Hey y'all I'm so excited to welcome our very first (of many) new Mama Bloggers to the JPF Blog.... ASHLEE. Y'all give her a warm southern welcome and enjoy her story!
Chaos. Chaos is everywhere you look. It follows you, so to speak. In my life, chaos follows me to the bathroom, then to the kitchen, and proceeds to follow me into the laundry room where mountains of laundry are currently calling my name. That’s right. My chaos lives and breaths and calls me Mama. Perhaps, I should introduce myself. My name is Ashlee Swaney and I am a 26-year-old married mother of 6 beautiful babies. You read that right. 6. S-I-X. As in the number between 5 and 7. Now, before we talk about that number a little more, let me introduce you to the part of my life before babies.
Back in 2010, I was sitting in a Youth Meeting Hall, affectionately named “The Garage” with probably close to 150 teenagers. Being the “old lady” of the group, I was 18 years old and apart of the college group that helped facilitate and guide the younger youth. Truthfully, I was the one that needed the guidance. I hadn’t been there long when my youth pastor introduced me to Lauren. That was almost nine years ago, and we have stayed in touch! After that, my life gained momentum quite quickly! I met my husband on a blind date in March of 2011. Doing things, a little out of order, I found out I was pregnant in September of 2011. We got engaged in March of 2012 and my son, Nathaniel Lewis Swaney, made his appearance 4 weeks early on April 26th, 2012. That’s what started the “chaos” now known as my life. Since 2012, I’ve: got married, had two more children, started college, moved cross-country, moved back home to adopt two precious children, lost my mom, took in my sister, bought a house, graduated college, and started a new job. And that’s just been in the last 6 years! But more on that later…
I’ve always thought about writing a blog. But life and with the chaos that comes with having a family like mine, the opportunity never presented itself…until now. For this blog, we will be discussing all the chaos. All that is parenting, family, Mom Life, and how to make it: even just one day at a time.
So, for starters, I am 26 years old. I was born to a high school senior/single mom, which in the 90’s was a big deal. My biological father (more on him later), made the decision to not be a part of my life from the moment he found out my mother was pregnant. I was blessed to have my grandparents and my adopted father who helped to guide my mom in raising me right. In 2011, I met a small town, trying to make it in a big city, boy with big dreams and empty pockets. We met on a blind date (Scary, I know!) and it was love at first sight.
When we met, I was “taking a break” from school (I graduated from high school in 2010) and working full time at an after school martial arts program as their business manager. He pushed me to start my education, so with a little prodding, I applied and was accepted into a small-town college better known as Anderson University. Just one week later, in a McDonald’s bathroom, I sobbed as I found out I was pregnant. My life, as I knew it, was over. Or so I thought. Here I was 18 years old, about to bring a child into the world when I was just a child myself. That night, I didn’t go home. I drove all night and into the morning until I got to the beach, where I watched the sunrise. I saw first-hand, God’s masterpiece in the sky, and I knew from that moment, I was going to be okay. My child was going to be okay. I headed for home where I decided to tell my mother because well…I don’t know about your mom, but my mom had that super-sonic insight. She could tell instantly when something was different, so rather than hide it from her, I invited her for lunch at her favorite spot. When the server seated us, she, for whatever reason, asked us if we were celebrating any occasion or just enjoying a nice lunch. My mother, smiling, said, “We are celebrating me becoming a grandmother”. My mind was blown. She put her hand on my cheek and said, “My child, we serve the same God. We will survive this, just as we did before.” And from that moment, I was at peace.
Shortly after seeing a doctor for confirmation, I had a discussion with my now husband, Trevor, and I told him that just because we were bringing a child into the world, that it would not impact our relationship. I didn’t want him to feel like he needed to rush off and get married to me, but I also wanted him to know that I wanted him to be a part of his child’s life.
See, I probably should mention that this was an important conversation because he had another child- a blonde haired-beauty named Rezmay. When Trevor and I met, she was a year and a half old. However, due to circumstances, he had been unable to be apart of her life. So being in our child’s life, was a big deal. I wanted him to know that while he was free to not be in a relationship with me, it was up to him to be a father to our child. And no surprise, he went full steam ahead trying to help prepare for our child. Time seemed to fly after that. On our one-year dating anniversary, Trevor asked my dad for my hand in marriage and we were engaged. We found out our child would be a boy, and for most of the pregnancy, I was relatively healthy. That is, until April 22nd. I went to OB Triage to get a shot for a migraine that seemed to have lasted for weeks. When they were doing vitals, my blood pressure was 224/140. For those of you not in the medical world, that’s not what it should be. 11 hours, I was back on the right track and on my way home, with a follow up the next day. I was only a few minutes into the appointment and I was already back on my way out the door, on my way to collect Trevor and our belongings as we made the trip to be induced! Almost 3 days of failed labor, and some contraction complications, I found myself in an emergency c-section at almost three in the morning. At 2:52AM, we welcomed our son, Nathaniel Lewis Swaney, into the world. We named him Nathaniel because it is Hebrew for “Gift of God”. That, he certainly was. He would test that title however, because for the next several weeks, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (or NICU) would be our home as our son was born four weeks early and with a host of medical issues. But no different than any other moment, God provided and just a few weeks later, we brought our son home.
