just rock it

We met with our social worker about 2 weeks ago for our first post-placement visit.

“What has been the hardest thing since you’ve come home?” she asked.

My mind raced through all the difficult scenarios I had spent the last year preparing to face. All the hard stuff. The things others said would be horrible.

And yet, none of those things have been our experience.

The hardest for me so far was the one thing I had not considered. The one thing I had not prepared for. Studied up on. Devised a game plan.

“The way some people respond when they see her has been the hardest.” I told her.

There were days in China I thought I’d barely make it when we were out and about. The staring. The pointing. The whispering. The ugly faces. The meanness.

I wanted to run away with her to a land of rainbows and sparkles where there weren’t man-made ideas of beauty. I wanted to scream, “Don’t you see HER?! She is exquisite. She is strong. She is beautiful. She is my daughter and she is deeply, deeply loved.” I may have also wanted to scream a few not so nice things. But I didn’t. I wandered the streets, lost in thought, wondering how I’d ever teach her to be brave when everyone is staring.

I had hoped it would stop when we arrived in the US. But, it has been the same.

After a little time secluded at home, we ventured out. Her first store to visit in the US was Hobby Lobby. I made sure to start her out right in regards to shopping…and took a picture to document it. You know – just in case she replaces Martha Stewart one day.

We’ve been to many stores since. Each time I’ve struggled with how to respond to others. I like to go unnoticed. I don’t want to be center stage. I don’t want eyes on me. I like to just blend in with the crowd. That just doesn’t happen now. Everyone seems to notice my sweet girl.Β  I understand curiosity. I totally get it, I was there once too. I don’t mind questions. I don’t mind others noticing her and then smiling when they see that I notice them. I really like kids. When kids stare it is with compassion in their eyes, concerned she is hurt. Kids ask questions and usually tell me she is so cute once I ease their fears that she is not in any pain.

I am grateful for all of you that have let such kind comments in the last several weeks. Those of you that have shared how she has transformed the way you see clefts. Those of you that have shared with me your early struggles with seeing a cleft and how you now see a child not just a different lip. So, so, so, so many genuine and sweet words from all of you. Thank you for that. I wish the stores I went in were full of people like you.

It is with the other adults that my struggle lies. The ones so focused on a difference that they miss what beauty truly is.

I can’t change other people. I can’t force people to see what I see – a stunning baby girl. I can’t change how people act or what they say. I can only let this experience change me. I don’t want to respond to ugliness in an ugly way. I don’t want to be a snarky and rude person. I want to my words and actions to be seasoned with grace and compassion – just as I want others to act. I have five little ones watching and picking up on how I am handling tough situations. My oldest really notices. His protective big brother side gets fired up too. There are times when Mama Bear must come out. There are other times that the best response is not to respond at all. I don’t have it all figured out yet – probably never will.

I have incredible friends that have been giving me such great advice. They’ve suggested a few one liner responses that make me laugh. They’ve prayed over me. They cried with me over the hurt of it all. A few weeks ago, my friend Tara gave me the advice that has probably helped the most.

She told me before I walk into a room, I need to just tell myself that I am going to walk in and I am going toΒ  “rock it”.

I am not a “rock it” kind of girl, but let me tell you….Little One and I have been rocking it all over town lately.

At the mall…she is already requesting her own lattes.

We are strolling all over, smiling, nodding and just plain enjoying ourselves.

It is still hard to see how some respond to my daughter. I still feel the stares. I still hear the whispers. I still see the pointing.

People haven’t changed, but I am changing.

I’m learning to walk into a room and rock it. Little One is already a natural at it.

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  • michele - hugs for your mama anguish. people are going to be mean and life is going to be hard no matter what you look like. hopefully, she’ll grow to be a strong and resilient girl because of what she’s gone through already.

    a dear friend of mine has two daughters from china. one is perfectly normal and healthy. the second, whom they just adopted a year or so ago, was born with a cleft palate. she has since gone through the surgeries to repair it, and it’s definitely been a struggle for them. but she is such a perfectly wonderful child – she came through it all amazingly well, and has responded to life like she was never different in the first place. she adores her sister and her family, and you’d never know she had to go through all the pain if not for the small scar on her upper lip.

    it will get better for your little one. and until then, just pray she can be a learning opportunity for people who have never had to deal with “something different” in their lives.

  • Neha - A bear hug for u n lil one…don’t worry this(stares n comments) shall too pass on!!!..:)..love…

  • Kristin - My younger sister has Down syndrome, and I can safely say that the pain of the stares never goes away. It actually gets more difficult with age, because my sister now understands the stares. But it does ease with time, and you get better at “rocking it.” πŸ™‚ You learn that the people who are rude aren’t really worth knowing anyway, and the ones who truly care are the ones who will go away from the situation and make a difference. Maybe they’ll teach their children a valuable lesson about compassion. Maybe they’ll teach their parents about respecting differences. But they’ll spread the word, and I like to think that one day we’ll all be more compassionate because of these few that take the time to care. Take care and hang in there! My sister, like your Little One, can rock it better than anyone I know.

  • giozi - YOur friend give to you a fantastic advice. I can understand you and I didn’t know what to say to these people.
    YOur girl is beautiful and she has a wonderful mother and family. I can feel your love for her.

  • marie - “I’m learning to walk into a room and rock it. Little One is already a natural at it.”
    I know that…

    I’m a french mum who is in love with your blog, your pictures, and your 5 kids. Everyday I’m waiting for your new message ! It’s been a long time I want to leave a message…
    My 5 years old girl is born with a congenital syndrom : she has a cardiopathy (heart surgery when she was 6 months old), and 4 fingers on right hand (no thumb). When she was 14 months old, new surgery : they placed her index finger instead of her thumb.

    Today, she is VERY very “energetic” little girl (I don’t know if it’s the good word or not in English ?), always running, jumping, yelling… and she’s very VERY strong !
    A lot of pain, fears, surgery for her. But so strong…

    I still see, like you, the pointing, the whispers, the stares… And I can tell you my daughter is stronger than me !!
    She knows her story, her birth, we call her “our little warrior” πŸ™‚
    She can tell her story, and tell the surgery. For her, and her big brother, it’s something very “normal”, simple : some people are born with something “different”, and this difference makes them stronger !
    I know it will be the same for Little One

    So I can tell you, Ashley : don’t worry, Little one will be stronger than you, and I think it’s a very good news !

    Something funny: everytime my little Warrior sees a picture of FireCracker on your blog, she tells me “It’s me !”. I think they are very similar !

    ps: sorry for my bad English….

  • Annie Page - It sounds like you have a wonderful support system. Unfortunately we can only carry their support when we’re out in about, like a body guard if you will. I have a niece that has had several surgeries to correct her severe double cleft – she is beautiful and sweet and we love her so very much. I can’t take away all the ugly in the world, but I can raise my three (soon to be four) to be kind, to be inquisitive and to love, no matter what the package. Maybe one day if there are enough of us, we’ll outnumber the ugly. A girl can only pray!

  • Lori Kroh - Oh, great. You know how on Seinfeld…George was trying to think of comebacks all day long with his coworker on the eating shrimp scenario…he came up with…”well, the jerk store called and they are running out of you” – how about “hey,the stare, stare booger bear store called and they are wondering why you are staring?” okay. no. that’s dumb. I feel for you. I see her beauty. – completely. What about making her a onesie and it says in cute, calico fabric colors…”Hey, do you see me? Did you know that if my mommy didn’t have compassion and love that I would be all alone and grow up without a family just because of this little thing called a lip?” “Did you know that surgery can correct a lip but nothing can correct harsh stares?” – and it’s all on her onesie??
    I think people probably just are overwhelmed in their minds and maybe feel overcome by the thought that “she” was obviously chosen. – it may make them feel a twinge of guilt because they realize “they” could never do anything like that…in their lives. They are too preoccipied with Halloween right now to think of starving orphans. So, their inside hearts come out through their faces and it IS UGLY. On their part. We love your whole family. Please God – allow Ashley to share with those who inquire and maybe they will be open to “this kind of adoption”.
    IT is a reminder to us all. Everyone has flaws. Some are on the outside and some are inside. “Pretty is as Pretty does” – said my mother all my years growing up…~ok. Maybe, that should be on the onesie instead. ;0)

  • Alexis - Oh Ashley! I know these feelings well. We were told our baby was seriously ill when I was pregnant. Then she was born and was perfect! I was so happy. Several weeks later she developed a hemangioma on her temple. It grew and grew. People said horrible things. They looked at her like she was a monster. I even caught people in our family taking pictures to show their friends. I thought she was a miracle and others found her to be a circus sideshow. We overcame it and its a blip on our timeline now. You’ll feel the same too. Prayers for your sweet family. Our God doesn’t make mistakes, each of us are made in the image of Him.

