Saturday, May 27, 2017

Dusting off the Blog

I know it's been 3 years...I've decided to dust off the blog and "pick up the pen" again..a lot has happened in 3 years and I'm not sure if I'll go back and detail everything that's happened, but it's just life. It's been a long season full of change, growth, struggles, joys- you know real life. God has really been urging me to start writing again and now I'm finally making myself do it. 

I just turned 36 and I realized that it was exactly 18 years ago I was graduating high school. Boy, has time flown! So I thought that I would write a letter to my 18 year old self..this was so much fun and eye opening to see all that God has done and shown me. So here goes. :) 

Dear Ashley, 
You're 18 and the whole world is ahead of you. Graduation has come and gone and college is right around the corner. You have big dreams and plans for your life, but life is going to turn out nothing like those plans and dreams- but trust me- it's better than you could have imagined. They are God's plans for your life- not yours. Not long after starting college, you will experience grief and loss unlike anything you imagined and it will change those plans and dreams forever. This will lead you on a journey to loving the Lord with your whole heart, experiencing Him in ways that your own, to finding fulfillment in Him alone. 

You will survive college, I promise (even though you aren't so sure after that first week.) While you won't leave with a ring and Mr. Right, you will leave with friendships that will last a lifetime, a love for missions, a faith that is all your own, memories that will last forever, and a summer missions experience in Arkansas that involved lice and setting the stage for your love of adoption and foster care. You'll survive graduate school, even though you think it will kill you. You surprise yourself and everyone around you when you pack up and move 200 miles away for your first job- and end up staying in that area. You get your first job and realize you hate it. Then through a series of events, you end up with your dream job- at a place where you dreamed of working as a child. The job is hard but you grow so much. You learn that it isn't just a job, it's a calling. 

You discover community and the importance of it. You navigate finding a church home and finding community. You go on a lot of really bad blind dates and question if your friends really like you or even know you because of those dates. You want to be married but are convinced it won't be until you're 80. You begin to find contentment in being single and really live life. You will travel to Croatia with 6 weeks notice and this starts the season of really living life. That trip changed you. You will meet a guy who will later break your heart but it was a huge growth experience for contentment. 

You pass your LCSW (praise the Lord!), buy a house and really begin to live. Then turning 30 comes- what a year this will be. You get a tattoo, travel to Rwanda, Brazil and Haiti. You sit in an orphanage in Rwanda and rock a little boy and you are ruined. You will finally give in to your best friend's urging for you give to online dating one more try. You are on it 3 days and then you will meet the man that you have spent your whole life praying for. You get married, inherit a camo recliner and a deer head. You question your sanity at times (really a deer head?!) Having a baby won't be easy but on your 33rd birthday, you'll become a mommy to a little boy who again ruins you. You will navigate this whole wife and mommy thing, wondering what on earth you are doing. You'll realize that ministry is not always pretty but God is faithful. You put one foot in front of the other and walk by faith and not by sight. 

you will surprise yourself with the person that you become, all that God has carried you through and the experiences you'll have ( when you are 19, you and a friend will ride a subway to see the RedSox and Yankees play- fun, but now, probably not the smartest thing to do!) But above all this, you are loved by God and His child. You are a stronger than you realize and you are enough. So hold on tight for the crazy adventure of life. You've got this! 

Ashley at 36

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

My Birthday

Sunday was my birthday. What a day this was!! We woke up and had breakfast in the hotel, as we waited for our attorney to call to let us know about discharge. She called and found out that it would be much later that day- more like late afternoon. 

I was a nervous bundle of energy. There was no way I just could just sit and wait. David, on the other hand, as usual, was his calm and collected self. We decided that we would find a church nearby and attend services, get lunch and then wait to go the hospital. 

We went to First Baptist Church Kenner and went in to find our seats. We obviously looked like visitors- we didn't want to "steal someone's seat" - it's a Baptist thing! We were met by a lady, Christie, who looked to be about our age. We sat with her and her husband and told them why we were here. Another adoption connection was made! 

