The radiant Ashley Mokihana Romero with sons Keoki Ikaikaloa Kamakane Kapele moana (6) and Joseph Francis Romero IV (almost 3). Ashley is also mother to daughters Kulia Ka'ina Ku'u pua a la o ka Mokihana (17) and Angelique Nalani (14).
Ashley was just a teenager herself when she got pregnant with her daughter and doesn't know that she ever wanted to be a mother. She struggled every day of her first pregnancy - single and newly located across the US by her parents, she couldn't decide if she wanted to keep her baby. Ashley and her sisters grew up in an impoverished, alcoholic, codependent home themselves and she hadn't had the chance to get away from that. Her pregnancy progressed and she labored with multiple tubes in her arm, flat on her back or stuck in a hospital bed for 13 hours. When her daughter was born she was just shy of her 18th birthday, a high school drop out with no friends in a new state and all of her old friends had written her off. The very first thing Ashley said as the nurses placed her baby in the incubator was, "Dad are you disappointed in me?".
With tradition in mind, Ashley's mother chose her baby's name, Kulia (Hawaiian for "ascend to the heavens"). It took her 6 months to settle into motherhood, and while she accepted her child as her responsibility, a job she had to do because of the choices she made, she was miserable. Ashley nursed exclusively because it was free and did so until her daughter self-weaned at 2.5. When Kulia was 3.5, Ashley says that true motherhood suddenly swept over her. She was no longer living with the dysfunctional family she was born into and Kulia became her reason for living. "Nurturing her and teaching her were my passion. I read everything I could on parenting. Tips and tricks to raising a healthy child were all I thought about. I was determined to give her the childhood I didn't have. Motherhood was no longer a consequence, no longer a punishment. Motherhood was love, the selfless nurturing of an innocent human being."
When she became pregnant with her second daughter, life changed at the first doctors visit. Ashley found herself happy to be pregnant this time, and was encouraged by her midwives to choose how her daughter would enter the world. She became empowered every step of the way and at week 20 began taking classes on "alternative" birthing methods, and chose to labor and deliver in a birthing tub at the hospital. At the time it was experimental and only 8 babies had been delivered this way in their area. When Angelique decided to grace them with her presence they were surrounded by loved ones, and big sister Kulia with her hands in the pool ready to catch her sister. Angelique nursed as soon as she took her first breath and didn't stop until she decided to self wean right before her third birthday.
Unfortunately, the dysfunction of Ashley's upbringing weighed her down. She fought to lose the "baby weight" that was even harder the second time around, and by the time Angelique turned 3, Ashley was binging and purging on a regular basis. The euphoria of pregnancy and new motherhood was gone, and every time she looked in the mirror she was disgusted at the way she looked.
Ashley lost 72 pounds but she was sick. Kulia was six years old when she found her mother purging after dinner, and Ashley was devastated. After trying so hard to raise her differently, she was repeating history and it was time to get help. Years later, with therapy, Ashley started to learn how the self confidence of the females she grew up with and the images portrayed around her, skewed her view of herself.
Both of Ashley's subsequent pregnancies were vastly different from that of her girls. She no longer counted every calorie, exercise was limited and gentle. Midway through with each boy she was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia, at 32 weeks put on bed rest and visited the hospital 3 times per week for monitoring. When Keoki was born, her husband, Joey rushed them to the hospital but they barely made it. Keoki came so quickly that he had a red mark on his forehead from rubbing on the bed sheets. J It was a whirlwind and their new babe was given the nickname "rocket-man" by the nurses. They were discharged 24hrs later, and all was well until 4 days later when she woke up to a high fever. Ashley's husband had resumed work and she was home with Keoki while the girls were in school. The fever got progressively higher and when he arrived home her temperature had climbed to 104.2. They immediately left for the OB/GYN and she was admitted to the hospital with mastitis and a uterine infection. Hospital policy wouldn't let her to keep Keoki with her and her husband wasn't allowed either, so they stayed until 8pm every night and returned at 7am every morning, for 4 days. Ashley pumped all night long and held him in her arms all day. When the infection subsided and she was allowed to go home,Ashley was thrilled.
Joseph's birth was quite different, Ashley's water broke in bed at 11pm and she took her time at home. They finally made it to the hospital four hours later and were rushed to labor and delivery, because of Keoki's "rocket-man" birth. Contractions were slow and steady, and dilation was the same until at 8am Joseph's heart beat slowed dramatically. Ashley was only 3 cm dilated and they wanted her to labor on hands and knees until his heart beat stabilized. At noon his heart beat dropped further and the doctor was called and to prepare for an emergency C-section. Amazingly, at 4 pm, she was complete and was able to push when she felt the need and two hours later, Joseph had arrived. He surprised everyone in the room by not crying and she brought him to breast where he stayed for the next over.
"I discovered this project a couple years ago through social media. The healthier I became, the more focused I was to raise my girls without shame of their bodies. Last year I nursed my youngest son (then a large 2 year old) at the town parade. We sat on the side of the road next to my daughters (both teens) and my husband and son Keoki. As a crowd walked by, a few stares and a few jaw drops happened, then a woman stopped and exclaimed, "You are nursing a toddler in public!?!" I smiled, and both of my daughters began to protest, then the woman turned to them and said, "Your mom's a badass!" She gave my girls high fives and walked back into the crowd. My hubby turned to me and said he was so close to telling her off! Both of my girls smiled and said, " You GO momma!"