fearfully and wonderfully made {my daughter’s cleft lip & palate}

In May of 2011, we were in the initial stages of paperwork to begin an open domestic adoption. And then my friend sent me a picture of her little girl. I found myself staring at the computer screen. Captivated by my friend’s daughter. A healthy baby girl with a cleft lip and palate. And in that moment I knew ~ I had a daughter in China and she had a cleft lip and cleft palate.

I knew it in the deepest parts of me. The parts you don’t tell anyone, you just tuck it away.

A little secret between me and God – we knew.

In June 2011, Chris and I changed plans and began the paperwork to pursue a ‘special needs’ adoption from China. There is a medical checklist that has about 100 things you must select if you are willing to accept in a child or not. We filled it out. We selected box after box of medical needs we were ‘open’ to (what a horrible process that I am not even going to get into here). But in my heart I knew it didn’t matter what we did or did not select. We had a daughter in China with a cleft lip and palate. That same month a beautiful baby girl was born in southern China with a cleft lip and palate.

For reasons I don’t know, very shortly after her birth she was placed in the care of the county orphanage. Her family experienced tremendous loss.

8 months later at 8:50pm on a Monday night, we received an email from our agency stating we had been matched with a child.  We opened the first photo to see a gorgeous baby girl. There she was – our daughter. And in that moment, Chris knew the secret God and I had been keeping. We had a daughter in China with a cleft lip and cleft palate.

I am already fiercely wild for her. And when it comes to her cleft lip and palate – well, I am both protective and defensive of the wonderfully perfect way she was created in the womb of the mom that gave her the gift of life. One day she’ll be a bit older. She’ll understand that her lips and palate were created a bit differently. I do not know how she will feel about being born with a cleft when that day comes. But, I do know how I feel. She is captivating. She is beauty. She is wonderfully and perfectly made and a week from today I get to kiss those lips.

My daughter was born with a cleft lip and palate. It is part of who she is. While it does not define her, it is part of the symphony being written in her life.

As we have shared her photos with friends and family, we have received numerous questions related to her cleft lip & palate. I have debated over and over for months how I want to address those questions publicly. Ultimately, I have decided to do it here – today. Next week she will be in my arms and I just don’t think I’m going to want to be answering a bunch of questions at that time.

So this is kind of my day to both give you a little more of an introduction to my daughter, answer some common questions and then I’m going to move on in regards to talking about her cleft on my blog much. I will probably link to this post for a while once she is in my arms, as a way to answer questions without having to daily answer questions. I understand that for many people a cleft lip and cleft palate are a bit of an unknown. I get that. I was there once too. For the most part, I am happy to answer your questions (if I know the answer). So feel free to ask in the comment section, but please know I might be a bit slow to answer.

Some of the most common questions we are asked:

What is a cleft lip and cleft palate? What causes it?

Well, this one I am going to leave to WebMD…here is a brief definition:

“Cleft lip and cleft palate are facial and oral malformations that occur very early in pregnancy, while the baby is developing inside the mother. Clefting results when there is not enough tissue in the mouth or lip area, and the tissue that is available does not join together properly. A cleft lip is a physical split or separation of the two sides of the upper lip and appears as a narrow opening or gap in the skin of the upper lip. This separation often extends beyond the base of the nose and includes the bones of the upper jaw and/or upper gum. A cleft palate is a split or opening in the roof of the mouth. A cleft palate can involve the hard palate (the bony front portion of the roof of the mouth), and/or the soft palate (the soft back portion of the roof of the mouth).”

Our daughter has a right unilateral cleft lip and palate

8.12cleft

illustration from KidsHealth.org

Can she speak?

Well, she is only 14 months old…so not really. We aren’t sure at this point what kind of sounds or words she is saying. However, one of the huge challenges she will face will relate to speech. Most cleft affected kids spend several years in sometimes pretty intense speech therapy. Because her palate is not closed (think the roof of your mouth open into the nasal area), she is unable to make certain sounds. Until her palate is repaired (which won’t be for probably 6-9 months), there are just certain sounds she cannot physically make. This will delay her speech and she will face some hurdles learning to make those sounds. We will most likely take advantage of using sign language with her for a while.

 How does she eat?

Well, at this point I don’t really know! I will have to figure that out in the coming week(s). My friend Angie has been an invaluable resource. I’ve also done a lot of studying and reading online. Right now she has only had a combination of formula and rice cereal. Like any baby, once she is introduced to other foods she can eat just about anything. There are a few challenges that go with eating with a cleft lip and palate, but nothing that we can’t tackle together. Because of the cleft she is unable to suck, so we have some special bottles that she can chomp down on to get liquids out. There is a learning curve we will face together, but I’m confident we’ll figure things out.

8.12medela-01

Why wasn’t her cleft lip and palate repaired before the adoption?

Though many children in orphanages are able to have their clefts repaired prior to adoption, many are not. Usually it depends on the location of the orphanage and the amount of outside help (like from non-profits such as Love Without Boundaries). Our daughter is in a very rural area and it is not common for children to receive extensive medical care like a cleft repair. However, the day after we were matched with our Little One, we did formally request that her cleft lip and palate not be repaired. The surgeries and recovery involved are a big deal. Not every adoptive family has the ability or opportunity to do cleft surgeries post-adoption. We do have the means for that to happen, so it was our preference that she be home with us before she endures any surgeries.

How soon will she have her surgeries?

We will wait at least three months before she has her first surgery. Our first priority when she arrives home is not surgery. Our daughter will face a great deal of loss, trauma and grief in the coming weeks and months. She will be leaving the only home she has ever known and the only people she has ever known. She can’t see the big picture – she is a baby. We want her to have time to begin healing emotionally. We want her to know security and love. We want her to be ‘home’ physically and emotionally before she endures surgery. We will not initially know how to comfort and soothe her. We want time as a family to bond and attach before she undergoes more trauma in the form of a surgery.

Our daughter will most likely have a minimum of 5 surgeries over the course of her life. She will have 2 surgeries during her first year home. Another surgery around age 5. Another around age 8. And another one around age 16. And that is often the minimum. Many times more surgeries are required. For most of her growing years she will regularly see a team comprised of a surgeon, ENT, dentist, orthodontist, and speech therapist. Though surgical corrections of her cleft lip and palate are necessary for her long term health – we, along with her surgeon, want her to have time to get overall healthy before we begin treatment.

Amber teething necklace…hoping this will help with some post-surgery comfort

(and it’s cute…and her Chinese name means “amber”…so that is extra fun)
8.12amber-1

Those are the main questions that are coming to my mind right now. I am sure there are more. Maybe I am missing a few, but you are welcome to ask them in the comment section. And, I will point out, I am still learning all this too. I have so many of my own questions and I am so thankful for other parents who have shared their knowledge with me.

For those of you that have been reading my blog regularly for the last several months, I am sure this post comes as no surprise.  I also know it is a little mean not to share a photo today, but I really want to wait until she is in my arms.

So…next Monday, get ready meet my Little One!!!!

Oh my goodness – next Monday!

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  • Jocelyn - Thanks for sharing this. Your story is really touching and beautiful. Thanks for sharing these intimate thoughts on how God has been sewing your heart to this precious baby that you’ve never met. It is incredible what God will do with a willing heart. i love it!

  • emmybrown - I wake up every morning excited that you are one day closer!!!! NEXT MONDAY!!!

  • Whitney - I am SO excited for you! And I can’t wait to see a picture of your beautiful daughter. I can’t imagine the emotions you are going through this week, but I love this story and I am thankful you are sharing it with us.

  • Erin - This is one of my favorite entries so far! I can’t wait to see your gorgeous daughter. There is nothing like unconditional love that can bring healing to the deepest of wounds. May she be one of the most precious gifts God has given to you : )

  • Katie R. - Oh Ashely, I’m so excited for you to be with her in a week! She is already one blessed and loved little lady. And surely with such a great family and the knowledge of her Savior she’ll never question her beauty!!!!