I looked at the order of service and saw the songs- "Lord Most High" and "Great is Thy Faithfulness." How fitting, but I knew I wouldn't make it through worship without crying. I was right. But it was such a sweet time of praising my Father for all that He had done and answering our prayers. I was constantly checking my phone to see if Lisa, our attorney had called or texted. She called just before it was over to tell me that we needed to be there at 12:30 instead of 4:00! After church, we left and went straight to the hospital. 

I was really about to throw up. This whole time, I was "cautiously optimistic." Literally, holding my breath for four days until all was signed. But at least for now, we were going to get him. We got to the hospital and installed the car seat (it was just in the car- I told you- no time to prepare.) Lisa was waiting for us in the room and we got settled in as we waited for discharge instructions. The nurse came in and talked to us- giving us our discharge instructions. We got ready to go and David and Lisa went downstairs to pull the car around and get everything loaded up. 

We were waiting for transportation- which took sweet forever. But looking back, this was a blessing in disguise. The delay gave S and I some time to just talk- the two of us. It was relaxed, just two friends talking. I'll treasure that forever. Finally, the nurse came to get us and we went downstairs. We said goodbye- such a priceless, surreal moment and went our separate ways. We drove the hotel- with a baby. It was so funny because we hadn't told our extended family yet- just our parents. Family members were calling to tell me happy birthday and I was having to "lie" about where we were. Again, we were holding our breath. 

We got food (finally!) and I fed Matthew. We all took naps and then David went and got us frosty's from Wendy's- my birthday cake. We just talked to him, stared at him, loved on him- for however long he would be ours. 

It was still so surreal- we had a baby in the room with us! We just took it all in, soaking up every little sweet sound. We just held him and talked to him- told him we were mommy and daddy. He tried to figure out who we were, where he was, why I didn't sound like his birth mom- it was the strangest, yet heartbreaking thing. Let me tell you this first hand- no matter how young a baby is when they go to an adoptive family, they grieve the loss of their birth family. For nine months, she kept him safe inside her, he heard her voice, heard her heartbeat, she gave him life. Then all of a sudden, he's in a totally new environment and she's not there. I just kept telling him how much he was loved and how safe he was, that we were mom and dad and that we were going to take care of him. Slowly, the look of fear and confusion melted away into peaceful sleep.

He did pretty good during the night. We got up the next morning to head to Baker to stay at my parents to wait out signing. The attorney wanted us to be close by in case we needed to come back for anything. S would sign later that day.

Next- meeting the family. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Meeting our son and birthmom

I almost passed out when we got off the elevator at the hospital. No, seriously- felt lightheaded and dizzy. I took a few deep breaths and then we walked down the maze of the hallway to her room. The social worker talked to us about how her meetings with S had gone, some of her fears, and just some "tips" to make the visit go smoothly.

We walked in and there they were. Our birthmom is precious and just so sweet and kind. She wasn't at all what I had pictured in my mind. Now, remember I work in adoptions and I've seen birth moms from all walks of life and some situations have just been plain crazy. We just sat and visited with her  and the social worker. We talked about the type of contact in the future and what she desired, what we desired, how we were all feeling about this. The social worker was amazing- she made us both at ease and really just lead the conversation. I held him briefly and then we left to go buy a few things. We made plans to be back at 6:00 for the feeding. 

Remember, all we had was a diaper bag and a car seat!! I'm so thankful that I thought to buy one a few weeks earlier in the event we had a "stork drop." We went to Baby Depot and bought a pack and play, some bottles and outfits. We made a trip to Walmart to get a few other things. I had a "mini melt down" in the baby aisle and called my mom- I couldn't believe this was really happening and I had no clue what I was doing. We picked up supper for S and then headed back to the hospital to feed him. 

This time, it was just the three of us and Matthew. I was able to attempt to feed him (he wasn't real interested!) and we just talked some more. She told us about the birth father, about her plans for the future, just some things we'll treasure. Again, we didn't stay long. 

