one week with my daughter

One week.

It is both hard and easy to believe we have spent a week with our daughter.

I did a lot of reading, a lot of learning, a lot of question asking over the last year to prepare for growing our family this way and prepare for her needs. Every adoption story, like every child birth story, is so different. We have gained much wisdom from others and yet our experience will never be the same as another family’s experience.

This week has been blissful. That is not normal. We know that. Our little girl has shed many tears. I’ve been completely covered in formula spewing from her mouth. We’ve dealt with stares, pointing, whispers. She has shown her temper and passion. And yet, this past week with our little girl has been one of the highlights of my life. I know we are in kind of a ‘honeymoon’ phase. I’m not cooking, cleaning, driving…the days are slow and full of soaking in this baby girl. But it is still real life. I am not in a pretend world. This time is real. It is life. And it has been wonderful. And we are soaking in every minute of it.

In a week’s time we have gotten to learn so much about this incredibly brave and strong girl. Each day she trusts us a little more and lets down a bit of the walls she’s built up. Each day she relaxes a tiny bit more than the day before. She is beginning to show us her silly personality and very sweet temperament. We are learning her likes and her dislikes.

Bit by bit she is revealing herself to us and even showing us she likes us….which is a huge deal. Day by day she is learning she can depend on us and feel safe.

The first few days she would only touch her bottle and stacking cups. Slowly she is beginning to let herself explore and feel other items. For most of last week, she was content sitting in one spot for as long as we’d let her. Now she has realized she can crawl all over and explore every nook and cranny of our hotel room. It is beautiful to see her bravery come out….however, her delight in crawling means keeping her on the bed for naps is a bit of a challenge. A welcomed challenge though.

Touching the computer cable – seems like such a non-event. But it was so exciting for us. It was a huge step for her and I was so proud to see her try it. I’ve mentioned how crucial her hands are to her, she is very protective over what touches them. To see her relaxed and curious enough to reach out for the cable – so, so proud of her. She is still pretty hands-off with most things, but the little steps add up so quickly. We are in awe of her.

After her last bottle for the day, she gets really goofy with her brothers. She is incredibly strong. I’ve seen a picture of her standing in her crib, but we’ve yet to see her even want to try to stand on her feet. Standing on her head is a different story. She really likes the soft bed. She’ll roll around, fall over on purpose and just giggle in all the pillows. She is beginning to delight herself in the things around her and in us.

Several times a day Chris, the boys or I say “she is so cute!”. And she is. Utterly, wonderfully cute. In the last week, we’ve learned our little girl is resilient, she is brave, she is a fighter and she has a deep joy down inside her. As we struggle to piece together parts of her past and story, we end up in the same place – we have a strong, brave, fiercely cute daughter. 8 days ago in the eyes of governments she had the label “orphan”. That is her past, a part of her story, but not who she is now. She is an adored daughter, sister, granddaughter, great granddaughter, cousin, niece.

We’re taking it day by day. There will be days ahead I am sure that I will not describe as blissful. There will be mountains and valleys to cross. There will be tears and battles and unanswered questions. But today, there is celebrating – I have been given a week with my daughter!

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  • Kaytie - she is SO adorably cute! looks like you’re going to have a little gymnast on your hands. πŸ™‚

  • Cindy - BEAUTIFUL!

  • Paige Y. - And celebrating I am!! Yay for one whole week with Little One!

  • merideth a. - so amazing and wonderful!! and her little tricks is just about the cutest!!

  • Laura Wilder - Preciously sweet. All of it. Her, the newness, the longing fulfilled, the learning, the tears, the time. God is so good. Continuing to pray and rejoice for you.

  • emmybrown - Hip Hip Hooray for a week!!! And thanks for letting us in on it! πŸ™‚

  • nancy - What a gift of bliss. Every single child deserves to be welcomed with such joy and bliss and how wonderful that your little one now has this welcome into her family. And I think your honeymoon phase may be a forever phase! Maybe there is no other shoe to drop. It is that good to welcome a child into your family.
    Snuggle her a little for those of us watching out here in bloggie-land.

  • Amy - I have so enjoyed this last week of posts! You’re daughter is so beautiful. Congratulations on a wonderful week with her.