  • Lisa M. - I don’t see how anyone could see that child as anything but beautiful…a gift from God. Unfortunately there are alot of cruel and unthoughtful people walking this earth. As my walk with Christ grows, I think I notice those people even more. It’s sad. But I love your “rockin’ it” attitude and what a role model you are being for your children. God placed Little One in your arms because he knew you were the mother she needed. The more I read your posts, I am positive this is true. There is no better family for her. You are teaching so many people kindness, compassion, grace and tolerance…me included. I am totally inspired by your experience. Thank you for sharing.

  • Sophi Belle - Your friend is wise. She gave you a great advice. πŸ™‚

    When I was about nine a dog scratched my lower lip. It was awful. I was at my grandparents’ without my mom and dad. I remember the horrifying look on my grandparents’ and uncles’ and aunts’ faces. I could see in their eyes it was bad. I asked for a mirror, but they didn’t let me see myself. After I came back from the hospital, people came to see me. NOT to confort me, but to stare at me. Really. My grandparents lived in a small village so EVERYONE knew what happened. I remember the stares. Most of them filled with curiosity, a few with pity. I hated it. I had a scar for about a year. Then, in time, the scar wasn’t colorful anymore so the stares stopped eventually.

    The funny thing is that I was really afraid I will not get married because of my lip. But after a few years I noticed that it was a magnet for boys; they wanted to know what happened to me and to genuinely confort me. Actually, no boy ever hurt my feelings because of my scar. They could see my lips were beautiful nonetheless. πŸ™‚

    Your daughter is beautiful. There WILL be people who will see that. Unfortunately, most people can’t see beauty if it doesn’t look like a plastic from a magazine. Their bad, not yours and not your beautiful little girl’s. So keep rockin’ it. πŸ˜‰

  • Kara - You are a setting a great example for your kids and for others. Just think that for every person you pass who is unaffected by your strength and her beauty, another person may be forever changed.

  • lindsey - oh ashley! it really pains me to think of those stares! you know, it surprises me that there was that reaction in China as I would think they had come to see a lot of clefts. However, I guess the really sad thing is that most of those babies are tucked away in orphanages. when i was in Russia for a couple of months, it was shocking to see at first…i had so many questions. wondering how they eat? drink? how it affects their lifestyle. but that girl…oh my…she is so beautiful. and i have a hard time believing they can’t see the beauty! even with her cleft, there is no denying that she is gorgeous. and i am totally with your friend. even when I have a friend who got a bad haircut or is trying out a lipstick they are nervous about…silly things like that…if you “rock” something then people can see your confidence and they become confident, too. so so so glad you and little one are rocking it all over town πŸ™‚

  • Katie - Thank you. I have been struggling with what I would do in your place in this exact situation. Please know I am sending you all my personal strength that you might be able to “Rock it” when you encounter those people. And I appreciate that you are being such a strong role model for your children and Little One and teaching others what it means to love like a mom!!

  • Momof2 - I love reading your posts first of all and thank you so much for sharing your journey with us all!!!! So I work with children in the hospital with life threatening illnesses, but much of my work is with children who have cancer. One of our teenage patients used to get really tired of answering questions/people staring about his hair loss…..so he had his mom make business cards for him. The cards had a short statement about himself…why he was great; why he had hair loss, and some facts about childhood cancer. Many of the ‘stares,’ as you know came from lack of information. That worked for him and helped him with his constant fear/anger of going in public. Thought it was a clever idea!!!
    Have a great day and Rock It!!!!!

  • Nicole - Best I can say is that we become soo accustomed to what we view as “normal,” that many will stop and stare at something that does not fit into that category for someone. The more we are exposed to something outside of our typical world view, the more comfy we become. Keep in mind that children are often the ones who stare the most because they do not have the filter us adults should have developed.

    In the end, it is your job to protect her, and your family. Everyone else can stick it. It is not your job to educate the world. It is not your job to be the cleft spokesperson. You get to decide what role you want to play. It sounds like being Mama Bear and protecting your brood is the role that you are needed for.

  • Erin - Oh Ashley!
    What a great post–perfect advice! May God continue to bless you all. You are changing the world, one post at a time-truly! Stay strong. We are all outhere behind you, pushing you on!

  • Alice H - And ROCK IT you should!! She is beautiful! And so are you and your whole family.

  • Kim - I have to say when I first stumbled across your blog maybe a year ago, it was difficult for me to look at the pictures from the incubator project. However, as you allowed me a glimpse into your family life and adoption process, it has definitely changed the way I see children with clefts. People may stare, but keep in mind that by telling your story, you have made it easier for other parents and children with clefts. We will never meet, but I (and many of your other readers) will never look at children with clefts the same way. So thank you for sharing with me and opening my mind.

  • beth - I just finished Beth Moore’s book “So Long Insecurity” My husband bought it for me and it sat on my bookshelf for over a year before I read it because I thought it was not for me. I am a secure person(I am) but I read it this week. Prov. 31 says “She is clothed with strength and dignity.” You are! So is Little One! Beth Moore says to remind yourself of that whenever you walk into a stressful situation or find your insecure feelings coming up. I am amazed at the change it has made in me in just a couple weeks! Ashley is clothed in strength and dignity! Little One is clothed in strength and dignity! Rock it!

  • Stefanie - Oh girl, you DO rock it!
    I experienced the exact same thing in China with my boys because of their clubfoot. I was completely unprepared the first time and found myself overwhelmed, fiercely protective and so, so saddened. The stares continued after we got home and began serial castings to correct the clubfoot and the, “How in the world did that kid break both his legs?” questions came.
    Oh my.
    Thanks for sharing from your heart so beautifully πŸ™‚

  • Liesel - Ashley, I don’t comment here much but I do feel compelled to now. I am one of the ones you have transformed. I looked away, scrolled through the early pictures of the incubator project. It wasn’t until you were united with your LO that you changed me. You. Changed. Me. It was your photos and your writing. Your love for that little girl is so apparent, I cannot see anything else. She’s beautiful because you allow me to see her through your eyes. (For many other reasons too. She’s gorgeous without you also, duh.) But it was you that allowed me to get past it. You have to channel the same when you are in public. All those other people that say you transformed them? We are no different than the people you meet in real life. (I’d like to think we’d have some tact.) You have to let your love for her shine through and you will be transforming them just as you have us.

  • Brandi - Oh Ashley. I can honestly say that I’d probably stare at Little One too, but not in bad way. I would stare out of pure love. Like staring at Tim Tebow….he is just that beautiful. You can not help but stare. πŸ˜‰ I love your friends advice. You just got “rock it” in life. Remember, Gods approval is the only approval we need and there is no doubt in my mind that your Little One is going to change peoples hearts. You are demonstrating such a deep love to other people and you rock my world with it!! Blessings.

  • Kristin S - β€œDon’t you see HER?! She is exquisite. She is strong. She is beautiful. She is my daughter and she is deeply, deeply loved.”

    That’s how Christ fights for us when we are believing lies!

  • Julianne - Just loved reading this! Rock it, girl! πŸ™‚ She’s beautiful and you know it! Your post reminds me of how Jesus looks at us-He doesn’t look at us through what others see on the outside. He treasures us just as you treasure her! I don’t even know you guys (I’m the one who emailed you from Uganda), and I’m thankful she has you for a mommy!

  • Amy - When I see a photo of a child with a cleft palate, just like the ones you posted earlier, I get an immediate feeling of my heart pulsing. It just makes me feel more compassion and love than any other situation. That’s how I felt when you posted your first article. That said, I would probably look if I saw a child with a cleft, but my first thought is that this child deserves something special.

    I don’t normally post, but I think it’s important to balance out the unfeeling insensitive people in the world. WE DO…..

  • ari - Ashley- I’m so glad you are “rocking it!” I never thought about how hard it must be to see others not look lovingly upon your daughter. But she is loved by her family and by many of us, and she will know it. And she is completely and totally perfect in her Father’s eyes too.

  • Robin L - She is absolutely beautiful! Shame on the other adults. All we see is love and happiness with your family. You and your LO are absolutely blessed!

  • Jennifer - while i was reading this, my 4 year old boy glanced at the pictures and said, “Oh! That baby is so cute!!” πŸ™‚
    your daughter is beautiful and wonderfully made! praying for wisdom as your navigate motherhood with all your 5, but especially this one today.

  • Trish - wearing your heart on your sleeve is so refreshing! i have a daughter with cerebral palsy. it is hard even when she is 8. somedays i “rock it” while other days i want to crawl into a hole. we went to a family camp called joni and friends… their motto verse the year we went was, “where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 cor 3:17 such a freeing verse! may that verse wash over you!!!