We left and checked into the hotel. By this point, we were exhausted and hungry. We love New Orleans but were not going to venture into the city. There was a seafood restaurant across the street from the hotel. It was also my birthday the next day- so we celebrated my birthday and our last night as the two of us. We ordered alligator egg rolls, stuffed shrimp and the best cheesecake for dessert. 

We went back to the hotel and set up the pack and play, packed our diaper bag and just crashed. We knew he would likely be discharged the next day (Happy birthday to me!) so we weren't sure of the time. We slept well- we had a big day the next day. 

The Drive

Our last photo as a family of 2

I barely slept the night before. I got up at 5:30 to pack our bags and surprisingly, didn't forget too many things. All we had for baby was the diaper bag and car seat. We stopped by the church to drop a few things from the night before and then were on the road a little by 7:00. The drive felt like it was the longest drive ever. We were about to meet our son and our birthmother. What she like us? Would she change her mind? Is this really happening? 

Most of the drive was filled with me making phone calls to my mom, calls to and from the social worker and our attorney, plus to a few people that knew what was going on, and one phone call in particular to a friend who just had a "stork drop" situation about 4 weeks prior- same hospital and everything! I had no idea what to buy, what we needed, how this was going to turn out. 

We finally made it to the hospital about 2:15. We called the social worker and let her know we were here. 

Up next: Meeting Our son and birthmom

Friday, May 30, 2014

Our Journey to Matthew

Wow- it's been a week since we got "the call'! It's been a busy week- but time has flown by. I want to document our journey to Matthew. I won't be sharing specific details of his birth mom, birth father, birth, etc- it's Matthew's story and as his parents, we are the story keeper until he is old enough to decide who he wants to share it with. 

This will likely be a series of posts, but I really want to document it because it is such a God story. 

Let me just say that the week leading up to getting the call about Matthew was probably one of the lowest and worst weeks of our adoption journey- for both David and I. Emotionally exhausting, defeated, feeling like it was one more bump, one more delay in getting our child home. I'm not going to go into it, but it was a series of events that were just rough. 

Earlier in the week, I had gotten a call from an attorney/colleague who knew we were adopting. She told me about a birth mom she was meeting with that weekend and who was due in a few weeks. She asked if we were interested in being presented and we said yes. 

Friday, May 24- 
I had just pulled up to the church with pizza for our youth bash when my attorney friend called. She asked if I was by myself and then I needed to get David here with me. Well, he was in the middle of getting things ready so it was just me. She told me of a completely different situation- one that she felt certain was "it" for us. A baby boy had been born earlier that day in New Orleans and his birth mom wanted to choose an adoption plan. In the adoption community, this is a "stork drop"- where no adoption plan has been made prior to birth. She gave the details and told us that we would likely have to be in New Orleans by tomorrow morning. Everything she was telling me sounded good. I needed to talk to David and let her know very soon if we wanted to be presented to birth mom. 

The next hour or so was a blur- trying to talk to David about everything while we're at the youth event. I spoke to my friend again, then to the social worker who met with the birth mom. About two hours later, I was on the phone with our son's birth mother, S. It was a very surreal, out of body experience. I  shared with her a little about us and our journey to adoption. She told me why she was choosing adoption and that she wanted him to be raised in a Christian home with a family who would love him and give him what he needed. We made plans to leave first thing in the morning. 

Meanwhile, we were showing the movie "Facing the Giants" - how appropriate for what was about to happen! Especially at the end, where Coach Taylor finds out he's going to be a daddy- after he and his wife faced infertility. This was the biggest leap of faith we had ever taken together as a couple. But it just seemed the right thing to do. We both had no idea how it would turn out. We said from the beginning of our adoption journey, that we would walk through every door until it closes. 

We got home late- around 10:30. I'm trying to think of what all we need to pack, David is trying to sleep to get ready for the long drive. I couldn't sleep at all. I was up and down- thinking surely this is not really happening. We could be soon be parents. 