  • Natalie - Tears again! She is beautiful! My 14 month daughter does that same trick! When I read about Little One I can’t imagine my little daughter having to be strong like your little one had to happy she is in your arms now. She looks happy!

    Move forward with faith! πŸ™‚

  • Natalie, the Chickenblogger - Sounds like real life to me…
    making a family is a spectrum, mountains and valleys, indeed.
    What blessings you are to each other.
    Strong, resilient, cuties, all.

  • Caroline - She is just like her big sister!
    I see lots of Firecracker in her!
    So cute! Especially the one with her standing on her head!

  • Kate - So, so happy for you all. I love how much your second oldest especially seems to love watching her. Your kids are so wonderful, your youngest daughter most definitely included. I know there will be challenges ahead like with any child, but I hope you just continue to soak in every beautiful moment with her and not have to worry about others’ experiences.

    She is so precious, and it’s so amazing to see how much she’s come to trust you in one short week of traveling and transition.

  • donna - Wow, what a week,can’t get much better, a new daughter,seeing a beautiful country, the acceptance from the boys, and lets not forget that wonderful husband, you are a lucky woman.

  • Ethel White - We are grateful you have internet access so we can observe from a distance the joy you, Chris and the boys have in discovering Little One. I can’t wait to hear how the other two kiddos react when they get to touch their sister. Safe and smooth travels on your return flight home.

  • Kimberly Dial - Ashley, your posts have touched my heart in such a unique way. Thank you so much for sharing your family’s journey with your baby daughter. Several years ago I had thought about pursuing an adoption through China … your journey has made me wish I had. I can’t thank you enough for sharing this. Praying God continues to richly bless your sweet family πŸ™‚

  • Jessie - Congratulations Ashley. She IS beautiful. I thank God that your Little One now has a place to belong. What a wonderful thing that is for everyone in this world. Thank you Ashley and your family to provide that belonging to this Little One. Bless You.

  • Emily Morrice - These updates have been amazing!!
    I’ve loved watching the journey and I’m totally celebrating this one week anniversary πŸ™‚
    God bless your fam!

  • Ko S. - Absolutely wonderful! So thankful to read about the sweetness of this week! God is so good!

  • Melissa West - Ashley Ann,

    I have been captivated with this story from the beginning. I am so thankful that you chose to share it. Often when my daughter asks for a story I do some version of what I have read on your blog. She loves hearing about the little girl and her new family=) We are also looking forward to adopting when God shows us it is right. Thanks again for sharing. Melissa

  • MG Atwood - So sweet! Hoping this honeymoon continues for a good long while.

  • Alicia - Your daughter is so beautiful! I think it’s amazing, too, how much more beauty we see through the lens of love. Maybe this is weird to say, but I think I look better in the pictures my husband takes of me because I can see his love in the way the picture is taken. I can see your love for your beautiful little girl in the way you take pictures of her. No matter how many struggles she faces in adjusting to her new life, she has such a strong foundation of love to build on. Thanks for sharing!

  • ashlee - Such a beautiful story your family is writing. Im thrilled your week has been wonderful. Thanks for sharing your life and heart with us. It is truly inspiring.

  • Victoria / Justice Pirate - You can see that she has that strength you’ve mentioned. I am glad that she will not remember being an orphan, you know? That must be extremely hard on the children who remember being in orphanages (granted I have youth group girls who struggle a lot in their teen years with the idea of being given up and feeling unwanted even though their parents show them such amazing love, while others are extremely grateful and don’t experience that). May God continue to bless her through your family. I am sure she’ll get many stares, but she is really cute!!! I am glad to hear she is grabbing things now.

  • jennie - she’s too darn cute!! thanks for sharing these treasurable moments with us.

  • Ingrid - Oh what a BEAUTIFUL story of a lovely family and their new gorgeous girl. Thank you for sharing your story with us!! There is ups and downs with everything in life and I love that you are fully enjoying this good time Xx

  • Shanna - Hi Ashley,

    I am so enjoying your blog with the warm and sweet words you’ve got for your daughter and family. It is truly inspiring and sometimes even emotional, since your feelings are so sincere and well put. I’m getting to understand adoption, something I’ve never had any connection to, a bit more through your blog.