  • erin c. - Thank you so much for this post! My husband and I long to adopt from China. We are hoping the Lord will give us peace to start the process sometime in the coming year! We are open to adopting a sweet baby with a clept lip/palate. Like you, I feel the Lord has placed it in my heart that our sweet little one will have this “special need”. Thank you because I can show my husband this post for more information. I cannot wait to see your little one. Cleft lip smiles are beautiful! :)

  • RachelC - Beautifully written. Love the secret between you and God. Love your girl. Cannot WAIT to meet her. It’s all I’ve been thinking about. I can’t imagine how you are feeling.

  • Carmen - Oh Ashley, we can’t wait to meet your beautiful and wonderfully made girl!

  • mandi@herbanhomestead - Next Monday!!! A week from today! How exciting Ashley! I love what you had to say about surgery not being your first priority. How she has been fearfully and wonderfully made. Love that.

  • Kristin S - Weepy weepy weepy. Your perspective is so refreshing. She is blessed and I can’t wait to see what God does in and through you and your entire family through this family addition.

    Fearfully and wonderfully made!

  • dee - All I can say is you and your family are very special people to undergo this journey.All the best for next Monday and I will (as I know many others will be doing the same ) be saying a prayer for you all.love dee

  • Christy - So happy for you. This warms my heart on every level and I can’t think of a luckier little girl. Thank you so much for sharing this journey with all of us. I hope you understand the magnitude of your impact… you are truly an inspiration.

  • Ko - Thank you for sharing so much with us. We will continue in prayer for your entire family. And it’s not mean in the least when it comes to not sharing her picture. Your her momma, you do what you think is best and when you do share her picture I’m certain keyboards across the country are going to short-circuit from all the tears that will be spilling onto them!

  • Leila - Ashley, I really admire how you handle things and how you express yourself. You walk the line between too little and too much, and you always radiate charity.
    Blogging is a challenge, because you have things you want to share, and you feel people’s good will, but you don’t want to give in to sheer curiosity. You have to protect some things. But then, people are helped when they see the struggle, met with the grace of a willing heart.
    And that’s what you do! God bless!

  • Nicole - beautiful!

    you are kinda awesome, ashley.

    go meet your girl &
    know you are surrounded by
    every kind of
    prayer imaginable!

  • Pinny - Bless your tremendous heart and your beautiful family.

  • Jane - I got goosebumps reading the story of you and your secret! Wow!! Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful journey with us. I have loved seeing how it has unfolded and love that you are selective with what you share. It is YOUR story after all.

  • kassondra - although I am a little upset I was sure there would be a picture of her here!!! but I understand your reasons and know that your pictures will be way cuter from your camera than the one from the orphanage :)

  • Leanne - Ashley – what a lovely post, and it answered a lot of questions! I am praying that this week goes so fast for you and that in a blink of an eye you are holding your Little One! I have been reading your blog for over 2 years and I am so so happy for you and your family that you will be with her so soon. Thank you for bringing such grace and (apparent) patience to the world. Sending love and prayers xo

  • Mandy @ Sugar Bee Crafts - Hi Ashley – I just wanted to let you know that you’re amazing and will do great. I was born with a cleft lip and pallet (I blogged about it here: http://www.sugarbeecrafts.com/2011/10/swap-smile.html) and I was raised not knowing I was different – I don’t have a story about how my cleft lip affect my life because it didn’t – I was just any other kid. It was just a part of who I was. Anyways, I’m really excited for you and your family!!

  • Megan - I just found your blog a couple weeks ago and have not commented. But I read this and felt the need to comment. I was born with cleft lip and palate. I’m so glad there are people in this world who have your view point, because most don’t. God bless! Can’t wait to see pictures of your sweet girl.

  • Kimber-Leigh - ashley, this post brought tears to my eyes. i am so excited for your family to be just one week away from holding your little one. thank you for your recent posts on adoption…a good friend from our church is currently in china with their new son. your posts and links have been extremely helpful to me in knowing what to expect and how to be a good & helpful friend. i’ll be praying for y’all these last few days home and next few weeks abroad.

  • Laura C - I have followed your blog forever it seems but never posted a comment. I just wanted you to know your family and your newest daughter across the world are in my prayers. Thank you for sharing your journey with such transparency. You are an inspiration.

  • Fliss - I even had a lesson there myself… stuff I never knew… cannot wait for things to move along and you get to China… soon :)

  • Lyn - Ashley, I am very excited for your family. My cousin has cleft lip/palate. It is very hard on the family. It is also amazing to see what a family can endure. I wish your daughter the best and will have her our prayers.

  • devon - i also have a right unilateral cleft lip and palate. :)
    until i was around 17 i was super self conscious of it. and then one day something just clicked and i recognized my beauty (as best as a teenager can). one thing i can say for sure that has happened in my life is i have never experienced anything but pure love and confidence boosting from my family… while i struggled with how i looked on the outside i always knew in the back of my mind someone somewhere told me i was nothing but beautiful and that gave me the drive to keep going. i know you and your family are going to do the same for your baby girl and that is Gods gift – to all of you. i have shared a little bit of all this with your friend angie weldon :) you two ladies have a piece of my heart – for your desire to love an adopted child no matter what comes – and for your love that pours out for their cleft lip and paletes. i am drawn to your stories for many reasons, some i probably will not ever know. but i feel like maybe its because as an adult who has been through it all with the surgeries and the life struggles – i can maybe offer some comfort in letting you know (also as a mother of 3 babes) that while surgeries are going to be hard for her, and life may be cruel by way of mean spirits – this little girl has so much love that will be poured on her from so many, because you made the decision to bring her home… she will have a beautiful life. and she will be okay :)

    *i also feel a little like Annelle from Steel Magnolias with my ‘simple’ way of trying to offer comfort. ha

  • Rachel C - Our precious daughter, Jane, was born with a bilateral cleft lip/palate. We adopted her just over a year ago. She is absolutely perfect in every way and I cannot imagine our lives without her. In the past year she has moved countries, joined a new family, and had major surgery. She is such a trooper and a busy active 2 1/2 year old. So, I love this post!

  • Charla - Love your hearts, so excited for your family. Prayers for safe travels!

  • valerie - Wow!
    So happy for you all! I love reading about your adoption. SAFE TRAVELS!
    One of the most special days of my life was finally getting off the plane with our son and the mass of friends and family waiting for us! My boy was so well loved before he even came home, so many had prayed and participated in his homecoming, that a whole community felt like their child came home. That love of so many has really shaped him. He is extroverted and confident!
    So happy for you all and your girl!!!

  • Nicole - I was born with a cleft palate. I had to have those same bottles and had a corrective surgery when I turned 1. I recovered quickly and didn’t have any speech issues at all. My lip wasn’t affected, but I’ve had friends who had that as well and they are also doing so so great!

    Looking forward to bawling over the posts when you finally meet this sweet angel!

  • Sarah W. - Thank you for sharing more about this.
    I’m thinking of your family often.
    Can’t wait until next Monday and hear all about it :)

  • Megan H - Not for today or next week, but I have heard wonderful things about this film – http://www.somewherebetweenmovie.com/

  • Katy - Ashley. I am always too intimidated to comment. But I had to let you know that this post brought tears of joy to my eyes. I think you are brave and strong and I think that little girl will have the most perfect mom for her.

  • Angie - Such a beautiful unconditional love you have for your Little One! God bless you so much for having such an open heart and such a capacity for love. I am very sorry your family has to endure so much medical intervention but am so thankful your Song will have her family with her through all of it. I am sure she will have the best care possible! I work for a Christian Children’s Home that deals with failed adoptions so it has warmed my heart immensely to know that you understand the loss your daughter will face upon placement in your arms and that you are preparing for the worst but praying for the best. I also love that you protect her by not sharing so much of her story. You are an amazing person and you inspire me so much. You help me to remember what is important in our day to day lives. God bless you and your family!!! Many prayers for you all!

