Women You Should Know: Ashley Hamm

Written by: Ladyboss Lifestyle

Ashley Hamm, Co-Founder, Dear Nicu Mama

Dear Nicu Mama, is “a non-profit designed to connect, encourage and create community with past and present NICU moms.

“Your story has significance. It’s important. It could change someone’s life. If you are on the fence and feeling insecure about the questions you ask yourself: Is this enough? Am I enough? Is thing going to make an impact? It will. Your story holds significance and power. Share it.” – Ashley Hamm

Tell me about yourself.

I live in Fargo, North Dakota, with my husband Ryan, our son Silas and our fur baby Opal. My husband and I have been married for 10 years and we’ve been in Fargo for 15 years. Fargo is home.

I run Dear NICU Mama and I am wedding photographer at Floor Nine Photography. I have been photographing weddings for 10 years and stay busy in the summer and fall. I am grateful for all the amazing people I’ve had a chance to meet along the way. That’s kind of what sparked my entrepreneurial spirit and gave me the wings to fly. I’ve liked being my own boss!

Also, I love coffee! You can find me at Thunder Coffee nearly every day. It’s basically my office.

I love that you said, “Fargo is home.” Why is Fargo home to you and what aspects make you want to stay?

The people. Obviously, it’s not our winters or our long dark days, it’s definitely the people. When I moved to Fargo, I found a lot of community with our local church—that’s where I started to feel like we found home. Especially since starting a business, I found a community with the entrepreneurs in Fargo.

Fargo has a soft pillow. It’s a really great place to be. If you have a passion, give it a shot. You’ll have supporters no matter what. If it doesn’t work out, you’ll land on the soft pillow.

What is your experience on founding Dear NICU Mama and how do you serve moms today?

My son Silas is our first born and was born at 28 weeks. He’s a premature baby and it was a total surprise. His arrival was a pretty eventful delivery which led to 87 days in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

I really started to feel the isolation of what it meant to be a NICU mom. I had to be intentional to connect with other people. I didn’t know anybody else who had experienced their child being in the NICU. One day, out of nowhere, I received an Instagram message from Martha Mink, who’s the co-founder with me at Dear NICU Mama. Her Instagram message was:

“Hi, I’m Martha. I saw you had a NICU baby. Would you ever want to get coffee? No pressure. But like I just want you to know that you aren’t alone.” I think I waited only two seconds to reply. I really needed to meet with somebody who’s gone through this. We met at Starbucks and instantly connected. We say this often, but the bond between NICU sisters is instant.

Her daughter had been in the NICU, which provided me hope. When you’re in the NICU, it can feel like there’s not a light at the end of the tunnel. Normal life feels so far away. Her daughter was there in the real world, thriving like a normal kid. It hit me: our whole life isn’t going to be in the hospital, there’s hope after this experience. We continued to stay in touch. It was a fresh of breath air knowing I had someone in my corner who understood.

While I was in the NICU there was a lack of community and support. There weren’t any supportive resources online. My husband and I were going to the NICU one day, I looked over at him and said, “what if I started a nonprofit where moms wrote letters to other NICU moms? And it was called Dear NICU Mama?” He replied, “How about you wait until we’re done with the NICU and then start thinking about it?” Which was completely fair. I knew it needed to happen.

After we came home, I was pumping on the couch like a new mom does and reached out to Martha. I said, “Hey, do you want to start a nonprofit with me called Dear NICU Mama, write letters to women with children in the NICU, and do celebration photoshoots?” She was on board.

The first gathering we ever had was a celebration photo shoot. Oftentimes, when you deliver early, you don’t have those maternity photo shoots and special things planned. It was a redemption for that loss. The most powerful thing about that experience was telling each other “You’re not alone.” We’re continually sending the message: you are not alone.

From there, we started a podcast. We have social media peer support, and our mission is to bring any NICU mom out of isolation while sharing this message of hope.

Tell me about your podcast—what content are you sharing?

When you’re in the NICU, you’re focused on making sure that your baby is receiving the care that they need. Sometimes, to take that step to attend an in-person support group or leave your room is really challenging. We asked ourselves, “What is the way we can provide support for NICU moms, exactly where they are?”

We have NICU moms who listen from the NICU, moms doing kangaroo care while holding their children, or moms that have been out of the NICU for 20-30 years.

The other thing we wanted to do is to offer access to recover from the trauma. Mental health specialists and maternal health specialists who are experts in these fields, talk about resources and healing. We also have moms come on and share their stories, too.

Are there ways to get involved in NICU Mama?

We started to up our Mother’s Day and holiday outreach that we do with our hospitals. We have a volunteer program where we assemble kits of Mother’s Day cards and holiday cards for NICU moms across the nation. Last year we served over 45,000 moms in the nation. To spread the word, we have the Walking Letter of Hope Collection. The front of the merch is Dear NICU Mama, and the back is a letter. Our hope is that any person wearing that would be a walking letter of hope for NICU Mama’s anywhere.

Join Dear NICU Mama’s community by following @dearnicumama and listen to their podcast called Dear NICU Mama.

You are not alone!

Facebook: /dearnicumama
Instagram: dearnicumama

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