    Some time ago, when you we’re just mentioning your plans for adoption (or perhaps was it when you mentioned part of your daughters name was ‘Song’) I stumbled upon this:
    I’m not sure whether Google Translate will pick up any of it, so in short: it’s an installation done by two women who recorded 12 women, all of them not born in the Netherlands but their baby’s are, singing a song in their mothertongue to sooth their babies. I thought the installation’s name, combined with the purpose and sweet nature of the singing mothers, was really beautiful and coincidentally lined up with your story.

    Hope you are having a great time getting to know your daughter. She is beautiful.

  • jenny - So glad to see you rejoicing in the moment! The little things are most often the “big” things and sadly we often miss them because the world around us has deemed them to be little things.
    We should take joy in everything, every part of our day because God has purpose in ALL of it.
    I am rejoicing/celebrating with and for you! πŸ™‚

  • Cindy - What a blessing! You’re sooo right, a few short days ago she was an ORPHAN, and now she has a family! Beautiful how life works.

  • mary from tenn - she is beautiful and looks to be so filled with joy.

  • Eva - So glad that you are enjoying all these moments with Little One. Gosh, do I love those photos of her rolling around on the bed. So precious. I pray that week 2 is just as blissful.

  • Kari - Ashley- I read your blog every day. I almost never comment, but I just have to tell you that your story is so touching. We have nothing in common really- but I do have kids. The way you write about your experience is emotional for the reader, not just for you. You are also so brave to share so much of your life on here. I just want to thank you and let you know that for every person who comments on here- I’m sure there are many more supporting you that don’t. So happy for your family.

  • Sharon - “she has a deep joy down inside her”

    I saw a billboard the other day that said something like,
    “Joy comes from within, it is not happiness (which is a temporary feeling), but rather a God-given ability to see the positive through whatever your circumstance.

    So happy that your little one is FULL of JOY!

  • Auburn - ONE glorious week. We are so happy for you, celebrating and thanking God right along side you!

  • Sheree - Thanks for sharing your journey — I love reading your blog and feel so blessed to be able to see and experience your amazing adventure! So looking forward to seeing what plans God has in store for you all!

  • Luciana - She is so inspiring.

  • Debbie C - She has a new identity now, as daughter, granddaughter, all those relationships you mentioned! Amazing.

  • Liz - What a precious gift your Little One is!! It’s so wonderful to see her being silly and relaxing more…amazing! πŸ™‚

    And this simple line completely choked me up: “8 days ago in the eyes of governments she had the label β€œorphan”. That is her past, a part of her story, but not who she is now. She is an adored daughter, sister, granddaughter, great granddaughter, cousin, niece…” Amen, sister. Amen. πŸ™‚

  • twirlingbetty - She is, indeed, EDIBLE! Those long, elegant, precious hands and feet and smiley eyes…dearest, sweetest little babe.

  • meg duerksen - i have loved reading everything that is going on with you!!! it’s so amazing to watch it unfold. i love it.
    wish i could give you a big hug!!

  • Ada - I am loving every minute of this wonderful story … My heart is invested in your precious little ones incredible journey. I’m so thankful you’ve had this “bliss”

    And I love her on her head!!! Silly πŸ™‚

  • dee-The Old Fat Hen - Yea Ashley she is indeed “cute”.Cute beyond words.I am so happy for your family.=love dee

  • Sadee - She IS so cute!!! Celebrating with you and praising God for your whole week of bliss! Have really been enjoying your blog posts from China. Thank you for letting us share a little in getting to know your sweet girl.

  • Martina - I thought about mentioning the “honeymoon” stage of adoption but I figured you had read more books than me anyway. Sounds like you’re taking full advantage of these first days, knowing that a harder season might be coming soon. But maybe it will never come… Our daughter was younger, 2 months old, when she came to us through foster care and the easy/wonderful/”honeymoon” stage never ended. Either way I’m thrilled to hear that Little One’s learning to relax and trust and feeling secure enough to explore. I lovelovelove these updates!