  • Ryan - I have to be honest… I never even thought about this being an issue. When I see her pics, I see a wonderfully blessed and cherished little girl. I never notice or think about anything else.

    But that’s the society we live in, where people are unsure of differences. I have to believe that, when people look, it’s out of curiosity and not malice. But I’m sure it doesn’t feel comforting either way, since we all have such fierce instincts to protect our kids from anything uncomfortable. Here on the blog, you did such a good job explaining what it is and what it meant for Little One that I think your readers understand what it means to daily life. Strangers out and about may not have had the chance to read all of the important info you’ve shared with us. Maybe you could print off cheap little cards with the URL to her story? Turn an awkward situation into one where you affect hearts and minds?

    And just remember all the good too. You’ve educated a bazillion people all around the world by sharing Little One’s journey so far. I have to believe that, at some point, that will lead to more adoptions and a better understanding of the differences we’re all born with, both visible and those unseen.

  • angie - I’ll be honest in saying that I do always find myself staring at her cleft in your pictures, but not in a bad way. I love seeing her smile and her expression. I love knowing she has been given the opportunity to live a better life. A happier life. A more fulfilled life surrounded by an amzing family who loves her to the very core of her being. Keep rocking it mom. You’re doing a great job!

  • Jamie - I would really struggle with that as well. I think because, like you, I wouldn’t have prepared for it. I would have never thought that anyone could be so cruel to a young child. Or her mother. She is so beautiful and it pains me to know that others could see anything but that. If anything this will only add to her strengths because she has a wonderful family leading her through life, loving her unconditionally. She will learn her value goes far beyond what she looks like. She will learn she is beautiful from the inside out.

  • B - some people don’t understand, and really we pity them and hope we have the love in our hearts to educate them.

    There are plenty of people with deformities or disabilities, there are plenty of people that will stare at anyone different. They just don’t know any better.

    Just think by accepting little one you have taught your children so much about judging people!


  • alaina - Good morning! I have to tell you that I look forward to seeing what your sweet family is up to everyday πŸ™‚ It hit me as I read your post today that while many stares come from a very nasty place, I wonder if many of the stares that you recieve are in sheer awe of how selfless you are to have welcomed a special needs child into your life, how strong you must be to love her unconditionally in a world that we all know is superficial. You do rock πŸ™‚

  • Ashley T. - I have read your blog off and on for years. Loved your DIY style and kind heart. I hadn’t read your blog for a long while (just had a baby, life was crazy, yada yada…) Randomly I “checked back in” a few months ago. I have since been following you on an almost daily basis. I have been so moved by your story and that of Little One. I agree with you 100%. The first time I saw the pictures of the children with cleft palettes. I was hurt for them. For these beautiful children who will face such adversity in their lives and I cried for them. Little one is one of the most beautiful babies I have ever seen. Her smile is joyful and her eyes are filled with soulfulness that most people take a lifetime to acquire. Thank you for sharing your story with the world. It is better for it. I am better for it.

  • Bonnie - Ashley, I can’t imagine how hard this must be for you. People are unbelievable sometimes. Good for you for setting a good example for your kids. I know I would have a very difficult time holding back the snarky reactions to people’s stares. Way to rock it, mama!

  • Jessica P - I’m so glad that you are choosing to ROCK IT! I love that! Little One is absolutely beautiful and perfect. Pity those too ignorant to see it. And if you ever want someone to accompany you to the mall to throw things or make certain finger gestures at the jerks, I’m not above it. Kidding…kind of.;)

  • Chas - Ashley, so many of your posts since having your little girl in the arms of your family have brought me to tears and this one does too. She is stunningly beautiful! I seen that the moment I saw her first photo. I don’t know if it because I am a newer mommy of an 8 month old, but your story touchs me every time I read a new post.

  • Katie - Though it is different in that I know a great part of your struggles are peoples eyes not only on the differences between you and her, but also their stares at her sweet little lip. However, I had to share this sweet story that my cousin shared with me. She had heard it from an adoptive family while she was in the waiting process of her Korean adoption. She said the mother told the story of a man in a grocery store asking her daughter, “Is that your real mom?” The little girl reached over, poked her mom, and said, “Feels real to me.” I just love the innocence of that statement…and you know it put him in his place as well!

  • Allison - Your little one is gorgeous! There are lots of successful, “beautiful” people who were born with a cleft palate and it did not hold them back one bit. I personally think Peyton Manning is a great example and role model – he’s a smashing success! Your little one has a fantastic family and lots of love and I’m positive she will grow up to be an amazing person – nothing can hold back a little lady who is so loved.

  • Jessica Colvin - I know some stares are mean but I think some people are generally just caught off guard. Our friend is fostering ( and hopefully adopting) a child with cleft lip a gorgeous little boy. I’m used to seeing him but I’m still surprised to see this in a store or mall. I see them and I hurt for them first. Sometimes I think this is what first registers on my face and then I feel terrible it’s not meaness at all but the parent may not know that.
    I think if you can choose kindness back you’ll be the best example for your daughter. My uncle is severally mentally handicapped to the point that my grandparents don’t brnig him out much. We were walking on the beach and came across a family with a handicapped child that was thoroughly enjoying his visit and we stopped to watch him and were talking to eachother about how lucky they were and how nice it was to see his parents bringing him out because we wished that joy for our family. Well his mother saw us and freaked out she was very angry at us for what she assumed was meaness. And I hurt for her because I understand why she reacted that way. The good part is that we were able to talk to her and explain our joy for her. And it ended up being an incredibly good experience especially for her I think.
    I guess I’m just trying to say that I have a lot of experience being around handicapped individuals and birth defects and I still grasp at the correct way to react- or not react- when meeting someone in passing. I really value anyway you can educate me in becoming better at this!

  • Kara M - It is amazing how our confidence/”rock it” attitude can change things for us…maybe not others, but us! If you see me staring, it is my starstruck face…”OMG, that’s Ashley’s little one! TOO CUTE!”

  • Sarah - I have a friend that adopted a boy from her special needs class that she teaches. The story in itself is very touching, and because she is so young perhaps people wouldn’t think she adopted a child. What I can’t understand is how many people SAY things to her directly. People she doesn’t know. They look nothing alike and people continually say things to her about it. He’s relatively severe in that he has no verbal skills and with her help is getting a lot better at physical activity. People have said things to her about his inability to speak and “why doesn’t he just talk?” Or “why are you letting such an old kid ride in a grocery cart?”. I’m absolutely stunned by the brash arrogance of people. These are adults too. The kids it’s completely appropriate and they just are curious.
    I used to think racism was dead until I married my husband and had kids. Most people are silent in the racism. I would get glares and stares and could feel it, but my friend gets verbal ignorance thrown at her daily.
    I can only imagine what people must actually SAY to you. I truly don’t understand people and ask for Gods grace on a daily basis. I pray His grace for you and your family. That somehow you will teach these people you encounter through your compassion how to respond to things they do not understand.

    She is absolutely beautiful in every way btw!

  • Tammy C. - Every time you post about your sweet little one I get so choked up. She is just so beautiful and I am so happy she is with her family. You are doing great mama, she has lots of warriors by her side now. Her innocence will protect her and when she is older she will have been shown by her family how to bravely respond to the harshness of the world.

  • Whitney - I read this just now and wanted to share my short story about this subject.

    My son was born with severe cleft lip and palate. It was much worse than what you’re beautiful daughter has now. Obviously, he had the same color of skin that I did, so that wasn’t an issues, but yes, people talked about it. I remember a few people being mean, but it really hurt when my husband’s grandmother said that she didn’t want to take a picture of him because she didn’t want to remember him looking like that. I was so furious.

    He had two surgeries and now, you’d never know anything has changed. The first day we took him out and NOBODY said anything was a breakthrough. We couldn’t believe it. That was a big day. He’s the most confident kid I know.

    Now, I sometimes see babies with cleft and their unique smiles are incredible lovely to me. I saw an infant boy with a similar condition to my son’s at IKEA a couple of years ago and I couldn’t look away. He was so beautiful! He smiled his wide, unique smile at me and I wanted to cry. I’m not an emotional person, but these children bring tears to my face, honestly. I don’t know if there’s anything more beautiful than a cleft smile.

    Your daughter doesn’t know she’s different, but she is very beautiful and very loved. She’ll “rock it” so well, I promise.

  • Megan - I’m so sorry you have to deal with people who are truly ugly on the inside. Or they are insecure with themselves. I was born with a cleft lip. And I know all too well the mean and rude comments. Even after my surgeries. But I can promise you it gets a little easier and better each day. And your daughter will grow up knowing people chose her. People love her. And that she is beautiful.