  • Thayer - Congratulations on your beautiful little girl!

  • maggy - Hello,

    I’ve rarely comment your blogpost but I read them all!!! I love your story and specially your adoption story.
    I guess it was obvious ur lil girl have a cleft lip has u are talking so much about ( and collaborating) w/ love without boundaries ^^ !!!
    At least to me it wasnt a surprise . Its wonderful to me!!!
    She is coming to one of the best families Im sure. I admire you and your husband because this must be evrthg but easy :)!!!

    Congratz on meeting finally ur baby!! best of luck for evr chalkenges to come!!

    Magali

  • Alba - Not a surprise. You and your family are really brave.
    Petonets and my best wishes for this tough trip

  • Erica - I can’t imagine you are sleeping much these days. ONE WEEK!!! :)

  • Karen - My youngest brother was born with a left unilateral cleft lip and palate. I have always said it looked like someone took a little snip out of his upper lip. He had corrective surgery when he was 4 months old and had to be feed with a syringe for awhile. The hardest part was he had to wear splints on his arms. He was lucky and his palate was not to bad. When he got teeth it looked like one was inplanted in his gum and he has a space where it looks like he lost a toothe. He was suppose to get his nose straigtened when it finished growing but he opted out. He is 32 now and has some issues with his sinouses but in all honesty most people don’t even notice.

    He would not talk about it when he was young and would not look at pictures of himself as a newborn. When his oldest son was born he told me that was the first thing he checked. He has two little boys and neither has a cleft lip or palate.

    Sorry to hijack just wanted to share our story. Good luck with your little one and praying for safe passage for you all.

    God bless you all

  • Christi Smith - One of my best friends’ daughter was born with a cleft lip/palate. Her doctors are at OU children’s and they have done a wonderful job with the repairs.

    Can’t wait to hear of your journey to bring her home.

  • pattilouwho - I feel like I can already picture your beautiful baby girl. Big brown eyes full of curiosity and wonder, a beautifully round little face just waiting for kisses (so many kisses, she probably won’t even know what has come over her!) – she is one lucky little lady. I don’t know you, except through your blog, but I just know you are going to be the perfect family for her. And she is the perfect daughter for you. Congratulations!!

  • Sherry Eckblad - Thanks for sharing with us all today although you did not have to. It came as no shock to me that you would adopt a child of special needs as you seem to be a person with a big and open heart. Can’t wait to meet your little one in person and learn her name when you introduce us to her. I feel as if I have known her forever through your blog. You are one amazing lady and the little girl will be happy to have you as her Mom.

    p.s: your blog post always make me cry when you write about your deep love for her.

  • Jenn - I am so excited for you!

  • Edith - I don’t have any questions, I just wanted to congratulate you and your family.

  • MixedMolly - That is so crazy that it’s next Monday!! Life is about to change in a big and amazing way. Man plans his ways, but the Lord directs his steps. Can’t wait to see her beautiful face.

  • sarah j - thank you for allowing us to be even a small part of this new chapter! it is an honor. you are surrounded by prayer and a sea of excitement! we can’t wait to meet your new little one. xo

  • Maria - I bet you have never been happier for a Monday to come around!

  • Aja - ONE week!!! I am so thrilled for you guys! Can’t wait to hear all about it. I’ll be praying for a safe trip and easy transition for Little One.

  • Megan K - Hi, Ashley. I’m a firt-time commenter, long-time reader. Your adoption journey has given me chills every time you share a piece of it. Congratulations on adding to your family! My thoughts & prayers will be with you as you continue the journey!

  • tracy a - I realized over the weekend that we were down to a single digit wait. TODAY MARKS ONE WEEK!! Sister, you only have one week left to wait for your sweet girl! I am praying that God is stirring in the heart of that little girl like crazy. May Song be overwhelmed with love and peace as you scoop her up! My heart is just dying to see those pictures, of you all together. Give Chris a big Canadian hello for me! (what that sounds like, your guess is good as mine)

  • amber - So happy for y’all. Can’t wait to see her beautiful face, but especially can’t wait to see her in your arms. Yay!! Btw…lovin’ her Chinese name;). Thanks for sharing all of this. I know it’s probably not always easy…

  • Becky - I have been following your blog since the spring. I am thrilled for you!!! I am so excited for you to meet your daughter!

  • Cathy S - Ashley, I’ve been following your blog and am anxious to see holding your daughter in your arms. As a mom to two adopted from China I know the emotions you are going thru, excited, scared, happy and sad, back to excited again. I’ll be reliving our China trips vicariously thru your trip to your daughter. It’s an amazing trip, exhausting but so worth every second of the wait. Good luck on the packing, I found that very difficult, and it’s harder now since they have the weight limitations. Can’t wait until next Monday.

  • Chantelle - I am so happy for your family! What a lucky girl she is! My baby is 14 months also! We use both amber and hickory necklaces-hickory is best for inflamation I hear, great for teething! We use baby signing time, I used it with both my boys, the books and DVD’s are so parent AND kid friendly. As a teacher of 14 years a super great program that is seriously builds great language skills. I love your blog and all you do. You are so inspiring! Best wishes!

  • Angela E - Oh Ashley! Next Monday!! How exciting. It’s a big day for me too-hoping to get some answers to health issues. Knowing you’ll be with your daughter for the first time will make that day easier for me. I’m so excited for you guys. Thank you for sharing so much of your life. I love reading your posts. Thanks!

  • D. Craft - I am blessed this morning because I clicked on your blog post this morning. I’ll be saying a prayer for you and your family as you welcome this precious little secret gift next week. Peace and blessings!

  • Martina - So excited for you and your family and I can’t wait to “meet” Little One on your blog next week! I’m sure she is absolutely beautiful. Blessings to you guys. Thank you for your courage and for sharing your heart – I pray you are an inspiration to thousands and thousands of those to consider special needs adoptions.

  • Julie Robinson - Oh Ashley, I can’t wait to see her! You have brought me tears reading this. I don’t know how I’ve missed it all before now. I guess life gets in the way of things sometimes. We get wrapped up in whatever is in front of us at the moment. I just noticed your blog last week and liked it on FB. So glad I did.

    I so understand when you say “I knew it in the deepest parts of me. The parts you don’t tell anyone, you just tuck it away. A little secret between me and God – we knew.” Wow. When I read that, I was like, I know that feeling!! Those things you just keep between you and God, partly because it’s so precious and partly because you don’t want people to think your nuts! You put it into perfect words and I LOVE it. Thank you so much for sharing!!

    I will be praying for your wonderful family!! And I may just give you a hug next time I see you in Synergy;-)

    God bless you!!
    Julie Robinson

  • Carrie Holt - I feel so blessed to be able to “tag along” on your journey with you and your beautiful family! Praying for safe travels, smooth transitions, and lots of God winks in the coming weeks and months! Lots of love from my family to yours! We can’t wait to see her!!!

  • tara - cannot wait to see her beautiful smile. prayin’ for y’all.

  • Ginger - Crying tears of joy for you reading this post, it sounds as though you will all be starting a wonderful journey together & I wish you the best of luck & can’t wait to see the pictures! x

  • Lisa - Just a note to say how happy I am that your family is officially growing this week! Safe travels and best wishes. Go get your girl!!!

  • ashley - congrats! i’ve been a silent follower for YEARS + am so excited for your precious family!

    also, i do believe that we have the exact same amber necklace as you… + it had worked wonders for our 7 month old baby girl :)

    can’t wait read the posts in the next few weeks!

