After having Ryan, we looked forward to having another chi l d in the family. Ryan had been the model baby. We could take him camping, to movies, and church was a breeze. He was always happy, content and peaceful. Suzanne babysat some older children of two mothers in the ward who were having babies and began to yearn for another baby herself. We talked about conceiving another child in a few months when we thought our financial situation would be improved enough so that we could buy a larger home. We already had four children in our small three bedroom home and didn't see how we could fit another one in.
But then, surprise! surprise! The week following Memorial Day, just after we got home from camping in Kings Canyon with the Beitlers, we conceived. For several months previous to this, Suzanne had been having some physical problems and worried about being able to have more children. One afternoon while taking a nap, she was awakened by a male authoritaive voice saying very distinctly., "you will have two daughters". She was working in the stake Young Women Presidency at the time, and so really hoped that she would have a little girl. She went up to BYU, chairman of stake youth conference, sick to her stomach before and after the trip. Gradually over the months the physical ailments resolved themselves., but the morning sickness continued into the seventh month. She got the f l u real l y bad at Christmas t me, and a lingering cough that hurt so bad it felt like the baby would fall out the bottom every time she hacked away.
February 8th was the Stake Young Women' s Conference ''Where is Heaven?
Suzanne had worked for months on it with a youth committee representative from every ward. It was a lovely spiritual day, topped off by Kent potty-training Ryan while mom was gone. The next two weeks were spent sorting through baby clothes, making lists of things to buy and do, and worrying about the smooth arrival of the baby, which was due February 27, I n the mi did l e of a school week for the older children.
We were so far from the hospital Grand pa-Doctor Brown used, and if we used non-Pru-Net doctors or hospital s and there were complications, the costs could be astronomical. My sister Judy had Noel l e Joy on Monday, Feb 17, Grand ma Brown went down to stay the week with her, with Grandpa planning to drive down to pick her up on Saturday the 22nd. Suzanne asked an ob/gyn doctor that she had vi sited the Summer before on other medical problems if he would be avail able on call for that Saturday only and he refused, because he had not charted her course all through the pregnancy. Suzanne was very depressed, because subconsciously she knew that was the bi g day, and so she prayed that Heavenly Father would take care of her. She told everyone that she hoped the baby would come the week-end after that one so she could take the children to her folks and they wouldn't miss school and also so the baby's arrival wouldn't throw rain on Judy's parade and new baby. Then she made plans to go to the temple Fri day night with the ward and to the Visitor's Center on Saturday night with the Chastine/Nippers, some friends and parents of a pupil of Kent's.
Fri day morning she went to the hospital to time the travel and negotiate financial payment with the administrator, and to her dad's for a checkup. He told her she was "ripe", and the baby could come any time. That night at the temple, she was thrilled to be proxy for a woman named Rebecca, a name Kent and she had treasured for some time for their next girl, and al so the name of her 3rd great grandmother whose temple work had recently been done. She and Kent felt that this was an 1'omen11 as the. l sat temple visit before Rachel 's birth she had been proxy for a Rachel Ann.
When discussing the name Rebecca two weeks before with the other children, some of them were' t sure if they liked it or not. Chad suggested the name Ashley, the name of a girl at school he had a crush on (but wouldn't admit). There was a darling little girl at Kent' s school named Ashley May, and so he said that if it was a girl, he might nickname her Ashley May. Mom didn't like the name May, it sounded too southern-belle-ish. So Rachel compromised with the name Ashley Rebecca, and we all liked that. A year later, Chad had a tiff with hi s girl friend Ashley and developed a crush on a girl in the ward named Rebecca Jones, and so the name Rebecca became very popular around here once again, but because of Ashley's disposition, I'm afraid Maybelle seems to appraise her personality best. Perhaps she can grow into Rebecca. )
Every time she went to the temple when she was pregnant, Mom felt that she had to wrestle with the Lord in prayer for the welfare and safe arrival of her baby. Before leaving she put her name and baby Gardiner on the prayer ro11. On the way home from the temple, she felt a dull pain in her abdomen and a sinking feeling, but she continued to try denying the eminence of the baby' s birth. She di d beg Kent to give her a husband's blessing before they went to bed, and felt more at peace afterwards .The next morning she dreamed she was at the Visitor's Center which was interrupted with another dream of a little baby, which she 1oving 1 y cal1ed: Ashley. She also noticed something wrong--the disposable diaper tapes were on her cheeks, and she couldn't remove them. She was awakened from this dream by a phone call from her father asking her if she was alright, telling her he was on his way to the temple for some sealings, and was going down to San Diego after that about 1:00pm in the afternoon. She told hi m she thought she was okay.