  • Sadie - Little One has moved my heart more than words can say. I was never taken back by her lip. I was however transformed in the way I see beauty. She is absolutely gorgeous. I always want photos of her in your post. Her smile is the most precious smile I have ever seen. I am in tears just reading your post. ROCK IT!

  • Nicole C - My Mama bear instinct would kick in and I wouldn’t be able to be gracious. That’s just me and I don’t even have kids. Maybe it’s because I don’t know any better. Your daughter is absolutely stunning and her eyes just melt my heart.

    I’m wondering, do you have business cards for your blog? When you hear the whispers and feel the stares, hand them a card about your blog. Tell them they can read her story and what you both have been through.

    Silent education with a dash of graciousness πŸ™‚

  • Amy at Fig Milkshakes - Ashley, before I became a homemaker, I worked with people with disabilities for several years. Some of these disabilities severely affected their physical appearance.

    This post short of shocked me, because I am right there with you when you say all you see is a beautiful baby girl. I didn’t realize this was something she had to struggle with. :_(

    Anyways, I used to come across this sort of thing . I’ll never forget some of the looks, and one friend in particular had an experience where she sat down in a restaurant, and the family sitting next to her asked to be moved to another table because her physical appearance was making them ‘lose their appetite’.

    But, on the other hand, every once in a while, we would be out eating, and a gentle, amazing man would come over and show them love – saying things like, “These will be the first in heaven.”

    Well, this is getting long, and you have so many comments to read already, but long story short – I found that the terrible people we came across were terrible, but when you DID meet somebody that was willing and open to accept them exactly how they are – that person was AMAZING, COMPASSIONATE, ABSOLUTELY WORTH MEETING AND KNOWING – and somebody we otherwise may not have come across. Does that make sense? I can’t say if it’s all worth it, but it was at least a comfort to me at times.

  • Nicole - I think you are doing a wonderful job at sharing Little One’s story and helping those of us that are not familiar with cleft lip. I wish I could say to igore the stares but they do burn right through to your soul. Some people cannot be changed and are not worth the trouble. Stay strong and keep rocking it for your family!

  • Megan - Ashley- Little One has changed the way I view cleft lips, I am embarrassed to admit. When I see her, I see a beautiful little girl, and my heart smiles. May she change many others’ views, and may God give you strength to rock it!

  • Ginna - I bet your heart breaks when you see grimaces and funny looks towards your daughter. There are such mean and hurtful people out there, and I know you want to shield her from all that harm. She is beautiful and you are beautiful for setting such a lovely example to your children on how to treat others kindly. Keep rocking it!

  • sarah k - Rock on!

    It staggers me to think that people would actually say unkind things or point and whisper. I understand being surprised and feeling sorry, but not being unkind. I’m sorry you and your lovely girl have to deal with that.

    I, too, have been touched by your pictures of your daughter–while I’m familiar with seeing people with clefts post-surgery, I had only personally encountered one person pre-surgery: a little girl in my church when I was in college. I remember that I didn’t know how to respond, and so, to my shame, I probably just avoided her. How sorry that makes me now. But I think I will forever see a person with a cleft differently now, because of your daughter–I will feel more confidence to look at them, and smile, and not look away. And, if it seems appropriate, to ask questions. That’s one thing I am learning, from reading blogs and interviews and my own experience–that parents would rather you ask questions, kindly, about their child than just look on and make assumptions.

    I wanted to add that I was thinking last night about times in our lives when we feel alone, isolated and alienated, and that Jesus knows what that is like, because he lived it. “As one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Is 53: 3). It brings me a little comfort to think that he can say, “I know what this feels like. I’m walking into this room with you.”

  • stacey - i am so naive. when i hear stories like this, it breaks my heart. i tend to think everyone lives in my same bubble of happiness and joy and love and respect…a place where there is no distasteful rudeness, no insensitive actions, no hurtful words, but only love. the great and most beautiful thing is though, that your beautiful daughter IS in this *happy bubble* at home with a family that adores her, and from the sounds of it, some very amazing and equally adoring friends. you rock that girl, rock it hard…because nothing, NOTHING beats love. virtual hugs to you my dear!

  • Jenny - I’ll never understand the ignorance of others, and their need to mock what they don’t understand. Your little one is a beautiful, amazing little girl and should be showered with kisses and love rather than stares and grimaces. But she is blessed, and loved and she will be just fine. But I understand. My father had throat cancer and had to speak with a servox (a device he held to his throat to speak (albeit in a robotic tone)). People always stared at him. It made me insane with sadness. This man suffered through surgery and chemotherapy and radiation and here he was! Speaking!!! But it was always the children, the innocence of their questions that made him smile. Why is it that we lose that? Our confusion or questions turn to looks of disgust or distaste? My father passed away 6 years ago, and anytime I hear someone speaking with a servox it makes me smile. Everyone with a servox sounds the same really, so it’s almost as though he pops up here and there!
    Congratulations again on your sweet angel girl. She’s a lovely little dream come true! πŸ™‚

  • Cristy - She is just beautiful. You are one very lucky mama!

  • Natalie - You are full of grace and compassion! As I’ve read and seen your precious Little One I’ve only seen a Child of God an incredible child with strength and beauty. I see it in those beautiful eyes of hers! I admire your poise and courage in facing the crowds as I can only imagine how some people are..may you continue to have strength and that your grace and compassion will touch the lives of others as it has mine!

  • Jen - My son, Eli is 4 months old and was born with a rare brain malformation. He has a cleft lip & palate and no nose. We held back pictures of him from friends, Facebook and our blog (littlegibson.ibesmart.com) for a month because I wasn’t sure how I would react if anyone said he was anything but adorable. Now though I look at him for what he is, a miracle from God and proudly show him off. We don’t get much time with him this side of heaven, but he was beautiful and wonderfully made by our Creator. May you continue to ROCK IT since you know where your beautiful daughter came from!

  • Jenna - I look forward to your posts each day and am blessed daily by your heart full of compassion and gentleness for every situation you face. I see Little One and see beauty & strength- she is truly a miracle, she is a child of God, and she is blessed to have you as her mother and your sweet family as her own.

  • Jess - I am so encouraged by your words – Your little one is indeed exquisite! Whether you know it or not, you’ve been ‘rocking it’ for a long time! You are a strong and beautiful family! Thank you for your honesty!

  • Chrissy - Thx for the tears! This is so beautifully written and so true. You both are so lucky to have each other. I love following her pics on IG. She is breath taking.

  • Cynthia - Great advice! Keep on rockin’ it!! You have no time to worry about those with small minds. You two and the family are the real heroes and rock stars!

  • Michelle W - Ash, you and your entire family…Amazing. You are all so very loved by people who know you and by people that have never had the amazing opportunity of meeting your wonderful family. Don’t pay any attention to the “ugly” looks and “ugly” things people say. Stay strong and focused.- your friend, Mitch

  • seriously sassy mama - Some people are ridiculous. She is a sweet little baby with a birth defect. I hope one day she is Martha Stewart!

  • Stacey McCastlain - Oh wow! She is absolutely beautiful and partly because of the cleft. I also see beauty in her because I feel like I can literally see the love you all have showered upon her. She is already one of those people others can’t resist smiling at. Sorry not everyone has been kind and the way we would hope for and expect. I had to get used to some of the terrible things people would say to me, or about me, when I would go out with my triplets. It was shocking. I wish I had handled those situations better and been more thoughtful in my responses as you are trying to be.

  • Lynn - I have six children from age thirteen to twenty eight. Alot of times when we would all be out together we had complete strangers make such rude comments and ask very personal questions. I am always amazed how people can be so judgmental when it really is none of their business. My husband and I never planned on a big family but surprises happen! I am a very proud mother to my gang. We have always taught our children to look at the differences of people as a good thing. It is certainly a hard lesson for all of us to learn. Little One may look “different” to many but she is a truly beautiful child and will grow up with the confidence you, your husband and other children are teaching her.
    Thankyou for reminding us of this today.

  • Kendra - Oh wow, I really really want to stand up and cheer for you and your beautiful baby girl rockin’ every room. That does sound like the absolute best way to handle the everyday challenges. No matter what happens, even if you’re losing it on the inside, fake it until you make it. And the best advice is still from Dr. Suess “Those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter”. Your little girl (and your whole family really) is so so loved by so many people!

  • Sarah W. - She is beautiful.
    I hope you run into more and more people that see that.
    Prayers for you.

