The incredible Ashley Weed Harnisch, and her son Sebastian (23 months). Ashley was told at a young age, due to a wide array of medical issues, she could never have children. Ashley and her husband were not willing to accept such defeat and began exploring their options with fertility treatments. While they knew she would have issues conceiving, they never anticipated that they would also need to overcome male factor infertility. Despite all the difficulties with conceiving, Ashley had a wonderful pregnancy and enjoyed every moment. She decided that just because advanced medical technology was needed to conceive her son, it shouldn’t define her otherwise normal and healthy pregnancy, and she switched care providers early in her third trimester to a home birth midwife. After 41 weeks, Ashley birthed Sebastian into her own hands as he precipitously entered this world in a beautiful home water birth.
Ashley thought she was prepared in every way possible, and never anticipated being further haunted by her medical issues after Sebastian’s arrival. At 12 days old Sebastian had lost more than 12% of his birth weight. Ashley learned that she suffered from mammary hypoplasia and that Sebastian had received nearly no nourishment since birth. Even after 6 weeks of around-the-clock pumping, supplements, Domperidone, and feedings via a supplemental nursing system (SNS), the most that Ashley ever produced in 24-hours was 2ml. Despite their love-hate relationship with the SNS, she and Sebastian were able to establish a beautiful bond through comfort nursing until almost 9 months when he self-weaned. Ashley wishes that women who have the ability to breastfeed would not take for granted their gift to do so, and that formula was only used on a medically necessary basis. She experienced far greater negativity for feeding her son with formula than she ever experienced comfort nursing Sebastian in public.
Ashley chose to participate in this project to capture the heartbreaking struggles and beautiful moments that she and Sebastian have shared throughout his first two years. Sebastian was at her side throughout her entire dissertation process that recently culminated her doctoral program and a nearly 25-year educational journey.