  • - I hope this doesn’t sound weird, Ashley, but before being introduced to Little One, I had a very hard time looking at some of those photos of the babies with the cleft lip/palate. Almost just couldn’t do it at all. After being introduced to Little One and you sharing your experiences and pictures on the blog, I feel able to look past any outward issue and just see her. Thank you so much for sharing. It makes such a difference. Not something to fear, just a small part of a very big beautiful picture which is your little one and who she is and is becoming through your family’s love and genuine kindness and God’s grace.

  • Kara - Ashley, thank you so much for sharing your journey and sharing your heart. It’s a gift to be able to follow along. I just wanted you to know that I have been really blessed by the way you guys have embraced China with such open hearts. I love reading about how you’re exploring and taking time to experience everyday life there. I read dozens of adoption blogs, and it always makes me so sad when people write about the cleanliness or the food of another country in a way that is disrespectful and dishonoring. Thank you for embracing the adventure and capturing the beauty. Your grace and humility in traveling to get your daughter has really blessed me. Thankful for you and your family and the way you honor Christ most of all πŸ™‚

  • Amanda Torres - There is so much you write about that is heartbreaking and healing all at the same time. What a beautiful journey. On a more personal note, I think this little gal is like her mama. A little gymnast who will spend more time upside down than right side up.

  • Angie @ - Okay, from now on, only waterproof liner and mascara before your blog! I am a blubbering idiot these days after every single post! Thank you for making me aware of the world outside my own comfortable little bubble and the children in it who are in need. I pray your honeymoon period continues right on into real life and the adjustment is smooth for your little one! She has endured enough!

  • mandi@herbanhomestead - I love what you said about this being real life too! Real life can be wonderful and full of soak it up moments. Good for you for realizing that and counting all of it- the tears, the giggles, the spit up, the exploring- as joy.

  • Amber - Precious. Tear-evoking. Powerful. Thank you!

  • Sarah W. - You, your family, her. All of it, so beautiful.

  • MelissaMarie - What a beautiful and thoughtful post. As I look at my own silly and wonderful one year old I hurt to think that there are many who don’t really know the joy of exploring and being held and kissed. And I am grateful to see your photos of one who has been redeemed from that and so happy in her new family! Good Job you two!!!

  • paige - what a beautiful time.

  • Emily @ I Love Farm Weddings - She is extraordinarily beautiful as is the story you are documenting for her to read later in life. So many gifts you are giving her. I am happy for all of you and am touched by your gracefulness and courage through your experience with her. Excited to read tomorrow’s post (and the next day and the next day).

    Many blessings!

  • able mabel - I love your realistic look on life. Your daughter is adorable and I’m sure you’ll make it thru the rough times with smiles on your faces.

  • Karen - happy for you guys!!

  • Michelle M - I love the names that you have called out and given her. As we have been Named, so now is she. πŸ™‚

  • Lauren - I just went back and reread all of your story since the day you were given Little One and all over again I am astounded, floored, humbled, inspired, overjoyed by the love that has poured out of your family and into your beautiful daughter’s life. I don’t know how this story will one day affect my decisions, but I know I will carry it always. And I have no doubt that one day I will credit your story as the inspiration for generosity, wisdom and the grace of God in my own life. Thank you.

  • Debbie Studwell - Ashley Ann, I have been reading your blog for a while, but never left a comment before. I love reading about your family, and I am thrilled to see the latest addition. As one of 6 kids growing up I get the fun and chaos those numbers can bring. You seem like great parents, and your kids sure look happy, and adorable. I am a 4th grade teacher at The American School in Japan. Originally from upstate NY, college in Boston, I have been living and teaching in 6 different countries for many years, ever since college graduation. At school and at home I like to do basic crafts when time allows. I also enjoy photography and travel. To say thanks for sharing your blog I would like to send you a gift of washi tape. If you give me an address, maybe the church?, or anywhere that you are comfortable with using, I will send it off. This is a real and sincere offer, no tricks, no hidden details, I would just like to share.
    * Please let me know any specific colors or patterns you would like to have. Good Luck with the long trip home!

  • Ruth@GraceLaced - Crying with joy!

  • Elizabeth - these have to be some of my favorite pictures of her…tumbling around…feeling right at home!!
    lovely, lovely girl!!

  • Kirra Sue - So beautiful.