Generational Shame by Ashleigh Smith

I’ve been wanting to write about this subject with everything I’ve been seeing in the news lately, but have been scared of judgement…even from the readers of this blog…but it has kept me up at night recently, so I guess that’s the final push forward I needed to speak my truth.

I’m serving a sentence for 2nd degree murder, 18-50 years, for the death of my stillborn daughter. Now I know that sentence reads weird. Hey I’ve always thought it sounded strange since the first time I read it in the local paper…but this isn’t a woe is me. Let me tell you everything that’s wrong with my case type of story. It’s just relevant, so I’m giving you background.

I was 22 years old when this happened, a full grown adult, right? But, because of the things I had been taught growing up, that I hadn’t yet been able to untangle in my heart and head, I thought being pregnant was WRONG. That I was disappointing my Dad and the rest of my family. That I was a bad person. So I didn’t tell anyone. Sometimes when I think back on that time in my life I think I had almost managed to hide it from myself, crazy as that sounds. So when tragedy struck in the form of a placental abruption, it wasn’t hard to take on that mantle of blame, to eventually be worn down into accepting that I in fact was at fault/guilty when they heaped it on me. I’ve just managed to speak my truth in recent years, and it’s still hard.

There’s a lot of women in here for charges that have to do with the death of their children; it’s sad, simple fact of life. The number will only grow at an alarming rate with abortion bans, birth control controversy, and an all around fuck you to women’s rights that is happening in every state’s judicial system at one level or another right now.

I correlate these two things together because earlier when I explained how I hadn’t been able to shake the feeling that I was “bad” for being pregnant, at 22 YEARS OLD, because of my upbringing, I think about how many young women in the coming years will be ashamed to even mention birth control. They’ll inevitably become pregnant, and we all know scared young kids don’t make carefully thought out decisions. It makes me sad, how many families will be shattered because of shame. The careful shaming that is going on for the very idea that a woman should be able to make her own reproductive decisions.

Where have we gone wrong as a society where we are more concerned with the rights and freedoms of any ethnic or cultural minority, the proper pronouns being used for how any human person identifies, but we’re not seeing the awful shameful way we are ripping the most basic human rights from half of our society. The government has the right to tell everyone’s Mother, Sister, Daughter, Aunt, Wife, all of us,  what we can do with our bodies for not just 1 or 2 year but decades of our lives? How is that equal and fair treatment for all?

I grew up in an environment where I was able to go to the health department, without my parents’ knowledge, at the age of 16 and get contraception This was incredibly hard to do because I felt the stigma attached from my family that I shouldn’t even be thinking about sex, but I was able to. Why is nobody thinking about what’s going to happen to all these teenage girls being told through the court systems and media that the want for birth control or any reproductive knowledge or choice is inherently bad? They’re not going to be celibate until marriage, get married, have the perfect amount of babies, and then never have sex again until menopause kicks in. No, they’re going to make bad decisions, get scared, make more bad decisions and end up in prison; not because they’re criminals, but because a crime occurred. And believe me there is a difference.

This is a huge, giant, ugly burning building that everyone is looking at and walking on down the street. Not enough attention is being paid to it. Look back at history. Even with the women’s rights movement there was still a struggle. We’ve now in one fell swoop taken all our girls backward decades. A 13 year old girl growing up right now has a tough road ahead of her, depending upon what state she lives in. The choices the 65 year old men in charge of her basic civil liberties now choose to make for her determine just how tough it will be. Why do we want that for anybody? We’ve stood up as a nation against so many different types of bigotry, and if not completely overcome, at least put out the fire and let it be known that this will not stand here. We have to stand for every girl who is too scared to speak up because the end of the road for scared girls ends here, I know from experience.

Ashleigh Smith
Women’s Huron Valley Correctional (MI)

Read Ashleigh’s previous post “The First Year Without My Dad” I began lettersfromchristopher in 2019 to draw attention to the plight of America’s incarcerated. Thank you to all of you for following week after week. Please share these posts with others.

10 thoughts on “Generational Shame by Ashleigh Smith

  1. Jen Canfield

    Thank you for your courage sharing this. May you find peace somehow and know folks out here do care about your story.

  2. The Supreme Court decision will affect our daughters in ways every mother tries to protect them from. This woman’s story should worry every mother reading this. When our children feel that they must hide their situation or suffer quietly because the law of the land leaves them with bad options, what have we become? Where parents are no longer allowed to choose or when a girl must live beneath the weight of a bad decision? Ms. Smith’s courage to tell her story and show how tragedy will be borne from the decisions made by a court overturning a precedence that has long helped a generation of women should be listened to.

    Tragedy has many forms and sometimes it’s imposed on others by those who have no business making the decisions that they do. This is one of those decisions. A woman’s right to decide her reproductive health should be left to women to decide. Not some court.

  3. christopherm001

    Thank you Ashleigh for having the strength to tell your story. I am inspired by the courage of those who are willing to make themselves vulnerable and open to scrutiny and criticism, in the pursuit of helping others.

    🗝️Read more of Ashleighs posts by searching “Ashleigh” in the search bar at the top of this page.

  4. travisanderson011

    I hope you are able to get out someday to tell your story because there’s so much hope amidst this tragedy. I don’t comment much but I read everything posted here and I just want to say thank you for sharing.

  5. tiffanydaud

    You’re right the Supreme Court’s decision will bring tragedy to a whole generation if girls. Is anyone listening? How did we ever arrive at this moment? I’m sorry for your loss Ashleigh, it’s very sad all the way around. I hope you are able to get out someday to tell your story and help others. I read your post The First Year Without My Dad and it breaks my heart for you that you have to experience all of this. God bless you Ashleigh.✝️

  6. jaymalone01

    We live in a free society that sometimes doesn’t feel that free. It’s a slippery slope when a court can dictates what one can and cannot do with their own body. What was wrong with what was? Because a political view is more important that those in power are willing to impose it on the whole by any means?
    Ashleigh: “Why do we want that for anybody? We’ve stood up as a nation against so many different types of bigotry, and if not completely overcome, at least put out the fire and let it be known that this will not stand here. We have to stand for every girl who is too scared to speak up because the end of the road for scared girls ends here, I know from experience.”
    Sadly, she’s right. The road ends there if we fail to listen.

  7. christinewalton045

    I went through my own terrible struggle that could have easily been tragic in the ways you talk about. If it weren’t for a friend’s help when I thought I had no options I could have changed my future and found myself there with you. My family was not supportive when I needed them most, and thanks to the laws then before this decision I had options and resources to help. Your story is important, and you aren’t alone.❤️

    1. Faster Is Better

      Ashleigh, you’re right theres a big ugly burning building and people are walking on by. Someone has to call attention to it and you just did. There’s a beginning for everything, and someone has to stand up for what’s right. I hope you can gain traction with this. I’m going to share this post in a couple of forums on FB. Have you considered submitting this to the Marshall Project? If not, I encourage you to do so. Best wishes. –P.J.K.

  8. Sandra

    Ashleigh, your story is moving and I hope that it helps to prevent another tragedy for our girls.

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