  • Lori - Thank you for the education. You are going to be such a great Momma and a wonderful advocate for her during the upcoming medical journey. Cannot wait for your Gotcha Day! :) Prayers.

  • Trish - so excited for you to meet your little one and hold her in your arms! as a mom with a special needs child (cerebral palsy) i can tell you have such a sweet disposition (without ever meeting you)! i follow you on IG so when i see a sweet photo of what you are thankful for i will try and remember to say a little prayer for your family during this transition time! hugs!

  • Deanna - So right! Fearfully and wonderfully made. I am giddy at the thought of you holding your girl in just one week…I can only imagine the butterflies in your stomach!! I will keep you, Chris, and your sweet kiddos (all FIVE of them!) in my prayers over the next several weeks.

  • RachaelB - My heart and prayers are with you and your growing family. I will be praying for everyone’s peace, comfort, and for the knowledge of how to best handle all the transitions. That the sorrow of transition for your daughter will be short lived but healthy, and that it will be replaced with joy unspeakable.
    Although my own daughters didn’t have physical challenges, their birth story is untraditional and I have felt the protective and defensive feelings you wrote while simultaneously being feeling an utter and overwhelming love for how they came into this world. It’s a wild mix of emotions.

    I’m so excited for the seven of you!

  • merideth a. - i cannot wait to meet your new little one. i cannot wait to see you holding her. your mother heart is so beautiful and she is a blessed baby to be added to such a loving home. good luck and safe travels to china. so excited for you!!!

  • alison - I love your heart and am so excited for you to get your daughter. Thanks for sharing your story for the rest of us to read and pray for you. Just wanted you to share with you that my mom was born with a cleft lip and palate as well here in the states. She received immediate care as in an infant, but she still underwent lots of surgeries and speech therapy. I can barely notice it now. cleft palates have a special place in my heart. i’ll be praying

  • Lisa - Can’t begin to tell you how happy I am for you and your family! With nothing more to add, I can only echo the sentiments of the previous comments. Looking forward to reading about your upcoming adventure as well as seeing pictures along the way. Best of luck and happy travels in the coming week!

  • kristin - Oh Ashley… that last section when you mention her grief and emotional healing… you are so genuine and real. And if only Little One knows what’s in store for her! Huge congrats to you guys and safe travels. Can’t wait to see her in your arms!!!

  • mel - I cannot wait to see her in your arms!! Have a safe trip! love

  • Jeanette - Ashley- thanks for sharing your heart. I’m so excited for you. Have a great trip and bring that baby home safely. I can’t wait to see pictures of her in your arms :)

  • Melissa - she is fearfully and wonderfully made! i can’t wait for you to hold her in your precious arms…enjoy every second of this special time!

  • Paige Y - Ashley, thanks for sharing that with us. I’ll be praying for you and your family when you travel and are united with your youngest daughter. I’m so very excited for you. I love your story and the fact that you are so open about it. You will probably have a surprise waiting for you for Little One when you arrive back home. Love you!

  • stacie - Wonderfully said.

  • Kim - Your ‘Little One’ is a VERY lucky little girl!! I have been reading your blog and following you through this amazing journey of adoption and am completely over the moon reading your posts!! As much as I cannot wait to see a photo of your little one, I am so happy that you are keeping your ‘little secrets’ to yourself!! I love how you think of her first, and not your blog and that people need to see her. I love reading about her, and how you and your family are preparing for her!! It is an absolute joy to read, and I am thrilled, excited, estatic for you guys!! You are on one amazing journey and the best is yet to come!!
    I love that you are waiting for her to be ‘home’ before surgery… you are what she needs!! And I am sure that little girl is going to have one amazing life with you guys!!
    Thank you for sharing so much with us!!

  • Courtney Meyer - I have read your blog for years, but this may be the first time I’ve commented. I am so happy and excited for your family and for your baby girl. Over the last few months I’ve been researching, reading and praying about special needs adoption. As much as I would love to I’m afraid it isn’t in the cards for us. I’ll live vicariously through you and keep praying for all those babies out there! Congratulations!

  • emily hh. - hello,
    this is my first time to comment, but i have been following your blog for some time. our eldest son was born with a cleft lip and palate, so “widesmile” babies have a very special place in our hearts. seeing that haberman bottle sure brings back some memories! now our son is a bright and active 9 year old. our prayers go with you as you meet your daughter for the first time!

  • Stephanie - Little One you are so Loved! My heart swells for you and your family’s incredible journey to be together.

  • Kelli - Oh Ashley, I am very eager to meet your newest little one via blog posts. I completely understand your desire to hold this time close. I appreciate the opportunity to share in little pieces of a beautifully difficult journey you are traveling. I’m just so excited for you and so moved by the way you share your life. I’ve got your travel dates and in arm dates on my calendar. I am honored to pray for you and your growing family.

  • beth - this week will be beautiful here, as fall starts showing up with baby steps and i don’t ever wish time to fly by, but i can’t wait until i see you with your new baby girl next week !

    she doesn’t know now how lucky she is, but soon she will. to be wrapped up by your and your families love, is a gift that is beyond comprehension from where she started.

    years ago, we were on our way back from hong kong and on our flight were 5 families all bringing home their new babies….it was something i will never forget. the tears, the love, the walking in the aisles to soothe upset babies…..it was all amazing !!

  • Kathie Robson - So excited to follow you on your journey to your daughter. My daughter, Maddie, is from YangXi also. She is a 7 going on 17 and excited to start 2nd grade this week! My son, Jax, is 4 and he is from Guillan City in GuangXi. Jax was also wonderfully and fearfully made with a cleft lip and palate. Can’t wait to see your precious daughter in your arms! Looking forward to perusing your blog also, your photography is amazing! (I may have to sign up for your online SnapShots course!) Enjoy every second of your adventure in China!

  • Dawn Trogdon - The Lord placed you on my heart last night as I was putting my daughter to bed. We adopted her and she came home at 19 months old. This song played last night and just thought of your youngest daughter. If you haven’t hear it, worth the time to hear the lyrics, I still cry and she has been home for over 2 years now!

    http://cdn.rbc.org/dhm/1726/welcome.mp3

    Welcome Home by Discovery House Music

  • Michelle - Our family’s prayers go out to yours. Safe travels.

  • Jessica - I have been following your adoption journey from the beginning. Can’t wait to see pictures of you holding your sweet girl. Are you going to share her name?

  • lindsey - no surprise here :) i could tell that was in your heart from the way you wrote. i’m sooooo excited to see that gorgeous girl’s face and hear her name! Praying for God to prepare your heart in a deep way for all that you will experience there!

  • jenni - Beautifully written! Your heart and faith are so inspiring to me! The main reason I keep coming back for more! I’ll pray for all of you on your exciting journey to get your little one next week.

  • Melissa - I cannot wait to see a picture of your sweet girl!!!

    My daughter also has a speech delay (she has Down syndrome) and we sign with her. It has been amazing and I definitely recommend it. :)

  • SL - Hello, I’ve read your blog for a few months, but never commented. But now it has to be, I really admire your courage and strength. All the best for you, you really deserve … From Portugal a BIG kiss and have a dafe trip

  • Christie - Thank you for sharing this! I know it’s so personal and I figured from your posts that she had cleft lip because of all the good you have done with the money raised to help other little ones. You are amazing. I am so excited for your family, Ashley!

  • Amy at Fig Milkshakes - I love that part in Peter Pan when all the Lost Boys return to Wendy’s room with her and Mrs. Darling takes them in. They all feel they instantly have a mother.

    However, Slightly is a little bit behind, and when he comes in, he’s sad. Aunt Millicent sees him and asks him why he’s crying.

    He says, “Because I came in last and now everyone has a mother except me.”

    Aunt Millicent says, “Is your name Slightly?”

    “Yes”

    “Then I am your mother.”

