The unexpected blessing


Natalie Maloy, President

You try all your life to be an adult, but somewhere along the line you realize you’ll always be that child with dreams and aspirations. Then one day you wake up to realize you’re holding your own kid. You are responsible for something, and you’re scared. Before you know it people no longer ask if you are ok?, but rather are your kids ok?.

The change happens before your eyes. So unconsciously we are grownups living in a world full of other grownups who never knew they grew up. We as a society never look into the life of a mother or as parents. We miss the opportunity to connect with adults who are living the same life as you are, with similar thoughts and emotions. It is time to tell their story too.

Six-year-old Ashley Spilsbury always wanted to be a nurse.

“I never considered anything else because all of my family were nurses besides my mom,” she said.

In came to the point where Spilsbury and her cousins would fake heart attacks and call 911 until the ambulance showed up at their house.

A majority of her life she grew up on Delray Street in West Seneca. She lived with her brother Adam and her parents who were married. Spilsbury was closer to her dad at a younger age. She remembers being anxious every time her dad left for work. She still to this day carries a scanner around with her and looks out for trucks. She explained the situation as built into her personality. As we continued the interview she heard a fire truck siren and immediately stood up with no explanation and looked for the truck. Although Spilsbury hasn’t spoken to her dad in six years she still remembers. She explained the gaps in communication were because of dilemmas of their own.

(Pictured: Spilsbury and her dad)

Spilsbury was shy for a majority of her life up until high school. That could have been her niche for observation when she was younger. As a little girl she loved her aunts. She remembered sneaking on the phone to speak to one of them.

“I would take my cord that was long enough to reach my room and stay on the phone for hours with her,” she said.

The relationship between Spilsbury and her mother was rocky. When she got sick her mom would call her aunt to come comfort her.

“She would come over and cuddle and comfort me, I never had that with my mom,” she said.

At family events she always wanted to be around the adults. She explains that is where she felt a sense of belonging. Yet her one aunt thought otherwise. That aunt put the kids into a group called the “be seen and not heard club.” She laughs at that memory now.

As a child her family would take camping trips and even a vacation to Disney world when she was 8. I asked Spilsbury to tell me about the trip, but she explained that her memories didn’t make much sense to her.

“I remember walking out of the hotel room in the morning and being blasted with heat. I also remember being in the pool at nighttime and the lightning striking around me,” she said.

On one of her camping trips, she was bit by her family’s Dalmatian named Sparky.

“I don’t remember the bite, but I must have done something to provoke her,” she thought.

Sparky was gifted to her father by her mother when he was promoted to fireman chief. The Dalmatian was around 1 years old. Spilsbury was in the cabin with the dog while everyone was setting up their things. Spilsbury let out a scream, and her parents walked in to see that the dog bit her face very badly.

“That was the end of the dog,” She explained insinuatingly. “I was only left with a tiny scar that can only be seen when I cry, thankfully.”

After that trip things for her and her family took a turn. Her parents always fought. She explained not having many good memories with them. Even though her parents were married she still felt separated. She found out at the age of 12 that her parents were getting a divorce. They never told her or her brother.

“I heard it through one of their last arguments one day. My dad was screaming, ‘you can leave me, but you can’t take my kids,’” she said.

Nothing happened until about six months after that, he still lived there through those six months. She explains being too terrified to ask them about it. Spilsbury was too afraid to ask to go play outside, let alone about her parents’ divorce. She grew up with unpredictable parents and then grew up to be an unpredictable adult but with a background. She explains it is really hard to break that cycle, but she said it’s different with her own kids. She will break out in yelling and have an immediate reaction to things just like her parents did to her as a child.

“The only saving grace that makes things better is that I can admit that,” she said.

She apologizes to her daughter for depicting her past into her own parenting. Giving her daughter insight on the situation that she never got from her mom and wanted to give that to her kids.

I sat down with another West Seneca mother, Nancy Beers-Brown to collect her insight into a mother changing mindsets after having a baby while young in her 20’s.

“I have started to listen and know that following officials and doctors is not always best. Despite what others tell us. Listening to your children’s needs and wants matter,” Beers-Brown said.

Spilsbury explained being in trouble even before she was a bad kid. Nothing she did ever felt like enough and that never changed with her mother.

“I don’t remember a time in my life where I wasn’t worried about my mom coming home. I was always terrified for her to walk in the door because I never knew which side of her I would get that day,” said Spilsbury.

Time flew by and Spilsbury found herself in high school at West Seneca West. She went through all four years of high school with excellent grades and a lot of friends. Things changed her senior year. She found someone who she thought was the love of her life. Spilsbury ended up pregnant that year. She graduated high school and had her now 19-year-old son Liam a couple months later. She never planned on telling anyone until she had enough money saved.

(Spilsbury at her high school prom)

She was getting ready to go to the Taste of Buffalo one day but was laying in the sun on the deck for a few minutes before they went. Her mother walked by, and she couldn’t help herself from talking to her.