She got up to say goodbye to Kent who was going to travel around to look at property that was going to tax sale. Then she cleaned up and drove to the Sears catalog store to pick up an order of baby things, including a basinet lining and a little yellow outfit to take the baby home from the hospital in. It was difficult to walk, and while driving and setting up the baby' s bed, and taking a nap in the afternoon, she felt contractions every 20 minutes or so, she felt mental l y distracted and down , but she continued to hope that the baby would wait at l east until after the Visitor's Center and her parents were home . She got up from her nap after Kent got home about 4:00p m and felt the distinct impression, "call dad now! She reached hi m in San Diego, just as he was lying down for a nap at Judy's, about 4:15pm and told hi m she'd been in labor and he probably ought to come back now.
We deliberated about what to do. Suzanne couldn't make any decisions and so Kent took charge. He called the Chastine/Nippers and put off our VC date, and went and got the babysitter (Matt Summerhays) we had lined up for the evening a couple of hours early. We set dinner out for the kids, threw bags and cameras into the van , and took off for the hospital about 5:00 pm. We made a quick stop at Music Plus to drop off a video cassette and Suzanne timed her contractions while Kent drove. We didn't know whether to stop at the hospital or drive on to the Browns, but another contraction came on just before the freeway turn off and just five minutes after the last one so Kent went straight to the hospital. We checked in at 6:15, and Suanne was 4 cm dilated , bag of waters bulging.
We were very nervous when we learned Grand pa didn't have OB privileges. Kent kept trying to call him while Suzanne lay on her right side to slow the contractions down. He finally got him at 12 mi n. to 7:00, just as he was walking in the door at home with grandma. He got to the hospital at 7:05 pm. Suzanne sighed with relief and rolled on her left side, the baby could come. Grand pa checked her and broke the bag, helped give her a blessing, got permission through the ob chief (minor detail of protocol , since he was hospital chief of staff he could have just given himself permission and got dressed. By 7:35 after a couple of hard contractions, Suzanne was 10 cm and being pushed into the delivery room. Grand pa barely had time to find out where everything was in the room when after one push Ashley Rebecca was born at 7:48pm , 21 inches long and l lbs, 2oz. Heavenly Father had done a good job taking care of her birth.
We all marvel led at some of these detail s afterwards together there in the delivery room while Ashley and mom were getting cleaned up. We called her our little miracle baby, because the circumstances surrounding her birth seemed miraculous the way they al l fell into place. As Suzanne looked over at Ashley's little screwed up face, eyes swollen? long nose, bond hair and fair red complex ion , she had a familiar look to her and she knew that Ashley was hers and belonged there. Her mother knew that she could be among several babies and she'd still recognize her as her baby. In fact, Ashley was the only little blond baby in the hospital at the time; there were about 14 other little babies of various ethnic backgrounds, mostly oriental and Mexican. But there was a bonding that went beyond that, a spiritual bonding , as if she knew this little baby from before. The first time they wheeled her into to her mother that same rush of recognition and familiarity came back and she said , without checking the name tag , that's her- , that's my baby".
Suzanne spent a rough night after her birth, hemorrhaging and not being able to sleep. She wished later that she had asked them to bring Ashley to her to nurse and coo over. When the staff did finally bring her in Ashley would sleep on her chest and shoulder while mom dozed off too. On Sunday the 23rd, Kent and the kids came to visit Mom and Ashley at the hospital, take pictures and all try out the buttons and positions of the hospital bed. Sunday night Kent and Suzanne had their special dinner together with Ashley , who began to really fuss until Kent changed her position. About 20 minutes after each feeding she began to really cry and scrunch up her legs. This was a portent of the misery that was to come in caring for this little sweetie.
The kids were staying at the Browns, and Kent went to the tax sale trying to make a good deal so the family could get into that larger house we needed, so on Monday, mom' s friend Terry Bronson came and picked both of them up in her nice van. It was a warm day and Ashley looked like a little yellow pumpkin in her new playsuit mom bought the day she was born. Suzanne forgot to get the key to the house, so Terry took her to her house and mom and baby took a nice long nap on Terry's water bed until Kent and the children came to pick her up that evening. Ryan still remembers that they picked us up then and brought Ashley home, and so when Ashley was real fussy he would say that he didn't want Ashley anymore and that we should take her back to Amy's house (Terry's little daughter that is the same age as him) .