Next: the Drive/Meet and Greet

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Different Kind of Mother's Day

It's Mother's Day (well almost- Mother's Day Eve) and I've been thinking about this day all week. It's a little different for me this year. Last Mother's Day, it was just a few months after my surgery and when we were told that medical intervention was our only chance at being pregnant. I knew that by this time next year, I would either be pregnant, have a baby, or be in the middle of adoption. Honestly, either way, I thought we would have a baby by now. 

Well, it's a year later- and no baby. One unsuccessful round of Clomid, an official cause of infertility, a big move and big job change for my husband and we're finally in the midst of the adoption process. It's been a bit slower (okay, a lot!) than I had wanted it to be, or where I thought I would be at this point. 

Yesterday, we celebrated the life of David's grandmother. She went to be with Jesus last week at age 85. She was so excited about our adoption process and was constantly asking about when the baby was coming home. Honestly, she wanted nothing more than to see her first great grandchild. Last week, she asked about the baby's name, which we were able to tell her. She also gave us this little bunny rabbit that sings a song about Jelly Beans to put in the baby's room. One of the last things she told David and I was to "take care of that baby and bring them home." David preached part of the funeral and it was beautiful. I did okay until he started talking about the baby and how excited she was- which then caused me to bawl my way through singing "Amazing Grace." David assured her before she passed away that our baby would know about her and we would take care of them. 

I had this realization last week about Mother's Day. It wasn't anything huge or profound but it gave me a bit of hope. I realized that I already am someone's mother. They just don't know it yet.
 Somewhere out there, there is a brave woman who will make the most selfless and loving decision to choose an adoption plan for her baby. I don't know if this baby is even in her womb yet, but God knows exactly when this baby will be born. Our baby already has two mothers who love them so much- it's indescribable.

My child doesn't know that 
  • I picture in my head what the day will be like when we get the "call" 
  • that I get so overwhelmed with the love that I already have for them that it takes my breath away. 
  • that their grandparents are already talking about their "grandparent" names. :)
  • that we are praying for them and their birth family
  • that I have this picture in my head of what I think they may look like- I'll be curious to see if they look anything like this! 
  • that I never knew I could love someone so much that I've never met
  • that already in my heart, even before we've met- I love them with a mother's love. 
So I'll wait. I'll continue to get the nursery ready and drive my husband crazy with paint colors and my crazy planning- "nesting" madness. I'll cry because it seems so far away- almost out of reach. I'll pray- continuing to hold onto the hope that God has given me. I'll continue to love- love the little one who will someday (soon!) call me "Mommy."

Monday, May 5, 2014

A Sweet Gift

One of the things that I love about my work in adoption is the relationships that I get to have with my families. I tell them "We laugh together, we cry together, we pull our hair out, I talk you off of the're stuck with me long after all of this over." I love getting email updates, Christmas cards, photos, phone calls from them- to let me know how they are doing. 

About 6 years ago, I met a family who was one my of first home studies (not sure if they knew that- they were my guinea pigs!) and they took in a little boy who was 18 months old and they later adopted him at age 3. Over the two and a half years they were my "family" and then the years later, we've developed a great friendship. I get pictures, follow them on FB, talk occasionally. J is now 8 and he's growing up so fast. 

Yesterday, I got a phone call from J's mom. She said she had to share something with me but not through an email. Saturday was "National Lemonade Day" where kids are encouraged to have a lemonade stand and with their profits to do three things: Save, give and spend. I had seen pictures on FB of J's lemonade stand- it was so cute. She said that J told her that with his money, he wanted to give to an adoption ministry. She told him about David and I adopting and how I knew J and his family. She was calling to tell me that J was giving a portion of his lemonade profits to our adoption fund. I was blown away. We cried and we laughed. I couldn't believe it. I love how this little boy whose life was changed by adoption wanted to give back. This reminds me of why adoption is worth it, why doing what I do is worth it. All of the tears, uncertainty, the gift of a courageous young girl, the willingness of a family to say "yes" even when it was hard and "no" would have been easier to do. 

So the next time I pass a lemonade stand or drink a cup of lemonade, I'm reminded of the sweetest gift I received from a little boy who touched my heart in such a huge way.