Life moved very swiftly after that. 14 months after our son came into the world, on June 22nd, 2013, in front of our family and friends, we were joined in matrimony. July of that same year, we were already expecting. The realization of the life we dreamed of led to some serious discussion about our career choices and our living environment. In October, my husband, who had been in the US Army Reserves since September 2007, suggested that he might try to go onto Active Duty. This would be a life-changer for us because up until then, we had only gotten a taste of the Army Life. After a couple of months of pulling teeth, two days before Christmas that year, we found out that his paperwork had been approved. March 11th , 2014, just a few weeks before I was due to give birth to our child, he left for reclass training. On March 31st , 2014, with my mom at my side, I gave birth to another son, Jeremiah Patrick Swaney.
His name came from the verse that we based our life on, Jeremiah 29:11. My husband, who was ecstatic, met him a few weeks later. After completing his reclass training, he received unaccompanied orders to Korea. One year. I would have to be without him for one year on my own, with a toddler and a newborn. The night he came home on a two week leave, we prayed that God would guide us and lead us down the path that he intended for us, regardless of how much resistance we met. We knew that our God was faithful and would provide for us. Just two weeks into his tour into Korea, I woke him up in the middle of the night (there is a 12-hour time difference) to break the news: we were pregnant again! Time went on and again, I found myself giving birth without my husband, with my faithful mom by my side. On March 6 th , 2015, I gave birth to our beautiful baby GIRL, Penelope Rae Swaney. Our first daughter together! Three days after giving birth, Trevor surprised me with the news that he was coming home for a 15-day paternity leave. We spent that time bonding as a new family of 5 and facing our newest challenge: Trevor’s next duty station. Shortly before he came home, we were informed that his new duty station was Fort Drum, New York. Now, just to clarify, I am a southern girl, born and raised. But here I was, about to move 15 hours away from home, to a place I had never even heard of. But we were faithful and God, once again, provided.
Our time in New York proved to be productive. I got a job as a Nanny to a beautiful family and helped to put us on the road to financial freedom. With a lot of prayer and consideration, I also decided to go back to school for my education degree. For the four semesters I was in college in New York, I maintained a 4.0 GPA and made the Dean’s List. I was in the process of completing a 5th semester when we got a phone call that would change our lives forever. A family friend informed us of some financial/personal struggles that Trevor’s mother was having. Why is this important? Because Trevor’s mother was raising my husband’s biological niece and nephews. They were struggling to get food on the table, to pay the bills, and she was having some health issues. See, Trevor’s mother was in end stage renal failure. She was doing dialysis three times a week and beginning to have other health issues. In a matter of hours from that phone call, our minds were made up. I, along with our children, would move back to South Carolina to help care for them while we decided about their future. In just a few weeks after that, my parents flew to NY to help us pack up the truck, and drove with me and the kids to SC. I stayed with my parents while we looked for a place to rent.
After just being home one week, I got a text message from my step-daughter’s biological mother. We talked for a while and agreed that it would be best for everyone involved, if we could all be adults and get along. Just a few days later, we were at her 7th birthday party with her, as her family. That was the beginning of our co-parenting journey. But that victory would be small in comparison as things began to go downhill for Trevor’s mom. As things began to get more imminent, we discussed the possibility of adoption for our niece, Elliot and our youngest nephew, Gage. Both parties agreed, and we took the first step by hiring an attorney. We were hoping to
have the process completed before the summer ended, but things took a short pause when tragedy struck our family once again. The day that our oldest nephew was graduating high school, my mother, the rock of my life, went missing. On my parent’s home security system, we saw her get into her car, and that was the last time anyone of us would see her alive. After several members of our family spent all night looking for her, we filled a missing person’s report. It was only a matter of a couple of hours before we received a call from the Horry County Sheriff’s Department. My mother had taken her own life. I was devastated. But I had to be strong because I was in charge from that point on. My mother, who had surgery just a few weeks prior, updated her will to make me executor of her estate. In addition, I had siblings that were depending on me.
Specifically, a newly 16-year-old sister, my mother’s prize. Without hesitation, it would be decided that she would come to live with me. There was no question that she would need the support and with our dad’s job, it made more sense for her to come stay with me. This decision did not come lightly but was made permanent when our dad appointed me her guardian. Then, we became a family of 7.
Our adoption was still in the works, but once the paperwork was processed, things moved rather quickly. The process went relatively painless once their biological parents’ parental rights were revoked. On August 1st , 2017, on the recommendation of our guardian ad litem, our attorney, and several family members and friends, we became a forever family of 9. That basically catches us up to present day. Since then, my husband deployed overseas, returned in one piece, and surprised our kids with a homecoming like no other. I had a surprise of my own, as the first night he was home also was the first night in our brand-new forever home. Soon after, the new school year started and for the first time as a parent, I had all my kids in school. I decided to continue my college education (that had been put on hold) and completed an associate degree of Arts. Shortly after that, I continued to work on my bachelor’s degree and now, I am gainfully employed as a substitute teacher in my kids’ school district. I am also working on becoming a Guardian ad Litem. It’s been a blissful experience. Life has had certainly given me a full hand. And while our hands are full, our hearts are content.
That brings us to today, where I am currently listening to the solemn snores of my children and the sound of the rain hitting my window and I am content. I serve a faithful and just God. And where He guides, He provides! I look forward to this coming season in my life, which I hope to include getting to know all of you.
Until we meet again, Ashlee