    “How do you know?”

    She turns her chin up and says resoundingly, “I feel it in my bones.”

  • Emily - I love the idea of the first photo you share being a family photo of some kind – I’m so excited for you!

    As for the signing: I fully endorse that. I honestly feel that ASL is something everyone should learn at least a little of – it’s such a beautiful language. We really like the Signing Time program in our house, in case you’re not familiar with it. Good luck!

  • sarah - You were so very eloquent in this post. I think you are thinking of everything and handling everything so well. What a blessed little girl!
    I have a son with a ‘wonky’ eye. The questions and looks can get old, but love abounds and when his family is behind him it matters little what anyone else thinks.

  • Lindsay - Oh my, one week! So excited for you.

  • nicole neesby - Dear dear mama.

    First. I haven’t commented before — why?! I’m not exactly sure. It was a rather dumb idea because from the first second i opened your blog, i fell in love. Then I saw your page on your adoption and proceeded to read through each post and fall more and more for you and your family and your little baby girl in china.

    Maybe the reason I love you so much is because A) I have spent the last five years making trips to China to spend time with the orphans there and B) I am dying for the day to have my own chinese baby in my arms.

    My husband and I actually met in China while working for an organization called Bring Me Hope. We run summer camps for orphans there in China by bringing volunteers from america to come be a big brother/sister for a week. God used these camps to completely shatter my world and life. He broke my heart for HIS children who have no one to stand up for them.

    Since that first trip in 2007, my husband and I got married and will someday — when I am 30 — we will go find our baby that is there. Sometimes I cry because I can’t wait to hold her/him. I also can’t really hope I get a baby with clefts. They are so precious and beautiful. Some of my good friends who live in China have a gorgeous daughter who had a cleft lip/palate and they also foster the most beautiful little girl who had the same. It was after that when I knew, I WANT MY OWN!! :)

    Ok. Enough with the sappy long words. Know that I’m thinking about you everyday and waiting to celebrate (and probably cry) with you as you get your little beauty forever.

    xo

    PS. Enjoy China and eat some yummies for me. . . I miss it so much!!

  • Chrissie - I am so very very happy for you that everything is finally coming together for you and that you will have your daughter soon.

  • MJ - My aunt adopted four children from China, one a boy who had a cleft palate. Today, he is about to enter high school and he currently has his tongue sewn to the roof of his mouth and jaw wired shut for three and a half weeks, and has been on a liquid diet the entire time, in an attempt to get tissue up there to graft his fistula holes shut. It is a difficult time for him and we are all praying for the best outcome, previous attempts at bone grafting without the tongue tissue failed. We have a beloved great uncle who had a cleft palate as well when he was born in the 1920s, and as you can imagine the care back then was not the best. In their attempts to sew the hole closed in the roof of his mouth, it grew bigger and bigger and he ended up losing the entire roof of his mouth. He always wore a retainer, except for the times he took it out to scare his great nieces by showing them a giant hole up to his nasal cavity :) It is amazing what medical advances have been made since then! Both family members, my cousin and my great-uncle, struggled a great deal with being understood when speaking, but for my great-uncle it improved greatly as an adult. Congratulations on your beautiful daughter, I can’t wait to see her home with you (although not nearly as much as you, I’m sure!) May her transition and answers to her medical needs go smoothly and quickly.

  • Katie - This was so interesting/fascinating to read. I’ve been reading your blog for months now, following along with everything, and I’ve wondered about some of these things. Thank you for taking the time to share this. You and your family just seem like some of the sweetest, most fun people in the whole world. I read through a lot of the links you posted the other day about what kind of realities you’ll be facing when you get to meet your daughter and bring her home and it sounds like some of those things will be just plain hard. But reading this today and hearing about your priorities that are so in order, I just can’t help but think about what a happy, happy girl she is sure to be when she’s finally home with her family. I have little doubt that we’ll be seeing happy, sweet, giggly baby pictures before too long. I hope that doesn’t sound too naive of me. It’s just hard to imagine any child being in your home, being part of your forever family, and not being a happy, giggly little kid. I am so, so excited for you and your family. Sending all the very best wishes with the coming trip and meeting your daughter and all the joy it will bring!

  • Tawnya - I am just sitting here in joy for you and your family. I’ve been reading your blog for a year and it is just so exciting to follow the snippets of the adoption process that you have included us in – thank you! THis was a wonderful post about your special needs little lady….so much love is waiting for her.

  • Kari College - Congratulations! Can’t wait to see your beautiful daughter in your arms! Both of our boys (adopted from China) have cleft-lip/palate. They loved the Nubby sippy cups. I just made the holes a little bigger. :) They worked great! Praying for your journey!!

  • Karen - Thank you so much for sharing something this personal with us. I truly beleive that Little One was made just the way that God wanted her made and He is placing her in the hands of the perfect family for her. I will keep praying for all of ya’ll and especially that Monday comes quickly!

  • Jenni - Oh how I love to read this blog:) lol We were told my daughter had a cleft lip and possible palate before she was born. We were referred to a specialist who agreed. We researched and prepared and when she came we were ready! Only when she was born, she was fine! As odd as it sounds the surprise felt a little like a let down. I mean obviously I was glad she was okay but I was ready to climb a mountain for this little girl and there she was completely fine! I still can’t believe all of those people were wrong! lol I know first hand the research that goes into preparing. I can’t even imagine the extra element in your situation! Thank you so, so much for sharing. Safe travels. I can’t wait to see you with a picture of your daughter!!:)

  • Lynn - Thank you for sharing this with all of us. You have a wonderful way of opening up your heart too so many. I am so happy you and your family will have Song in your life very soon. Your little girl is going to thrive in all the love that is coming her way.

  • Andrea - I have been waiting to see if she was a cleft baby – my third son was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate and all I can say is that he is the greatest and most wonderful blessing in our family’s lives. He has had 5 surgeries so far (he’s 3) and I think cleft kids are just plain stronger & sweeter because of all they have to go through. Good luck!!! and have fun with your sweet blessing!

  • Erin - Oh, Ashley!

    We are so excited for you and are praying like crazy for your whole family. May God continue to bless you all as you make this exciting next step. Can’t wait to see you beautiful little girl!

  • Susan Wood - Oh so happy for you and your family….I read your posts with such happiness in my heart….God has blessed me for finding you..My daughter was born on August 27, 1974….so reading that you will hold your daughter for the first time is so wonderful…Praying for you and your family for a safe trip and will be waiting for your first posts when after much rest you put them online….

    In His Presence…Susan Wood

  • Elizabeth - Blessings to you all. I’m so excited I feel like I’M having a baby Monday!

  • Marissa - I love the respectful way in which you are handling the questions. :) I’m so excited to see you finally get to hold her. Many blessings for patience and wisdom and even more patience in the coming week and beyond.

  • Carrie Rosalind - Oh goodness, this post made me totally choke up! I am so excited for you and your family…and what a wonderful story you have to tell your daughter someday! <3

  • Bree K - I can wait to see her in your arms. What a journey. Thank you for letting us all be a part of it. Praying for you, dear sister.

  • Anne - What a great way to answer questions. We also have tried to walk the fine line in answering adoption and cleft questions (in some ways to advocate for them both), but also respecting our little guy, making sure he is a person, not just a poster child for either cause. I think you have done a fantastic job with this balance! We have had lots of questions about our son’s cleft and have enjoyed watching how his cleft has fallen in the background for friends and family. His 5-year-old brother said, in response to me mentioning our other son’s lip scar – “He has a scar? Where?” Continuing to pray for good adjustment for you all and a wonderful trip!