  • Cindy - What an example you are of God’s grace and patience. Your babies are watching you and learning that as well. Ignorant people will never “get” it, and by not responding, maybe some other little person, besides yours I mean, will see and learn from you. And your daughter is a rock star πŸ™‚

  • Jen - I love that you are taking the high road – especially that you know your kids are watching. I think as parents that is easy to forget. Keep stong! I can relate a bit, as I grew up with a mother that had polio and I remember as a child feeling so protective of her and the hurtful strangers. Still do at 38!
    Little One has a great role model πŸ™‚

  • Erika@ TheLindenLife - She is absolutely beautiful. My brother had a cleft lip as a baby, and I’ve never really stopped to think how it must have been for my parents. It’s sad that people like to dwell on the negatives when it comes to babies, rather than comment on her sweet smile or beautiful hair. Hopefully, every time you take her out you are allowing other children to learn about different kinds of beauty.

  • Sarah B. - I definitely see HER! She is beautiful and she’s definitely stronger that she’ll ever know! I adore her sweet face!

  • paige y. - ROCK ON ASHLEY! I love this post. Thank you for your true words, your heart.

  • Rhonda - Ashley, I am mom to the most amazing little boy who just happens to have dubowitz syndrome. He is soon to be 14 years old and may weigh 50 lbs, about 4′ tall, very small head, ptosis eyelids…., but absolutely adorable! When Caleb was younger the stares were more how little and cute he is, now not so. I have learned just in the last year how best to cope. I focus all my attention on him and the object that we are there to buy while we are in the store, laughing with him, talking, just having a good time, I avoid others eye contact. This has helped me in more ways than I can say. Caleb is so strong yet this is extremely hard for him, he just wants others to treat him like we do! A normal 13 year old boy, he hears them, knows what they are saying, sees the stares but looks the other way. My heart breaks for this child of mine but I KNOW God is working amazingly in the hearts of others through my child, those that will listen to Him:).
    Love your blog and you are one child that our Lord is using to reach so many others!!
    from one mom to another seeking God’s best,

  • cindy - ROCK ON! You are both so beautiful!!!
    Lori Khor is too funny for a onesie πŸ™‚

  • Tanis - Rocking it is the only way to do it… my daughter has Rett Syndrome and because of that she can’t speak anymore, has lots of anxiety, and will sometimes scream, shriek, throw tantrums or laugh inappropriately in public. She is 4 and looks like a typical child and so to most people she looks like a bratty kid acting out when she uses her loud noises to try and tell me she is hungry or scared or happy etc.
    I have had many people stop me to tell me what a bad mom I am. How my daughter just needs to “shut up”, that “my children would never act that way in public”… I used to walk away flabbergasted and then kicked myself later for not giving some smart aleck response. Or I would loose my cool and then kick myself for being ugly back to them instead of educating them about my daughter.
    I decided to make up business cards with her picture on it with a little bit about her and some facts about Rett Syndrome, including a website address. Now, when I encounter a horrible person I can hand them a card and walk away without causing a scene… and I also have them for the nice people who are truly kind and want to know more.
    I think your daughter is beautiful and love to be able to go on this journey with you and your family… never stop rocking it!!

  • lauren roberts - It’s too bad that world is less likely to see God’s beauty everywhere instead of what the world considers “beautiful”. I think she is 110% God’s beautiful little girl. i think she is simply wonderful. We all are.

  • Tawnya - I can’t stop looking at her because she is so beautiful and amazing! Your journey has opened my eyes even more to these special little ones…..where once my insides cringed when I’d see a picture in a magazine of a cleft palette child, (out of the wondering pain they might be feeling, and yes shock I suppose), I now just think she (and others like her), are just so beautiful and have such a story. Be encouraged that you are changing the way people think and your Little One is a light for all to see HIM! Thank you for sharing your journey! Can’t thank you enough!

  • stephanie smith - You both can rock it! And little one is beautiful and you can just see her little spark in her eyes. My son had clubfeet and has dwarfism so we got alot of stares in the early months. It got very uncomfortable because like you, I just want to go unnoticed, left to run my errands in peace. When my mom or sister would go out with him, so many people would stop them and have questions or say they knew someone who… but not very many people stopped to ask me. I discovered I was going out with my “fight face” on, trying to protect my son and myself from others. I realized that I was missing an opportunity to educate people, to show them our differences are wonderful, not something to be afraid of or stare at. Thank you for sharing pictures of little one and for sharing your heart, I am sure it has opened many peoples eyes to a new definition of beauty.

  • Sarah - Little One is so beautiful! I don’t even see her cleft lip anymore… I’m captivated by her eyes. It’s SO hard when others judge your child and I’m sorry you have to experience that ugliness. We get so many stares and questions when Levi has to wear his cast or brace.

  • Steph - You probably won’t see this, what with the 78 comments already logged undoubtedly supporting you because you deserve it! But I wanted to throw in. The first time I saw a sweet face like your daughter’s, I was shocked. I didn’t see the beauty, I saw a deformity, and I wanted to look away. I thought what a shame, how hard, what a waste. Awful, right? After your Incubator Project and seeing all those adorable little babes, so different yet so alike, I stopped noticing. The first pictures you posted of your daughter, I could still see it, her cleft was a disability. By the second post, gone. Can’t even notice it anymore. Its just part of her face like an eyebrow, big woop, and there is SO MUCH MORE to see in her (and I don’t even know her!).

    So anyway my point is that from outside the bubble of compassion, adoption, service, charity, experience – and a LOT of people live outside that beautiful bubble – things take some getting used to. People are going to be taken aback, and they aren’t going to be around long enough to see past their initial reaction. But the second time they see someone with LO’s difference, they will hopefully feel less surprise and take less notice. And most importantly, no one’s surprise or learning curve is ANY excuse for poor behavior – harsh words are simply the mark of a jerk, and I’m sorry those people exist and shop in your oasis. THAT is a shame.

  • Jessica - Ashley, Soon I’m bringing home a little one with limb differences of all four limbs. So the fact that people may react to us and her is something that’s crossed my mind more than once.

    We try to be “fly under the radar” type people too, so I really can relate to what you’re talking about here. Chin up — they’re all staring because she and you are all so amazingly lovely and wonderful!

    I’m not sure if you know it or not, but you rocking it is its own form of beauty. Rock on!

  • Stoich91 - Thank you for sharing this! Through your eyes, many of us (your readers!) have found what an enriching and beautiful thing having a child with a disability can become. Thank you for your your commitment and continued enthusiasm through the storms! πŸ˜€

  • jina - One of my closest friends has a sweet 4 year old with special needs. I don’t have wise words for you. All I know is to let the people who love you and love your little one shower you all with that love. Live in that place as much as you can. I pray that my love for my friend’s little one overshadows any ugliness that she may encounter in her life.

  • Kimberlee Jost - Believe it or not, I am still learning how to ignore some of that staring…that is soooo hard. Hugs to you!

  • Bethany - Bless you for rocking it! You will never know the gift that just your attitude is to so many people. It speaks volumes I am so sure! I am a fade into the background kind of person to so I get how uncomfortable it can be to be suddenly noticed. It’s got to be like being hugely pregnant in Walmart but worse because the reaction is negative and it’s to your girl. I for one, must thank you because my kids saw your pictures of your lovely girl. It made us all think and confronted their ideas of beauty. I am so thankful that I got to have a real conversation with my 3 year old about it. He struggled with it for a while and it had a large impact on him. He for sure has more grace for different people now and I think that he will be much more accepting and less shocked about differences he sees in people around him now.

  • Heather - HUGS!!

    I don’t have wisdom when it comes to how to react to the world’s reaction to her cleft lip. She is a gorgeous little girl and she’s all yours and she will be confident in every way because of your family’s love for her. You are so right in having to know how to handle it. We have 2 asian daughters and while we don’t have the same “challenge” as you face, I used to come home from being out and say – can I go out and be unnoticed….I feel like I am walking around with my hair on fire some times….why does EVERYONE have to take notice? We stuck out in China – my husband overally tall and I’m blonde…..you had your boys with you….a big attraction in itself.

    Reading your post made me realize….I don’t notice it nearly like I used to……so my two cents from that is that you will likely get more used to it. For us, the reaction is generally positive but, like you, when you feel the negative coming……I want to just scream at the people! She’s just a doll!

  • lynn ortis - I just was sent your blog by Linden White !! We adopted twin girls 3 years ago from Russia . They are identical and one had a unrepaired bilateral cleft. I cant wait to read your whole blog. We have 5 kids 3 are bio boys. I was kind of sad when Kati had her first surgery because i fell in love with her big cleft smile. your little girl is beautiful!!! Congrats

  • able mabel - My heart goes out to all of you. I can just imagine the feeling. Keep rocking it and try your best to ignore all those thoughtless people out there.