“Mom, I have to talk to you,” she said. Her mom shouted out, ‘Oh my god, don’t tell me your pregnant.’

She had no intention of telling her when she did, but it happened. Spilsbury’s mother for once managed it much better than she expected. It was one of the very few times Spilsbury’s mom stood up for her. She recollected a memory about her father and his girlfriend at the time finding out.

Her mother called her dad immediately and told him to come to the house, Spilsbury explained he was not happy at all. She said he was more worried about what other people were going to think.

Spilsbury said her father stated it was okay, it could be taken care of. Although she explained that he didn’t mean the situation, he meant the child. The father’s girlfriend yelled at her and said Spilsbury was crazy for wanting to keep the child. Spilsbury’s mother never kicked out someone so fast and stood up for her at that moment.

Later on, that girlfriend became a wife and Spilsbury’s stepmom.

“They came to the hospital when Liam was born and tried to play ‘grandparents’ after wishing him dead 9 months prior,” she said.

She raised him by herself for most of the time, Liam’s dad was rarely around. By the time she was 20 Liam never saw his dad again.

“I had to be ok for him, ya know,” Spilsbury said.

I asked but what about you? And she didn’t know how to answer. Her entire mind-set had changed the moment Liam was born. It was no longer “Am I ok?” It was “Is Liam ok?”

The other West Seneca mother explained how her mindset also changed when she realized she was pregnant.

“Twenty years old. One decision changed the entire course of my life. The moment of birth I knew my life choices are more important now than ever. I now am not the only one to suffer the consequences of my actions. My dreams are not relevant anymore. My child’s dreams are,” said Beers-Brown.

Beers-Brown explained her mindset changed, but so did her protective tendencies.

“The world is full of ugly, and I feel I have had to be a shield against every person in my child’s life, so they don’t destroy their future, your instincts are the voice of God,” she said.

High school was when Spilsbury’s drinking problem began, she explains by the age of 21 she was a daily drinker. She didn’t want to blame her family, but that was what she saw growing up.

“I own all of it,” she voiced.

Spilsbury considered her family functioning alcoholics. It was normal for her to see. But she was doing ok for a while and being her own type of functioning alcoholic. She went to college at ECC for her general studies in January of 2002 for a year after having her son. She ended up dropping out as her alcohol addiction got really bad. She tried again and went back to school at Trocaire college in 2007. All through college her lowest grade point average was 3.7. At her time at Trocaire College, she was working at Mercy Hospital as a secretary and training on the job to become a licensed nurse practitioner. Spilsbury loved it and felt like she was finally doing it for herself, but she began to make bad decisions around that time.

(Pictured: Spilsbury (On the right) and her co-worker at Mercy Hospital on the job)

“I remember having my water bottle full of vodka sitting on my desk while doctors were feet away,” Spilsbury remembered.

In 2009 she dropped out again with only one semester left, and ended up in rehab for two years. Unfortunately, it’s been over 10 years since she dropped out of college and going back would mean starting school all over again.

“I wanted to go back, I just got lost, I had everything going for me, but things just got so…,” said Spilsbury.

In rehab she fell madly in love with a man named Arnoldo. He is the father of her four girls: Lalia, Ava, Izzie, and her Angel Baby (child lost too soon) , as well as her son, Giovanni.

She really loved Arnoldo, but he changed. He was the reason she was kicked out of rehab. It was after Arnoldo left the rehab center she went crazy over him not being there anymore. Spilsbury would constantly call everywhere where he could be. The whole rehab group knew how in love she was with him.

After being kicked out of rehab, Spilsbury and Arnoldo found each other and moved in together with their kids, but he left to get a lighter at 7-11 and never came back. She at the time was five months pregnant with Izzie, her youngest.

“I would have done anything to make it work with him, I really loved him,” Spilsbury recalled.

She was by herself for a little while after that. This was when her addiction got the worst it had been, and she lost her children to foster care. She went through many courts and long-term rehabs to get them back, but it took too long.
The foster parents wanted to adopt her kids because they loved them as much as Spilsbury did. Lalia at the time was old enough to remember her mom and decided she wanted to go back to live with her. As for her other kids, she was to either go to court, which didn’t look good, or give up all parental rights for Ava and Izzie.
She cried as she talked about her kids. She still has phone calls with them but it’s not enough as their mother. Spilsbury is doing well right now she sees her son, Liam, every now and then and lives with her daughter Lalia who is 10 and Giovanni who is 5. Talking with her I have seen how strong of a women she is despite her past.

Both Spilsbury and Beers-Brown feel the same way. Becoming pregnant young is a life decision, but both of them had no doubt about their choice when they found out. Each mother realized they had to change who they were for their kids. One of the mothers may have realized somewhat later than the other, but we are all children at heart who grew up wanting to be an adult.