  • Amy - Hello. My name is Amy. Emily Anderson is my step sister. My brother was born with a clef palet and lip. Growing up he was self conscience but through time realized he was handsome just the way he was. He has had over 10 surgeries, because in the early 80′s they had just started seeing them more often. Now many children are able to undergo 2-3 surgeries and have it completed. I wish you luck on the adoption, but as being a sister of an amazing brother, just remember it does not define them, it makes them stronger. God Bless you for taking on someone with such needs to be loved so greatly. If anyone would like to help other with the same thing you can go to http://www.operationsmile.org.

  • Mariah - Have been following along and haven’t posted to your blog in a LONG time, but am so excited for you. Following you on this journey is amazing. Thank you for opening your heart to let all of us follow along!!

  • Kimberly - Thanks for sharing this! I am so excited for you to meet your little one! Your post made me tear up when you said that you knew in the deepest parts of your heart your daughter was in China. Now in a short amount of time you will meet her.

  • Amber Campbell Hibbs - Will she be keeping her name? I might be biased, buy I bet it’s fabulous. :)

  • kL - I am so excited for you & the upcoming weeks!! Our daughter was born without her left soft palate 9 years ago so our family understands what your girl’s future entails as we are well versed in the years of haberman bottles, craniofacial clinics, multiple surgeries and speech therapy. it’s a long process but the rewards are incredible! They told us our bean would never be able to make certain sounds and she has proved them wrong, over & over again. The strength & resiliency of children is amazing.
    Happy travels!!
    x0x

  • Jessica P - Beautiful writing and a beautiful baby! Hubby and I are sending much love to you and your family as you make this trip. I can’t wait for you to kiss those precious lips and get her home! If you need anything at all, please let us know.

  • brooke - I started sobbing when I realized that you leave in a week. Oh my goodness, I’m so happy for you! SO SO HAPPY!! What an amazing gift to your family she is! We brought Eli home at 15 months (3 months ago)…and what a joy….prayng for your trip, your adjustment, your whole process!

  • jenny - I cannot wait to see your beautiful baby girl in your arms next week! SO EXCITING!!!!! :)

  • Rose - I am so, so excited for your family! She is perfect and you are very lucky to be her Mommy :)

    What a wonderful time.

  • rachel - Thank you for sharing your story…it has been so wonderful to hear throughout the last couple of months. I can’t wait to see a picture of her in your arms…many prayers!

  • Lori - I love it! Love the fact that you and God had a secret. :0) awesome. she is loved. You saved her. Look out Big World…here she comes!

  • amy cornwell - I love how God speaks and you listen. You knew from the beginning what your child would look like and I’m sure at that first glimpse of her over the computer you knew it was her immediately. What security in knowing that God has spoken and you’ve listened. It’s a powerful feeling. Can’t wait to see you all together finally. So happy for you!

  • julie - Your love shows in every word you write. I will pray for your family that all transitions go as smoothly as possible.
    Many Blessings to all of you!

  • julieta - oh, ashley!!! i´m so happy for you and for your family, and, oh, my god, for little one too!! i pray for all your family!! have a safe travel!!!you know i´m from argentina and i don´t write english very well. i don t know how to express how deep your family has touched my heart. i wish you the best for all you seven!!!

  • angie - Praying for you and Song and in your upcoming travels! Thank you for sharing your up and downs over the past year. I feel my heart and mind have been expanded beyond measure by your openness and detailed descriptions of what your family has been through and will be facing. May the God of all peace comfort you beyond measure through the coming days of unknown.

  • Bettina - My youngest son was born with a cleft lip and palate. I love how cute he looked. And I know many cleft parents say how much they miss their child’s wide smile after it has been repaired. Good luck with everything.

    Bettina-refsgaard.blogspot.com

  • Kathryn - Luke 2:19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
    What a treasure indeed you have been holding and pondering in your heart Ashley. You are wise to keep much of the treasure God has given you to yourselves. How blessed we are to have you share what you have and I am obviously not alone in the sense of connection I feel to your journey, even with no personal relationship. What a testimony you have as God’s chosen family for this little one. What a difference it makes to know this is part of a sovereign plan and not just chance that your Little one will be placed in your arms of love next Monday. Your family remains in my families prayers, now and in the months ahead. Breathe deep, lean hard, God’s love holds. Love KAthryn xx

  • Alicia - Thank you for sharing your family’s journey of adoption. I, along with many others I am sure, am so looking forward to seeing the photo of your daughter because it will mean that you are finally UNITED and TOGETHER! It will mean that your journey has been completed. That little girl is so lucky to have such a loving family to love and support her growth and her own journey with the surgeries and therapies to come. Safe travels!!

  • Amanda - Oh, how beautiful. You have such a gorgeous heart and family, and your daughter will fall in love with you. God has blessed you, and you continue to reflect him. Praying praying praying for you, your family and your daughter. Can’t wait to meet her!

  • Shanalea - So excited. Our friends just came home last Friday with their daughter from Ethiopia. It is a surreal process. I love seeing thier family of 6 grow to 7 and how she is adjusting to her home. Lots of love and kisses all around. Have fun. and enjoy the precious moments.

  • Melissa Lively - Adopting a special needs child was one of the most remarkable gifts that we have ever been given! So excited for your family!

  • Crystal - So, so, so excited for you!!! And jealous! :) We are stuck in the mound of paperwork, but I’m dreaming of my baby with beautiful lips!

  • Becky Garling - God bless you, your family and your little one! She is so lucky to have you as her mother and champion! I can’t wait to see her picture. Warm hugs!

  • Margo - Ashley, I appreciate that you are so open with your readers! Thank you for allowing us to go on this journey with you. I am so excited for you that the days are drawing nearer and nearer!!

  • Sherri - You are such a blessing to me as I read your blog each day. I’m just amazed at your wisdom in thinking of everything your precious baby girl will feel as well as need in the coming months and years. I am anxiously awaiting some gorgeous photos of your new little one and her home country, but mostly, I can’t wait to see your first photo once your family is whole and together at last! Best wishes for safe travel and Gid bless you all!

  • RaD - Oh my goodness! I cannot believe the wait and now… the moment is almost here! I have been following for almost two years now and have prayed with you for this little one. I cannont wait to see her! I’ll bet she’s gorgeous!

    Sooo… my curious mind wants to know… Are you gonna keep her name or change it? Sorry, you can answer this question in due time, no rush.

    I’m so excited for you guys!

  • Angela - One of my college friends is in China as I type adopting her daughter (after having 4 boys). She and her husband lived in China for a period of time, her husband’s parents were missionaries there. They met and picked up their daughter yesterday and she is having a really difficult time bonding with my friend. Esther (the baby) has bonded with her Daddy well because he speaks some Mandarin. My friend is struggling with the rejection she is feeling. I say all of this to send you a blog post I read, it was sent to my friend, about those first days and weeks after adopting a child who is already bonded with someone else. I thought you would like to read it.

    http://nancyvnjourney.blogspot.com/2012/02/i-am-abductor.html

  • Tanya A - So excited for all of you. And to “meet” your Little One. :)

  • JoAnn - Bless you all! My cousin was born with a cleft. He is 68 years old now and has had a happy full life!I am thrilled for your family! I can not wait to see her beauty!

  • Georgia - I am so excited for you…next Monday! Wow! Rusty has a cousin who had a baby with a unilateral cleft lip and palate. I went after her Mom had to go back to work and helped with his care for a few days. He has done great. I don’t recall exactly how many surgeries he had, but there were several. Today he is a confidant likable college graduate working in his field of engineering. I hope you keep blogging, so excited to see the future of Little one and all of your precious children. Praying for her during this transition. Praying for ya’ll to have wisdom to give her just what she needs during this time. I know you have lots of family members in the area and it is important for her to bond with immediate family, but if you need additional help it would be my honor to help.