Tuesday afternoon Grandpa and Grandma Gardiner came to help care for everyone and f ix dinner. On Wednesday, Grand pa Brown brought Grandma Brown to stay until he came back for her Saturday afternoon. Grandma brought two flower pictures that she had oil painted and we hung them over the family room couch before she left. She slept on that couch those three nights she stayed with us. She was very feeble, in poor health generally and specifically from Kidney stones, and not sleeping well because of her arthritis. She complained to Grandpa Brown on Wednesday that Suzanne wasn't feeding the baby enough , that was why it cried when she set it down to eat d inner and didn't pick her up right away. Suzanne worried as much over her mother as she d id her own health and Ashley's. It was a very emotionally strenuous three and a half days. But grand ma adored little Ashley and enjoyed bathing and caring for her.
Ashley was a little jaundiced, so Grandpa recommended five minute sunbaths for her once a day. She also began having these real fussy periods 3 times a day, after her morning feeding, in the evening, and in the middle of the night about 2am. Then two weeks after her birth she began this cycle of eating, sleeping for 20 minutes, then waking and screaming. Grandma Brown said to feed her mashed bananas, but mom didn't think that was right. She and Kent tried everything: boiling peppermint sticks, Mylicon syrup ,
Bental syrup, soft music, running the vacuum cleaner or the shower ,the swing , sleeping on pillows and an hat water bottles and on her stomach , and finally swaddling and strapped snugly in the infant seat , which worked the best. But many times mom would stand in the shower in the evening to drown out the noise and just sob to herself, and sometimes the children would come n the morning and say that they heard mom and Ashley crying in the middle of the night. We would al so prop pillows on either side of her to hold her in position.
This all came at particularly frustrating time with financial and emotional strains, too small a house, and not enough sleep at night. At two months Ashley went to an LDS pediatrician , Dr. Barlow , who said that she was under weight and had gained less than two pounds) and suggested mom avoid wheat , or milk for awhile, then later pump her milk and try different formulas. Ashley seemed better for a short while (a day or two , and then would act the same, so mom went back to nursing her and eating regularly, except avoiding chocolate, which definitely d id upset her. Mom began reading Louis Lamour novels while holding and nursing her , and then all the time she spent fussing with her seemed more bearable. But it was frustrating to get so little done that first year of her life. It seemed like every time Suzanne began to clean up the kitchen or help one of the other children, Ashley began to fuss. It was no wonder Ryan wanted to take her back where we picked her up. Sometimes we all wished we could take her someplace and l eave her awhile. There were many times when Suzanne, on the advice of the pediatrician , just let her cry while carrying on mental arguments with herself to justify doing so.
When Ashley was about five weeks old she and the rest of the children came down with chicken pox (except for Chad who got his from a cousin when he was about 20 months old ). She had about five pox, including one big one on her forehead. Grandpa and Grand ma Gardiner volunteered to come out and help with the children during this trying time, and although we did not ask them to come, their emotional support helped buoy up our feelings and made the emotional strain easier to bear.
Ashley was blessed April 13, 1986, the Sunday after Easter. Both Brown and Gardiner grand parents came, Great Grand ma Britten , Aunt Audrey , Uncle Mark and Karen Gardiner , Uncle John and Gayle Reese 9 and others. She was blessed the same day that another baby, Ashley Ni col e Stewart, was blessed. This Ashley was the Granddaughter of Hank Whiffen, former Hacienda Heights stake presidency member and friend of Brown grand parents . So this special day was shared with another little girl who al so shared the same first name. In Kent' s blessing, some of the things he blessed Ashley with were that the spirit would attend her and that she would feel comfortable and good , be blessed with health and strength , have patience and kindness in dealing with others, gain a feeling of peace and assurance when all was right, that her parents would be able to raise her by the guidance of the
Spirit and set a good example to her, and she in turn would be able to do so to others, and that she would be able to understand the precepts of the gospel. Her mother silently prayed a blessing for her too, that she would make righteous choices in life, marry in the temple to a faithful companion, and be a lovely mother in Zion. Her father bore a lovely testimony later in the service. He teased the Stewarts by saying that they picked a name we liked and had chosen way before them. He said that her crying during the blessing was ironic because that was all she had done during the last 6 weeks of her life. He said that Ashley's mother, Suzanne was a sweet gentle spirit in the home and everything he hoped for in a wife. He was grateful for the presence of the grand parents and family and for the wonderful gospel heritage we had. He recounted some of the spiritual experiences surrounding her birth that helped hi m to know that the gospel was true and he was very thankful for al l of hi s children, the church, and hi s family and friends in attendance that day. Our next-door neighbor at the time, Marilyn Cox videotaped some of the family get together after the service.