  • Kayla - I love how she sucks her thumb and blankie – my 5 year old has done this since her first profile in the womb; I’m convinced that behavior is innate – God given.
    My five year old is emotionally charged, sensitive yet courageous and full of more grace than I can ever hope to achieve.
    Her teeth are all silly from the hours and hours of sucking her thumb and blankie – but her charm, grace and joy far outshine her imperfect smile.
    All the more, I love her mouth – as it reminds me of the Lord’s ever-loving and ever-soverign character. He created her to suck that thumb, long before we ever had a name for her. He is merciful, captivating and full of grace and beauty. Just like he made my daughter.
    And yours πŸ™‚
    I love it.

  • mary from tenn - This is something that my family faced with my beautiful neice who was born with cleft lip and palate. Hers was actually very similar jn apperence. We have taught her that God made her special. That despite what people think she is beautiful beyond words. She is amazing and stays so strong. Your daughter is beautiful and she too was specially made by God. Tell her daily how beautiful she is in and out. Its important that she has that in her head for when those moments come that she hears negativity. God bless ya’ll.

  • Meg - My daughter had surgery at 7 months old that left her with a zig zag incision that stretched over her head from ear to ear like a frankenstien head band. I empathise with your frustration about the looks and whispers. It is hard. I was able to put a hat on my baby girl. My daughter’s hair grew in and the scar has faded. You have a long rode ahead of you but you are strong and so is your beautiful baby girl. God Bless.

  • Jessica - Seeing pictures of your sweet girl and reading your posts about her have totally made me forget about her cleft. After reading the other day about her hospital visit for testing reminded me that she will need some medically necessary surgeries. However, she is stunning and beautiful. So grateful she has a family who love her and see her for who she is-one of God’s masterpieces created in His image.

  • Meg - Beautiful! This post brought joy to my heart and tears to my eyes. She is perfect! And our God is so amazing. πŸ™‚

  • Lyn - Ashley, you are a better person than I. My Mama Bear would be out more often than not saying not nice things. Keep rocking it out!!! You and LO look great!

  • dee - People are dumb fools sometimes…I admit one I first saw the little one I kept looking at her sweet mouth and thought oh you poor baby…now when I look at pictures I think what a sweetie and dont ever notice her mouth.I know you will ‘ROCK IT” and show others to do the same-love dee x

  • ashley - I am so proud of you and your family you are truly inspiration. What a blessed little girl to have someone like you to give her an amazing life!

  • angieb - She is seriously so beautiful.

  • Laura Morris - Beauty is in the imperfections.

  • Angie - People fear / make fun of / stare at what they do not understand.

  • Maggie - I just high lighted these on my blog today as part of a roundup of great adoption stuff! I plan on making my own and I know you could rock this out too….since you’re now in the business of rocking things out! Just something that could be tailored for your own family and what you actually want to share.


  • Allie - Oh how this hits close to home. My oldest was born with a large pigmented birthmark next to his eye and down his cheek. It was such a struggle to cope with the tactless adults who didn’t seem to think that my beautiful sensitive toddler could hear and understand what they were saying.

  • {darlene} @ fieldstonehilldesign.com - I hope that some who are staring are trying to soak in your goodness and fathom a way that they could do what you have done. Hoping they can see deeper into you both and your chosen love. You are walking evidence of love… the world does not see that much… and it is bound to attract attention. May He use you mightily.

  • Lisa - My son was born with a cleft lip and by the time of his surgery, we no longer saw it and I felt like cancelling it. I didn’t want him to have to go through the pain but I knew it was necessary for him. The stares of others were hard and I felt judged as having done something wrong that caused it. I made sure to take lots of pictures and have his portrait taken too so he knew we were never embarrassed. He’s 22 now, gorgeous, and has never been made to feel uncomfortable about the small remaining scar.

  • Jennifer - I am always a “looker” I suppose when it comes to things or people that are different, but usually that difference is what draws me to them. I remember when the e twins were tiny and on monitors and oxygen. A trip to the grocery store was full of gasps and stares. The nurses always told me to use their corrected ages (i.e. due date as birthdate) instead of their actual age. People would gasp when I would say that they are 4 months old and they looked like newborns. I do remember, however, being appreciative of those who asked or engaged me in conversation. Sometimes people cannot help but stare, but have the decency to show compassion through concerned questions. I have tons of questions about beautiful, Little One. Regardless of the questions I have about the cleft- I see her as an adorable baby girl that has a special place in my heart (for so many reasons). Love you…love her…love this post.

  • Frances - I have been lurking for a while (I hate that word though, prefer observing) and I just had to comment. Little one s gorgeous and sweet and beautiful just like the rest of your kids. Any adult who does this is just awful. They aren’t worth your time or emotion (easier said than done I know)because they are terrible human beings.

    They are ignorant and the the sad part is little one will grow up, get the help she needs physically and will become a great person because she has parents like you and your husband. These people will have to live the rest of their lives as terrible human beings. I almost feel sorry for them.

    *hugs* I was a foster mom for years and hope to add to my family through adoption some day. You are an inspiration.

  • Lisa - I have been following your story(and blog) for a long while now. It is so great! I have never commented before…mostly just a lurker;p Well, I just had to let you know in the bottom left picture(of the group of four) the love that is showing in your little one’s eyes when she looks at you, brought tears to my eyes. You have not had her in you arms that long and the bond you have is so strong. Love it. So amazing to see and watch your story. The love that is in your family is great and shines through on this page. Those shallow people are truly missing out.

  • Kat - You get used to ignoring the stares. My mother has a disability that affects all of her motor skills – most noticeably her ability to walk, her speech and her writing. She can still do most things any average adult can, but slower and with more effort. She walks with a cane to help her unstable gait but other than that has a full time job and lives life normally. She first got ill when I was three year olds, and her illness has progressed (according to her) since that point. To people that meet her now, it is noticeable. We get looks in public when we’re out shopping. When she falls from time to time, we draw even more stares – some sympathetic and some curious, and some worse. Every now and then it gets to me, but I go back to that same place you described. She is strong, she is beautiful and she is more than what any of those people staring in the mall or the grocery store or the restaurant will ever know.

    She just gets more and more beautiful as the days go on!

  • TerriK - I just read back to the beginning of your adoption in one sitting and this truly amazes me! You are amazing people doing amazing things. Your family truly looks complete and happy. You make me want to add more children to my family. Good luck to you and I can’t wait to read your future posts.

  • Jeannette - I can see you “rocking it”! That baby girl is the most beautiful thing and your heart for her is just as beautiful! Love you!

  • Krista M - Stay strong Mama! I’ve been reading your blog for quite a while now and have been excited alongside you during your adoption process. When I first laid eyes upon her, I teared up because she is just so beautiful. I can’t wait to one day hold my daughter.
    This is us: http://blog.solturaphotography.com/archives/4952
    I totally get it when adults ask blunt hurtful questions. Our daughters have endured various braces and casts, and whenever out in public we can be bombarded with curiosity. Unfortunately, the only alternative would be staying home. I have had to excerise a lot of grace and not show my “Mama Bear” instincts. May our Father give you strength you never had and may others see the beauty that we all do.

  • Heather L. - The timing of you sharing your heart on this topic, Ashley, has been such a blessing to me. This is an area that I feel anxious about, wondering what other’s reactions are going to be when they see our little miss. Will they see her beauty? Will they see that she was fearfully and wonderfully made? Only 6 days to Gotcha for us (leaving for China on Thursday). “Stumbling” across your blog has helped us and our friends / family really prepare for the “beauty full” journey ahead. Hugs to you!

  • Jenny B. - Thanks for sharing this struggle, Ashley. I hadn’t even thought about people reacting negatively in public. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a child with a cleft before in person. So, I’m sure I would stare without meaning to… but I would definitely smile. Of course, if I actually saw you and Little One in real life, I’d probably follow you around trying to think of something cool to say other than, “Hi! I love your blog!” πŸ™‚ I appreciate all that I’ve learned here – from all the kids helped through the incubator project to watching you bring Little One home. I didn’t really know anything about clefts at all before you taught me. So, thank you.

  • Julie L - Ashley, that breaks my heart that people can be so cruel. I have to say that I am surprised at your answer to the social worker’s question b/c that never crossed my mind. I could see people staring in wonder and curiosity, but not rudeness. How sad for those people who cannot see beauty in all people, especially children. Your little one is beautiful and I am happy to be a follower of your blog and feel inspired by you, your family and your journey. My 4 little ones see me reading your blog and we have all learned so much from “meeting” little one.

  • katie - funny, I had completely stopped noticing it in your picture until this post. She’s a beauty for sure, inside and out it seems. Enjoy that little one, she’s just perfect!!