  • Taylor - Oh I cannot wait to see her! I will probably cry! :) ive been ready your blog for a long time and have followed your journey every step u of thle way! We all love you already little one! :)

  • Luciana - Aw, I can’t wait to follow you along your journey in China. I live in China now, so lease let me know if you need anything. I’m in Suzhou. Looking forward to seeing her perfect little face.

  • Bev - How sweet to share from a very private part of your heart! I’m praying for you and your family as you walk through this process!

  • Karen - I wake up every day and check your blog to see how you’re all getting along. It may sound strange but I hold my breath each time to see if you’ve shared a picture of your daughter – and then I’m relieved each time that you have chosen not to do so yet. Please forgive me for saying so, but I can’t help feeling that the first time I see your daughter, I want to see her through her mother’s eyes. You take such care with the photographs of your other children, not just in the composition of them, but to also illustrate their little personalities as well. I’m so looking forward to the first blogged image of your Little One being one that you captured yourself, with her heart and her future in mind. But these are just my thoughts, and I know you’ll do the very best for your daughter, whatever you choose to do with her pictures. Either way I’m sure she’s a sight to behold! Hope this week moves swiftly for you all. xx

  • angie lu - you are amazing. and cool. and real. and awesome.
    thank you for sharing so openly.
    i cannot wait to see your beautiful baby girl in your arms.
    god bless you and your family.

  • nikki m - Ashley, I don’t comment often, but I do read often. I just wanted to say how happy it make my heart to see/read about your family and this journey. I know it is not much to offer, but I am a speech/language pathologist. And while I am not near you, I am always willing to help in any way I can. Please feel free to email me any time if you have questions. I look forward to seeing a picture of your beautiful daughter soon! Congratulations and travel safe. Nikki

  • Natalie - I am so excited for you to meet your little one that I can only imagine how you are feeling. I look forward to reading your posts each day and you have touched my heart. Ever since I have begun to read your adoption story and about all of the sweet babies waiting for homes like yours I can’t help but want to help in some way. I’d love to adopt a baby but just don’t know if my husband would agree…we have 5 children. These sweet children tug at my heart. Thank you for opening my heart.

  • Jenny B. - Thank you for sharing all of this, Ashley. I have learned so much in the past several months about adoption, and most of it came from your blog – either things you wrote about or links you posted. I have a few friends who are working on adoptions right now, and I feel like I have a much better understanding than ever before. I’m anxious/excited for you to meet your daughter. I pray every detail goes as smoothly as possible.

  • girlrobot - I’m sure someone has already told you about this documentary but it made me think of you!

    http://www.doobybrain.com/2012/08/20/somewhere-between-a-documentary-about-4-girls-adopted-from-china-and-living-in-the-us/

  • Flor - it’s just meant to be.
    and because He has willed it He will give you the
    resources necessary to help her heal.
    you know it in your heart just as i know it reading these
    words.. you were meant for each othe. and so a wonderful
    love story between you and your child begins.
    one that begins with getting to know each other and then
    it will continue in love.
    so so very happy for you!

  • Sadee - What a beautiful story, Ashley. I love how God has been preparing your heart for such a long time and the wisdom He has given you and your family to do what’s best for Little One right from the start. You know, on Monday when we all get to see her face and you holding her in your arms for the very first time, there will be people all over the world sobbing with joy for your family!!! I’m already choked up just thinking about it. Praying favor, peace and safety for you in your travels! Can’t wait til Monday!!!!

  • Anon - My best friends sister was born with a Left Cleft.
    She had surgery when she was younger.
    She’s not had any major problems since then,
    She is now a Primary teacher.
    When she was younger kids asked about her scar. but now no one notices it.

    Safe travels, this is such an amazing experience for your whole family.

  • Maureen - Our 3rd child, Samuel was born with a cleft lip and palate. It was a miracle he was born at all since the dr’s told us he had trisomy 18 & wouldn’t live to birth. But God had a plan and purpose for him and we trusted Him that our son would live and be healthy. He was born with cl&p, but miraculously no trisomy!! It was such a journey for us…we felt like newbie parents all over again…going through situations we had never experienced with the other 2. But he was an amazing joy and he was gorgeous, “broken mouth” (as our 1 & 3 year old would say) and all!!! He had the biggest smile we had ever seen! Honestly we mourned in a way to see that face change as he went in for his 1st surgery…that sounds crazy to people who’ve never experienced having a child with cl&p. But that was the face we knew for nearly 4 months. God was with us in amazing ways through the journey of endless dr’s, surgeries and care. We grew closer to Him in ways I know we wouldn’t have had we not been through the journey. Samuel, now 6, has been a joy to us and has not had any real troubles. We don’t see him or treat him as being different. He is truly fearfully and wonderfully made! Praying for you and your precious one…God be with you. :)

  • Sara W - Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us. I love hearing how the Lord has worked in your lives. Blessings to you as you meet your daughter and bring her to her forever home.

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - When I was a teenager, I was “the babysitter”. It’s what I did and it’s what I loved. (just writing that brings back forgotten memories!). One of my most special ‘babies’ was our dentists newborn – with a cleft palate. Whenever I came over, they had usually just fed him so I didn’t have to worry – but I remember so clearly the time I did have to feed him.

    They had gone down to highland park to watch a parade. It was his grandmothers house. It was so very hot, so they decided to leave me there with the baby and take the other children. I was going to have to feed him.

    I sat on a big white bed with flowy white curtains and the window open. I was only 15, held him in my arms and he drank from the special bottle. I was so careful to hold the bottle correctly.

    He finished. I breathed. And he smiled at me.

    I let them know I would be glad to feed him anytime.

    Ashley, I love you to pieces!

  • Charissa Taylor - Reading about your family’s journey brings tears to my eyes. I am so excited for all of you. I can’t wait to see all of you together!!!

  • nicole i - The Lord bless you and keep you…His face shines on you and gives you peace.

  • giozi - Just read this. You are a remarkable woman. You two are so full of love. You are a lovely family.
    I remember in college there was a guy who had the cleft lip scar, he didn’t speak perfectly well but he spoke good. He was the friendliest guy in the class and now has a beautiful family.

    I do not know if you know that since May Lua goes to a speech therapist, she has no physical problem, but well, she does not speak well. She has improved a lot despite her young age she strives pretty.

    When she started kindergarten she did not speak. This second year she improved a lot, but of course not enough, I still would not take her treatment because she believed would improve single. I took her to a speech therapist to root a classmate asked me why my daughter did not speak well. I did not think the other kids realize and that made him to take.

    Like I said, it has improved a lot and is very happy.
    From here I send much love to you, your little one and is always surrounded by loving people.

  • Kirstin - I don’t normally comment on blogs, but I have been reading yours for a couple years now and I just had to write and tell you how happy I am for you and your family. I don’t even know you, but I sincerely wish you the best of luck with your new sweet girl. I wish you safe travels as well. I will be thinking of you.

  • Christina Larsen - Ashley and Chris, I don’t always get to read your blog as often as I would like, I love when you post to FB, so then I can sometimes read through. I know that you are full of different emotions as you get ready to board that plane and I wanted to say that I understand all of those jumble of emotions. I also wanted to encourage you in the fact that our Olivia had surgery after we brought her home and has speech and language delays, as well. She was born deaf, you may already know that, but we elected to do a cochlear implant surgery when we brought her home. We waited about 3.5 months, and although we probably could have waited longer, God used that time to bring us closer so she could understand and feel what a mothers care is when she isn’t feeling too good. Good luck with your flights, and when you get to hold her in her arms. I’ll be thinking of you all. We left on a Thurs and met our daughter on a Mon, as well. So many memories floating back. Sorry to write a novel. :)

  • sarah - Ashley,
    There aren’t a lot of moments in life when you can feel something so strong from just the written print. I have read your blog for a few years, I love your style, your pictures, etc. When I read this post, I “saw” your heart. I saw the perfect heart of a mother who truly knows what unconditional love is. It isn’t even about your little one’s issue, it is about the way you are going to bring her into your family first, make her little soul a part of something so beautiful and putting what others think about “physical beauty” out of the picture. You realize that she only knows what she has experienced and she doesn’t know about the cruel world quite yet. You are doing God’s work, you are thinking with the absolute best for your child in mind. I admire you, you are strong and faithful.
    Sarah

  • Cate - I’m so excited for you! I don’t think it’s mean of you to not share a photo of her at all. How special that the first photo will be with you. :) Hugs and safe travels to you all!

