sometimes, I forget how big that is. I have saved someone’s life and on the other spectrum have exposed truths that sadly have changed many lives. When you have the courage to speak up for yourself it builds you up but it also prepares you to help others gain their voice.
Alicia: Can you remember your favorite childhood picture?
Ashley: There is this one picture of my brother and I. We were playing on this scooter thing. We are 4 years apart. I love those memories of just us playing.
My current favorite picture is from our recent trip to Thailand I was playing with an elephant. The elephant is facing the camera and I have my hand on him.
Thank you for sharing Ashley. I want to thank you for reading. I hope you find inspiration and comfort with how to cope with grief. I hope she inspired you to maintain your joy in the moment. This story is only a small portion of what goes on in the day to day rebuilding of a new identity when things change in the family. I tried to narrow down the interview but found that many of it was just too important to trim out. Thanks
Sherwood Oregon Portrait Photographer