Determined not to let Ashley run the whole family all the time, we took her camping with us two or three times that Summer of '86, taking her up to Four Pines above Bishop and to Reds Meadow above Mammoth. It rained the first time and we nearly froze. Ashley cried at night unless she was in bed with mom. The next time mom did better about layering the clothes on her but she kept kicking the blankets off at night and her little ears, cheeks, and hands felt like ice. She developed a cough, and her new pediatrician , Dr. Altman had her sinuses x-rayed and discovered a sinus infection that cl eared up in a couple of weeks.
She also had several ear infections and mom just kept the ear drops on the window sill above her bed to automatically deposit into her ears in the middle of the night whenever she didn't settle back to sleep. She was sleeping at this time strapped in the infant seat in our walk-in closet. At night when she fussed and wouldn't settle down to sleep, we just set the seat in the front room under the dining table in case there was an earthquake, and l et her cry.
Whenever we took her somewhere, everyone ad mi red her cute pixie looks, and commented how good and quiet she was. Mom and Dad just smiled and thought. If they only knew. Her blond curl s stuck out behind big ears. Her bi g blue eyes and lovely long lashes and pouty mouth caught everyone's attention. It was hard not to wonder what we were doing wrong at home. She cried and arched her back whenever anyone else held her, an was particularly bonded to her mother, who nursed her until 16 months.
For Christmas, Rachel gave her Snowball, her white f luff y bear that she got from Grandma Great the year before. This has always been a favorite of Ashley's, along with her blanket, another thing that used to belong to Rachel. It is a lavender-f lowered flannel blanket , yarn-tied and ruff led with lavender organza, and was made by Grand ma Brown for Rachel 8 years earlier. Ashley sleeps with both of these nightly. Rachel has always been very sweet to Ashley, and was quite jealous to hold her when she first came home from the hospital, telling her mother that she wasn't going ta let her hold her grand babies when she got married because mother never let her hold Ashley now. The first thing she said when she found out she had a new little sister was that her prayers had been answered.
Ashley has always adored animals and stuffed animals and pictures of animal s. She absolutely loved Moonshadow, our black and white cat that we got as a kitten when Ashley was about three weeks old. She would squeal with excitement and want to pull its tail or grab its hair. She liked to carry stuffed animal s around the house and always wants to hug them whenever she sees them in a store.
For her first birthday, she had bowl of ice cream and got a car seat cover and Sesame Street pop-up toy that mom used to entertain her while she shoveled food in her mouth. She became as persnickety about her food as she did everything else and would only eat cereal and strained fruit. She wanted to be held most of the time she was up unless she was in her little denim seat that attached to the table.
That pop up toy and Gerry seat even went camping with us Memorial Day weekend to Yosemite, where we bundled her up in so many clothes that when she walked around, if she got off balance, she would fall over and just li e there, unable to roll over and stand up. She screamed in the car all the way descending into that valley in the car unless she sat on mother's lap. She loved to pick up handful s of dirt and toss them. She'd climb on camp fold up chairs which invariably toppled over and once she got a big shiner on her forehead when one she was standing on in a neighboring camp back sided and she banked her head on the metal picnic table's leg. She screamed every time we put her in the tent and all the time we changed her for bed until I lay her next to me to nurse; then she frequently fell asleep within seconds from exhaustion, waking up in the night to nurse a few minutes and then back to sleep.
We didn't know if we were going to be able to go on that camping trip because Ashley had a temperature for two nights previous to our leaving. Busy packing, we thought Ashley would just sleep it off. Suzanne noticed she jerked a little while nursing, then Wednesday evening about 11 p.m. when she cried and Suzanne put her in bed between Kent and her to nurse, she lay still a moment then screamed in terror and went into a convulsion. For the longest two minutes of her parents lie they struggled to cool her down by stripping her pajamas off and dousing her. It was very frightening. We immediately gave her some Tylenol and Ped i azol e .
Worrying about their planned trip to England in the Fall, Suzanne worked at helping Ashley live a more ordinary existence, beginning with sleeping in a port-a-crib instead of the infant seat. She put rolled pads around her so that she still had the sensation of being cuddled or confined. This worked for gradually longer periods of time, until finally she could sleep without the pads, but she still screamed whenever it was bedtime, particularly when she was being weaned and Daddy would put her to bed. He used to lie down on the floor of the closet with her and breathe loudly and rhythmically until finally she lay down and went to sleep also. At 18 months, tired of fussing with her at bedtime and at the advice of Dr. Greenwald , we switched the children's beds around so that she could now sleep on Ryan's twin bed I n the same room as Rachel. She still cried occasional l y but was delighted to be a part of the group. Her bedtime ritual is s to brush her teeth like the others, get a fluoride vitamin like them, climb into bed and have her blanket placed over her and her white teddy bear beside her. It looks so funny to see this little tiny person in this big bed. She's usual l y a little ball in the corner of I t. We try to place a chair beside it t so that she won't fall out like she has a couple of times.