  • Elizabeth - wow……how wonderful!!!!!! love love love..that’s all I can say!!

  • ari - I’ve been reading your blog for about a couple of years now and I am so “anxious” and happy for you for these exciting and enriching adventure you have undertaken….
    She is truly lucky to have such wonderful parents and siblings (and family and friends :) )
    I really admire you!!

  • chrissy - Every time, every day I read your words I am left breathless….thank you for sharing your journey with us. I can’t even tell you how your strength, endurance, patience and courage have inspired and lent hope to my own journey. You are amazing and He is moving through you so beautifully<3 XXOO Chrissy

  • elizabeth - Ashley ~ you are a beautiful, strong mama! How awesome that the Father has been painting this masterpiece over the past 14 yrs!
    WOW! I’m sure you feel like you’re about to explode w. JOY!
    Can’t wait to see a picture of your BEAUTIFUL little One.

    btw…the Father led me to a mom of a beautiful little guy w. a cleft palate when i first began sewing ~ i was blessed to have a dear friend photograph him “modeling” my blankets.
    http://www.twogreenolivetrees.blogspot.com/2009/10/blankets.html

    {just wanted to share the beauty!}

  • Victoria / Justice Pirate - I know a little girl who was born with a few health and physical problems and one of them was a cleft lip and she had a successful surgery done. I was 18 when she was born and I remember the way her lip looked before and after, and now I don’t really notice the scars or that she had one. I haven’t really even paid attention at all, because I’ve seen her so often since she was 10. She talks pretty good. I never knew what caused cleft lips. It is interesting to find out, so thanks for the description.

  • Suzie Nichols - Wonderful wonderful post. Thank you for being so open and explaining that cleft lip and palate is not to be afraid of. My son is 8 with a blcp and I have other mothers who have adopted from China cleft babies in my rural town here in Oklahoma. We are here to help you with any questions and support. Please feel free to email me as well. Also you can connect to us on Cleft Lip and Palate Support Group of Oklahoma on Facebook. I excitedly await more updates!!

  • my family still spoils me » ashleyannphotography.com - [...] For those with questions about her cleft lip & palate, you can click here for a previous post I wrote about it. [...]

  • Laura@Ms Smartie Pants - Beautiful story! I think you are wise beyond your years and giving her time to trust and get to know you all is perfect. My mom was born with cleft lip and pallet and endured those surgeries, back then she would be left at the hospital for days without seeing her mom. Grateful things have changed, and that she will be home when the surgeries take place. Thanks for sharing your heart!

  • Patrice - I have been searching feverishly for a way to contact you! I have a friend who just discovered her unborn child has a severe cleft palate, which is only part of the problems her sweet baby is facing. I have no idea where to begin to support her. I don’t know of any great resources of information for how this works. Your newest daughter is so beautiful, and I see the hope and joy in your posts. My friend is so overwhelmed and I want to be able to offer her support in a way that will be meaningful, so that she might have hope return before her sweet child is born! If you can, could you email me any information you have that might be helpful, or direct me to a useful resource? Thank you!

  • carmelle - bless you :) Just wanted to let you know my daughter was born cleft lip and palate and if you have any questions I’d be happy to try and answer them. She is now three so we have been through three surgeries with her and I would be happy to share her before and after pictures. We love her so much and are SOOOO happy that God chose our family for her :)

  • Mandy - Beautiful! Just came across your blog today. Thank you for sharing your journey of adoption. Your story, walk, and trust in God resonates with me.

  • Stacy M. - “My daughter was born with a cleft lip and palate. It is part of who she is. While it does not define her, it is part of the symphony being written in her life.”
    I just love how beautifully you put this. My daughter was born with a cleft lip in 2010 and it has been a very interesting journey from the feedings to the taping to the surgeries. Now that she is 2 and her cleft is gone in the eye of an outsider, I still feel it is important for her and those around her to understand where she has come from and what she has been through because it has helped to shape who she is. I commend you greatly for taking in a child with a cleft, since I completely understand the struggles that comes with. But as I also know, nothing in life is sweeter than the big smile of a child with a cleft!

  • Amanpreet Kaur - Hello Ashley,

    You don’t know me! I am from India, just few minutes back, before i randomly opened your blog, i had put one question on Google ‘what is the reason behind cleft lip’ i was not looking for a medical answer (as i know that answer really well by now), i was looking it in a context of a past life, or you can say from the spiritual point of view.
    After reading your blog, you brought tears in my eyes. I have always seen my parents, playing strong and stood like a wall whoever said anything wrong to their kids. N especially with me, they never made me feel low or sad. In their eyes’I am not less than any beautiful actress’or probably the most beautiful girl in the world. But despite of that i always raised this question to the god. Why it was me? Why he chose me, for this problem? By now you must have understood, that i was also born with cleft lip.

    Just few minutes back, i was feeling low that why i was born like this. But then reading your blog happened. Trust me, Ashley, you brought back all those moments of my life, when i thanked god, for saving me and giving me this life, which is indeed worth living. People around me, they love me, for my parents i am there beautiful daughter. Earlier i used to think a lot about my looks, but i gradually, started accepting myself, i groomed myself. Then, magic happened, people could hardly recognize my cleft lip. Sometimes,i feel low and sad, so i just smile back to the mirror, or god does something or the other to make me feel beautiful or special.

    Your daughter is so lucky to have you both as her parents. She will indeed become a beautiful women, with a different identity and will make you proud. Lots of love and my blessings to your daughter. :)

  • Amanpreet Kaur - God, again made me feel special, up and moving. Thanks to your blog. :)

  • heidi - Thank you for this resourceful post! My husband and I are gathering our Dossier for our upcoming Chinese adoption and are hoping to adopt a little one with cleft lip and palate so your info was a terrific resource to me as I consider what will be the future for us. My brother was born with bilateral cleft lip and palate and other than the few times when he had to have surgery, he has lived a “typical” experience and is one of my heroes. (he’s 32, married with a little boy of his own now) Congratulations!!

  • Budding Taste: The Nose Knows | Inspired healthy organized - […] Smile. For a great explanation from a mother of a daughter who had a cleft lip and palate, go here (more medical description) and here (personal experience of […]

  • Teresa Fowler - Dear Ashley,
    Your blog has been such a great resource for me, thank you! I am also a photographer and we are almost to the end of our adoption process. We are just awaiting the final approval from immigration and then we can get our travel orders. Our daughter is 19 months old.
    I am writing because I have scoured the internet looking for information on feeding cleft lip/palate toddlers and have not found good, solid advice. I understand the bottles, and do intend to take some, but the orphanage says that she does not do well with bottles and therefore only eats rice milk from a spoon. Her lip has been closed but not the palate.
    I am wondering what you would do, or take to China, in this case? Would you take bottles with formula? What about the puffs or cheerios? I really am looking for any advice you can give.
    I was born with a cleft lip, so I feel that I am prepared for the medical side of this, I just want to be as prepared as we can be for the trip. Then we will go from there.
    Again, thank you. I know your little ones keep you busy :)
    Sincerely,
    Teresa Fowler

  • Rose mark - St JOHN ORPHANAGE HOME
    Are you interested in adopting a baby of your own,just contact us now on:stjoneorphanagehome@yahoo.com or call us on:+234 7053728380

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