  • Leticia - haha yes, just go in there and Rock it.
    My husband and I have another phrase that we like to use when we are going in to face situations with possible conflict (even just attitude conflict).
    We encourage each other with this, and now I encourage you :
    “Kick ass and take names”
    well, figuratively. Kick bad attitudes in the ass – don’t let them bring you down. Don’t let anyone tell you how it’s going to be ..you go in forcefully – SHOW them how it’s going to be.
    I applaud you, and am convinced that with time you will feel more comfortable asserting yourself and demanding respect for you and your sweet daughter.

  • Tiah - β€œBe who you are…because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” Dr. Seuss

    This was the motto of my best friend growing up. She had a cleft lip and was teased a lot about her scars.

  • Cass - She is beautiful. Honestly her eyes draw me in every time – I’m quite smitten. πŸ™‚

  • Natalie - All I can think of is Hermie and Wormie…He’s not finished with ANY of us yet…giving us a heart like His.

  • Betty - Love to you from Alaska!
    And a few shared tears over my sweetie baby girl’s birthmark that people often ask about.

  • SedaSD - I’m changing every time I’m reading your great posts. I see only cuteness when I see LO’s pics. SHE.IS. BEAUTIFUL.

  • Karen - I am a 65 yr old Grandmother of one. I have not been reading your blog for very long. I was introduced to it by my daughter a couple of months ago. I love to read your story and am in love with your beautiful family. I laugh and I cry. I can only say that your folks must be very proud of you. Please keep up the great work. As we say here in Australia “don’t let ’em get to you”

  • stephanie - ashley, perhaps what might help you “rock it”, is to think of all of us here who have been following you, who have joined you on this courageous journey and every night are cheering for you from the glow of our computer screens. we are there behind you, supporting you with all the love and strength we have.

    it is funny for me to read this. i shouldn’t be surprised by the reactions you have had to deal with, and yet i am. i am surprised because with every photo you post of Little One, my heart bursts with an entire show of fireworks. i see nothing but her beauty. i see nothing but the love that you and your family and friends have poured into her life. look how well she is doing amidst the struggles. though she is so young, i sense her joy in being brought from that hard cold crib to the warmest home she could ever ask for. you are her heaven. you are her fairy godmother. you are her multi-billion dollar lottery.

    kill those dirty looks and mean stares with kindness. smile back at those on-lookers with the brightest smile. really, they have no idea the joy you feel for her and the joy you have given to her. don’t let them take that joy away from you.

    you are doing a phenomenal job. it is our nature as mothers to second guess ourselves and wonder if we are doing enough and if we are doing the right thing. i tell all my mom friends that in the end, as long as we are doing our best, that is what our children will remember when they get older and have children of their own. none of us are perfect. i’m not perfect, my mom wasn’t perfect, but knowing how hard she tried to do her best everyday is both humbling and inspiring. what a gift to know someone loves us so much. you are doing a phenomenal job.

  • Teresa Fowler - As a woman who grew up with a cleft, and who is now in the beginning stages of adopting my own “little one” from China with a cleft, thank you. Thank you for your post, for giving that deep concern a voice, and for seeing a cleft as a strength not a weakness.

  • Deboleena - your little one reminds me of my 10month old boy… the eyes and the smile especially …. πŸ™‚ he doesn’t have a cleft palate, but they are strikingly similar looking πŸ™‚ …. i have been following your blog for about 4 years now… n i love to read about how each one of ur kids are dealing with their own shares of joys and struggles…sometimes when i close my eyes at night, i see images of ur little one in my mind… i think she has made a special place in my heart and as the years pass, n i continue to stay connected with her through your blog, she will always be on my mind, in my heart and in my prayers…. don’t think about the stares, im sure ur lil one only notices u and doesn’t have a care in the world for the ugly stares, she probably knows she is a rockstar already πŸ™‚

  • ginger - She is BEAUTIFULl just the way she is, if she never has the first operation(eventhough she will have to have them to cope in life.)
    She is BEAUTIFUL. Your family has so much love to give and thank you for sharing all the photos!!!! Just know that EVERYTIME you walk into a store you are sharing God’s love and you do not have to say a thing.
    One thing you could do is make a small FLIP PHOTO BOOK of her tranformation from where she was to where she is. Then each time you get a stare, just hand them the book and say FLIP IT!
    Those people might just GET IT then! She has TRANSFORMED since the first picture you shared! Her smile is contageous and your WHOLE family is BEAUTIFUL! I will start praying everytime I think of your family and this blog, for the hurtfulness to stop, those people just do not know. Keep sharing God’s love.

  • Lula - As someone with a facial disfigurement from birth I completely understand your difficulties with the staring. I am 30 now and I live and work in central london – getting the tube every day with thousands of rude londoners and tourists, and I’ve had everything from stares to rude comments. But I completely agree with the “rock it” sentiment! I work on the basis that I have wonderful family and friends and therefore must be OK myself, and that strength allows me to be confident in difficult situations.

    I have different tactics for different moods – sometimes I’ll just wrap my scarf higher around my face, sometimes I’ll smile and try and engage someone on a positive level, and sometimes I’ll just tell them (in front of a trainful of other people) that staring is rude. They soon end up feeling more embarassed than I do! I always remember that sometimes it’s ok to be angry at people, and it’s ok to tell them to leave you alone. My parents taught me not to stare, or if you have to (and it is hard sometimes not to stare at something or someone that you’d like to know more about) to do it with a smile so people know your intention is positive.

    When I was younger, I took part in various workshops run by a charity for people with facial disfigurements that helped me learn how to deal with people’s comments, and I really would recommend anything like this for when your daughter is older. I thought that no would ever find me attractive, but now I look back and I see that once I was confident with myself and my face, others were, and I now have a handsome husband and a baby on the way!

    Your confidence is what your beautiful daugher will learn, and your positive attitude is what she will inherit.

  • Tonya - I have to admit that if I saw Little One in public….I would stare. But not out of an ill feeling or because she is different. But because she is beautiful. And maybe stare isn’t the right word…I would notice her. That head full of dark hair and those eyes…and cute cheeks. I’m partial to noticing babies….and that Little One of yours….is captivating. So when people look or stare they may not be doing so because they are seeing the differences. Maybe they are remembering what fun it is to have a baby and enjoying the beauty that she is.

  • Tamar - I didn’t read the whole post because I don’t speack english very well, but I want to say to you that your daughter is really gorgeous. She is remind me my little daughter (they are the same age). Your words and your pictures show how much you love her.I think that you and her have a big lucky to get each other. Thank you for sharing.

  • Paige - Oh if people could just know your story! Oh I wish for you that the world wasn’t like it is and that mercy and grace would be the first human reaction. You and Little One just keep rocking it. Its like that song, “the reason for the world, is to make us long for home.” The world is so imperfect. We all have that awful sinful nature to contend with. I just pray that Little One will grow up with the peaceful heart only had by a very loved child of God, and she is full of mercy and grace and so much love that anyone who meets her won’t walk away without being touched, just as her story is touching so many on this blog. Hang tough, Mama Bear.

  • Crystal P - My best friend, which we have become sisters and that’s we call eachother, so her kids I claim as my nieces and nephews. Anyway, my beautiful nephew was diagnosed with a condition called Lissensephaly, or smooth brain. He has the highest level of this condition which means he can’t do any “normal” activities a four year old can do. Talk, eat, sit up, walk…ect. His brain doesn’t compute. Well you mentioned your sons protective big brothers side coming out at times. I too am a protective one. I want to at times say, “what are you looking at? Do you have a problem?” So I do understand the stares and the struggles that you mention.
    But I learn mostly from my sis. She says she has learned from the years (four) that she must educate and not get angry. She says I look at my son and he gets this look on his face as if he is telling me not to be angry but to educate. Sometimes there are those really ignorant people that actually look at her as if she has grown four heads. One story I’ll share, my sis had to feed my nephew while they were at the hospital for testing. Now my nephew is tube feed. And being at the hospital she feed him in the cafeteria at a table away from the crowd and they were minding their own business when a mother that was in the process of breast feeding her child basically told my sis that it was gross and indecent to feed her child out in public and my sis should take her child and feed him in the bathroom. I told my sis I would have said something not so nice, but my sis said I couldn’t I had to educate. Needless to say her respose was better, she educated and put the woman in her place in a well behaved manor!!

    I said ALLLL of that to say you are not alone, many people are out there that understand exactly what you are speaking about. Keep you head up and smile even bigger and brighter at the stares and the whispers. It may take getting use to, but I am confident that you too will get to that same point of educating people. I’ll be praying for you and little one! I think she is gorgeous!!! Remember God never makes a mistake πŸ™‚

  • kaitlin - Dear Ashley, I’m an avid reader, but one that tends to lurk because I do not have kids of my own (yet). I felt compelled to share with you today. I was born with a cleft palate and though it’s not visible from the outside it gave me a speech impediment as a youngster. I was not a candidate for surgery so I still have it today. From what my mom has told me, she cried when I was first born b/c she thought I’d β€œhave problems” my whole life.