Weaning her was a difficult task. She wanted to have mother' s milk to the exclusion of every thing else. She would only nurse herself to sleep and so we were particularly worried because the England trip was coming up and we didn't want her to just go col d turkey. Eventual l y Suzanne just faded her out of the nursing and she went directly to a glass. No bottle for this little gal.
Her favorite things to eat are popsicles, watermelon, bananas, hot dogs, milk , string cheese, graham crackers, cheerios, grapes, bread , peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Nutter Butter Cookies, ice chips, and raisin bran cereal . She never real l y eats a meal, she just snacks all day long. She likes to eat something about every 45 minutes, I n between looking at Golden Books and hitting you in the chest while grunting and pointing to the pictures of animal s. She wants you to give the sounds that the animal s give. This, and going for a ride in n her stroller are her two favorite things to do. When she wants something, she comes up and hi tsp. you on the leg or points and grunts. She lowers her eye brows and frowns with her whole face when she doesn't get her own way, and rubs her eyes with her hands when you tell her no. She is rather difficult to resist. She is able to say quite a few words, like "think you, mmmy language. Most of the time she just points and says Tsshhh. She absolutely hates baths, and the mere mention of the subject is enough to send her shrieking from the room. Her father's dousing has her quite traumatized n She does like to put on her little swimsuit and play in the children' s pool at the Association pool here. In fact she loves to drape over her head or around her neck any clothes she finds of her older siblings, and particularly likes some little white sandal s she inherited from the Jim White family wen they moved.
One night (June 20) after dinner she went out to play in the back yard with the other kids to eat ice cream cones while Kent Suzanne and Chad went down to Scouts (Chad's first court of honor) and Uncle Jim and Carol Brown were here wit their kids.
Kent got home about 7:30p, a few minutes after Suzanne left and wiped the ice cream off her face. She had a little bit of red on the corners of her mouth. When Suzanne came home about 9p m Ashley seemed sort of weepy and mom noticed the red (like popsicle juice) which didn't wipe off and made her cry when she tried. Kent said he thought she just ran into the door. So we gave her a drink and put her to bed. She woke up in the night and cried and cried like something reall y bothered her and didn't settle down for some time. The next morning mom was up earl y studying for her backyard swim instructor's course when about 7am Kent brought Ashley in with sores all around her mouth , mostly down the right side of her face in the crease beside her mouth. It looked like a burn, but we couldn't figure out what could have caused it until l Kent remembered the mess kit he had put some Easy-Off on and set outside so the fumes wouldn't bother us. Suzanne dashed down to First Care with her, crying and praying all the way, but found that they didn't open until 8am. So she went to the Homers and got some Aloe Vera plant to rub on the sores, then back down to First Care. There didn't seem to be any burns inside the mouth, and so we surmised that she just put the pan up to her mouth , but didn't ingest any of it. They put her on an antibiotic and told us to clean the wound several times a day and caver it with Neosporin to keep out infection. Kent gave her a blessing and we all prayed that it wouldn't scar. We even put consecrated oil and vitamin E oil on it. Now, two and a half months later, you cannot see anything except a faint pink line in the crease, which will probably fade away completely.
For all her knocks and bruises, she still has one little scar on her forehead, a raised, white bump where she took a header at the Browns after a Brown cousins Easter Egg hunt. We were sitting on the living room porch and she fell over sideways on the stepping stones and hit her head. It is about in the same spot her big chicken pox was and where she got her shiner from the picnic table at Yosemite. I f that is the only war wound she carries with her in life, she is a very lucky girl. And a very darling one with her pixie face, big blue eyes, and golden curls sticking out all over her head, like a Cubie Doll . For all the pain and anguish this little remote of a girl has caused us, we wouldn't trade her in for a more peaceful existence for anything in the world.
Now at 18 months she has been going into the Nursery Sunday mornings" Surprising ly , she doesn't cry at al l. She stands quite still in n the mi did l e of the room with her finger her nose, surveying all the commotion around her. She loves to have Sunday cereal in the afternoon just like the other children. When we scripture read every morning, she must have her own book too, and during prayers she folds her arms and smiles proud