Brady Murray
June 10, 2024

Learning as We Go: Insights From a Military Spouse and Down Syndrome Mom

Ashley Ashcraft is an author, speaker, military spouse, homeschool mom, and nationally recognized educator who lives in North Carolina with her husband, Tim, and their four children. In 2023, Ashley gave birth to her daughter Finley, who has Down syndrome. While the initial diagnosis came as a surprise, Finley has been the greatest blessing to Ashley and her family.

In this week's episode of Conquering Your Clownfish Ashley and I were able to discuss the joys, trials, and new experiences that come with raising children with special abilities. Ashley shared her experiences as a military spouse, the impact of her husband's deployments on their marriage, and how the diagnosis of her daughter Finley has shaped their family's journey in recent years.


Military Life: Choosing Purpose in Service


As a military spouse, Ashley has had to navigate the unique challenges that come with supporting her husband's career while also raising their children and pursuing her own goals. 

Ashley has embraced her role at each new location as they move all over the world. She has found fulfillment of this calling through her writing, where she has the chance to reach out and connect with others going through the same things she has experienced. Her most recent book, Mission-Ready Marriage: A Christian Guide to Discovering Hope and Purpose as a Military Wife set to be released in August 2024, is intended to be a comprehensive guide for military spouses, covering topics such as intimacy, deployments, combat trauma, solo parenting, and supporting friends through loss. The goal of the book is to help empower military spouses to see themselves as vital contributors to their families and communities, rather than simply as accessories to their service member's career.


Marriage: Finding Support in Each Other


Ashley and her husband, Tim, have been married for nearly 17 years, and they have continued to support and learn from each other over 12 moves and having 4 kids. Just last year, Ashley gave birth to her youngest daughter Finley, who was diagnosed with Down Syndrome before she was even born. 

At first, she was devastated and worried mainly because she did not understand how that would impact their lives and was intimidated by the unknown. She called her husband to explain what was happening and he was supportive and positive from the very beginning. His comfort was encouraging as they both began to learn more about the community of families and parents who are connected and supportive of those with Down Syndrome. 

The couple's experiences have also taught them the value of taking turns being each other's rock during difficult times. Every relationship is also a partnership. To make things work in hard times, you need to be willing to work together and help one another. When one spouse is struggling, the other steps up to provide strength and support, and vice versa. This give-and-take has been essential to their marriage's resilience and growth and has helped them build each other up and work to support their family together.


Down Syndrome: Embracing the Unexpected


Finley has been the glue to their family. With a special spirit, and a special place in their lives. She brings joy and light into their lives in ways they could not have imagined without her. Seeing how Finley brings their family together is something Ashely has come to embrace and cherish.

Not only that, there are so many out there looking for opportunities to share with others about their experiences with Down Syndrome. Getting connected with the North Carolina Down Syndrome Alliance and living next to one of the best children’s hospitals in the US put them in a place where they could take the time to learn about what it means for a child to have Down Syndrome, and what it means for the caretaker. This blessing has helped them learn and better understand what life has in store for them and their families.

Sharing her experiences and talking with others helps her break down stereotypes and misconceptions about Down syndrome and inspire others to stand strong through the unexpected with love and faith. 


Helping Others: Building Community and Connection


Sharing resources and stories helps others feel like they are not alone, and there are places they can go to get help. A theme in Ashley's life is the importance of community in overcoming life's challenges. Whether it is the military community, the special abilities community, or simply the network of friends and neighbors that surround her, having a strong support system is essential to thriving in difficult times.

She has felt a calling to get involved and reach out to others in all the ways that she can. Community brings a sense of oneness and a sense of companionship to people going through struggles and individuals who really want to help others. It is hard to ask for help, it is hard to find time to reach out in the craziness of life, so in choosing to get involved in these communities, she has been able to grow and see different ways she can help, inspire, and support others as she continues to learn more about Down Syndrome. 

She has had the opportunity to help and be helped. Some of the ways she has found that make the biggest difference to her include:

  • Being mentored by other moms who have recently received a Down syndrome diagnosis for their child
  • Contributing to organizations that provide resources and support for families with special abilities
  • Use her platform to raise awareness and funds for important causes

Reach Out: You Can Make a Difference


Ashley’s story is a powerful reminder that life's greatest challenges can also be our greatest opportunities to find growth and purpose. Through her experiences as a military spouse, mother to a child with Down syndrome, and advocate for her communities, Ashley has learned the importance of resilience, faith, and connection.

To those who may be facing unexpected challenges or feeling overwhelmed by the demands of military life or special abilities parenting, Ashley's message is clear: you are not alone. By reaching out for help, embracing your unique calling, and actively seeking ways to serve and support others, you can find joy and purpose in even the most uncertain of times. And you are never alone and you are not the only one who feels that way when facing challenges. 

So take a moment today to reflect on your own journey. Use your experiences, both the triumphs and the struggles, to make a positive impact on those around you. How can you build a stronger, more supportive community for yourself and others? By taking small steps each day to connect, serve, and grow, you can transform life's challenges into opportunities for profound personal and collective transformations that allow you to love others in different and better ways. 

Here are some ways to start getting involved: 

  1. Connecting with local organizations that support families with special abilities
  2. Offering to be a mentor or resource for others who are facing similar challenges
  3. Participating in fundraisers or awareness campaigns for causes that are close to your heart
  4. Simply reaching out to friends and neighbors who may be struggling and offering a listening ear or helping hand

Thank you for supporting Conquering Your Clownfish. If you are interested in learning more about us and what we do, please visit our website at ConqueringYourClownfish.com.

If you would like to learn more about Ashley Ashcraft and her journey as a mother and military spouse, you can find her here: 

@ashleyashcraftwrites  

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