Tullahoma native Ashley Davis will celebrate her fourth Mother’s Day today.
She is the mother to a 4-year-old, brown-eyed boy named Angler, who Davis said has taught her the true meaning of being a mom.
Davis said she always wanted to be a mom and when she and her husband Derek married, they were excited to start a family of their own.
Their wish came true on April 26, 2013, with the birth of their son, Angler.
Their son would take them on a journey that would change the family’s life.
At 6 months old, Angler was diagnosed with a form of cerebral palsy known as spastic diplegia.
The neurological condition usually appears in infancy or early childhood and affects muscle control and coordination.
“It means tight legs. The part of the brain that is affected only affects his legs. His arms are fine, legs and brain, it’s just his legs,” she said.
With the knowledge of their son’s condition, they initially made the decision to keep his diagnosis to themselves.
They didn’t share the news with their families until Angler was 18 months old, and not with friends and the public until last year.
“I didn’t want people to feel sorry for him or us. I didn’t want people to pity him.”
While Davis said she was heartbroken at first to learn of her son’s diagnosis, she and her husband knew that Angler’s story was far from being over.
“It’s a grieving process,” she said. “Probably for the first six months I cried every day, because we didn’t know what the diagnosis meant for him. But it got easier, because I started to confide in people. I connected with support groups that were going through the same thing. I do still cry at times, but it’s only once in a while.”
When Angler was as young as 6 months old, his parents began therapy, and they have been working tirelessly over the last four years helping to conquer his diagnosis.
“We started therapy when he was 6 months, so it’s been sort of the norm for him, said Davis.
“He can now sit up, roll, walk with his crutches, walk with his walker, walk a few steps on his own and stand by himself a little. However, as he’s grown, it has gotten harder because he has to work harder. There are times when we both just don’t want to go, but we know we have to do it to make him successful.”
While therapy has been difficult, Davis said they have worked to let Angler know what they are working toward.
“Derek and I have always talked to him like an adult,” she said. “We don’t baby him. We let him know that we go to therapy to make him walk. The doctor told us in November that he would probably be able to walk in a year, so we are about halfway out. While I’m still nervous about his walking, he’s come a long way.”
Focusing on the Little Things
While Davis said she could be sad about the obstacles that face her son, she said she and her husband have decided to celebrate all of Angler’s victories, both big and small.
“I told my husband at the beginning of the year, we are going to write down all of his accomplishments so that we can celebrate all the things he can do,” she said.
“I could spend my whole life sad about what he can’t do, but there are so many things he can do. Do I want him in a wheelchair? No. But he can talk to me. He can tell me what he wants, that he’s hurt or hungry, and those things are huge. I’m very thankful for that. He also
understands what’s going on. He understands that we are going to therapy. Everyday there is something new and I try to focus on the little things that he can do, except for the one big thing that he can’t walk.
A fond memory for Davis is when her son learned how to take toilet paper off the roll.
“My mom told me he was going to make a mess, but I didn’t care. The fact that he could crawl over there and pull it off the roll was big,” she said.
Davis said they look forward to seeing their son live a very fulfilling life.
“I’ve been in support groups with children who have CP, and I’ve seen the severe side of it and his is very mild,” she said. “He will live a fully functioning life. He’ll probably be able to drive a car, get a job and who knows what else.”
The Meaning of Motherhood
Davis said her son has taught her to love selflessly and to do everything in her power to protect him.
“It means you love them even if they are too young to appreciate what all are you doing,” she said.
“Motherhood is sleepless nights worrying about making the right decisions and always questioning if you are doing the right thing for your child. Being a mom means many things to different people, but to me, it’s loving and treating my child like all of the ‘typical’ children. It’s not letting him use his disability as an excuse and it’s always making him give 100 percent. It’s fighting for your child because you know something isn’t right or because you know they deserve better despite having a special need. Motherhood is willing to do it all again without changing a thing.”