    33 years later my Mom still comments on how strong and determined I am and how I never let my cleft get in the way. But what she doesn’t realize is that I don’t know any different. It never slowed me down and I had a few sassy comebacks when kids said hurtful things, but mostly they were not mean and just curious and I was/am okay with answering questions. People are still curious when they find out.

    I know this is rambling, but basically I wanted to let you know that she is stronger than you know and she will be okay because you love her and her siblings love her. I have four brothers of my own and I know that the love my family gave me is what gave me confidence in myself and not to be ashamed . Well the love and not being treated any different b/c in their eyes, there was no difference.

  • Vanessa Sanchez - Ashley,
    I have two daughters. They are the lights in my life. My younger daughter, Chloe, was born with many unexplained medical issues. As a result she has a tracheotomy tube (that is permanent). She is also non-ambulatory, wheelchair bound (also permanent). Like you, I do not enjoy being the center of attention, and have always preferred the background to the spotlight. My Chloe is nine years old, and venturing out into the world was very tough for me, at first. Over the years, I have learned that most people have really good intentions, and can’t help staring or sometimes even asking what they think are well-meaning questions. There are some though, that are just clueless and don’t care who knows it. I finally realized that’s not my issue, it’s theirs. Chloe loves to be out and about, and if we make people uncomfortable, that’s that’s just too bad. Your daughter is precious, and extremely lucky to have a wonderful mother like you! It get’s easier, promise.


  • m - My highschool sweetheart’s little sister had a number of physical and mental abnormalities. She looked different. She couldn’t speak. She is, to this day, the sweetest, most Christ-like person I’ve ever had the honor of knowing. For four years, I went to Sunday Night dinners with their family, and the looks that were shot our way anytime we were out was despicable. Even as a teenager, I was outraged and saddened. It never got easier for me. Her mother was so graceful and the way she handled any uncomfortable situation was just as beautiful as her precious daughter. She was my boyfriend’s sweet little sister. She was beautiful! Why couldn’t everyone just see that? I have a huge place in my heart for special needs now. You and Little One are rocking it. For sure.

  • Linda - I love that advice, and this post. I can identify. I too like to blend in, but walking around in my kerchief after chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer, it became more difficult for me to do so. One day, I just decided to “rock it”. It seems when I chose to do this, the stares became less noticeable to me, as I’m certain they will become to you as you evolve into the master of “rockin it”.

  • Christina - I am like you, and hate to be the center of any kind of attention, positive or negative. I find when I go out that i’m totally oblivious to what is going on around me because I ignore it all. I’ve gotten quite good at it over the years. I have nothing to hide or be worried about ignoring, but I find i’m a lot happier if I just focus on what i’m shopping for or being with my son and seeing everything through his eyes. It’s a much happier place to be, my own little world that is. I’m sure the majority of the staring and pointing are only because people are curious and I think you are handling it well with your response. A smile is always the best response. It throws people off, but puts you in a good light and makes you feel better too. A smile is always a good thing. Keep it up, you’re doing wonderful!

  • Rachel - I am new to your blog, but I just wanted to say :: your little one is BEAUTIFUL. Very beautiful. And blessed to have such a wise mother!

  • Kara - Having a child with a disability, the hardest thing is the staring. The adults that hush their children rather than enter a conversation. It’s like they forget they are kids. And how a smile can go so far. My son has cerebral palsy. He also wears glasses. Sometimes kids really can’t believe he wears glasses, seems so silly to me. I wear glasses, they don’t point and stare at me. I want people to see my son for his beauty and sunshine, not his wheelchair or walker. It is hard. Smiling is good. And so is being out there, in society, rockin’ it. Saying, hey, I’m here too and I’m awesome.

  • Kara - This is a beautiful post. Thanks for sharing you raw emotions.

  • Ann Voskamp - I love you…
    I’m wearing my “Defend the Cause of the Orphan” t-shirt right now — and then the Isaiah verse in Chinese.
    Standing with you — and your exquisite daughter.

    More love than thin letters can hold…

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - It sincerely baffles me that people can be so empty of love sometimes. That is why I am so thankful for hearts that are so full love like yours!

  • charla - Sadly the world has only been taught one version of beauty. Blessed are the ones who see real beauty in everyone/everything . Thanks God for the beautiful baby girl you blessed the Campbell’s with. Thanks for this chance to change not only her life but the life of others. Please give them courage and your words when educating others/rocking it! Help us all to see with your eyes. Amen. Xo

  • krista - Ashley I will remember this post for a really long time. There are so many reasons why you make this world a better place for everyone. And so many reasons little one will make the world a better place too. Keep doing what you are doing. I think little one is such a beauty, and strong like you have said too. Keep sharing the love and “rocking it.” I absolutely love that saying and I’m going to say that too as I take my gaggle of kiddos places and people gawk and whisper.

  • nancy - More people need to read this, A.
    Funny I don’t see the cleft anymore. She is stunning and perfectly made already.

  • Kara - I love that! Such great advice. She is just beautiful. I am thankful that the Lord has blessed me with two loved ones who have looked special… my son has had two skull surgeries and had months with a shaved head and a jagged ear-to-ear scar (thankful that hair grows back and no one would ever know!) and a niece who was born with a large nevus (mole) covering her face. She is currently on surgery #5, and so beautiful. I feel like where before I would be startled and avoid people who looked different, God has taught me through these little ones to see past differences and really value how He wonderfully, fearfully makes us all. Little one is a doll and thank you for sharing your beautiful story with us!

  • Chris - It hurts my heart to think that you have to deal with negative people when you, your daughter, your whole family are such a source of light and positivity to everyone who reads this blog. Don’t let it get to you. And don’t feel bad if Mama Bear has to come out every now and then:)

  • Jen Daily - Ashley, you say you can’t change other people. But you are. By sharing your beautiful daughter here you give a huge group of people the chance to see her through your eyes. I have to admit that the first photos I saw of your daughter were a shock to me, but now I too only see her beauty, courage and growth. Thank you!

  • Kim - One of my favorite posts. Thank you for sharing this experience.

    My mom’s best words of encouragement to me have always been the same and they have not yet failed to be true: It is always the most painful and difficult things which bring the greatest joy and reward.

    Not only are you and Little One learning to walk in a room and Rock It, you’re teaching us the lesson as well. And also reminding us to high-five, whether physically or spoken or even unspoken, the other brave ones walking into rooms and Rocking It.

  • what we’re reading: links - […] shares about her journey in becoming a mom to a child with a physical special need, and how she draws inspiration from her daughter to “just rock […]

  • Heather - I think staring is just going to happen. And people who are uneducated, or impolite, are going to do it in a way that is intrusive and even offensive. I think staring would happen even if she didn’t have a cleft — you automatically make yourself more conspicuous just by having a child of a different race. If, however, you can “rock it” (which is excellent advice) you will start a ripple effect of acceptance. You are in a season, one which will end when she has her surgeries. At the very least, it gives you a taste of what it’s like for all the “different” people out there. It’s a gift, really, to see into how many many people experience life when something about them draws unwanted attention — those with Spina Bifida, or Down syndrome, or with birthmarks or ptosis or even just glasses and braces. You having to rock it now will help Little One rock it later, when she’s a teen, maybe, and rocking it becomes so much harder. Or maybe not for LO at all but for some other child who needs an advocate, or a shoulder to cry on. God is giving you an experience to draw on. Store it up in your heart for later, Mama.

  • Chris - I work at a local hospital photographing newborns. On Monday I was given the name of a baby in the nicu that was going home. I walked over to his bassinet to take a peek. He had a cleft palate. His mom was not yet at the hospital. I was worried how to approach the mom asking if she wanted photos of her baby. She came in that afternoon and yes she wanted photos. I was nervous. Once I got started I didn’t see his deformity…I saw a beautiful baby!! As I was photographing…he smiled!! It was the biggest, brightest smile I have ever seen by a newborn!! I hope that I gave his mom a beautiful memory of her beautiful baby!!

  • Beth - Your post came to mind this week for me. My little boy (2 yrs) was struck by a case of buccal cellulitis. He was vaccinated for it but the doctor said it was a crazy strand that decided to attack his cheek swelling it enourmously along with one side of his nose and almost closing his eye at one point. He was still relatively happy and although we did not go out much in public, when we did I felt the stares. It breaks your heart and you just want to scream that he(she) is an AMAZING BEAUTIFUL child of God no matter how they look on the outside! My son is doing better and his face will be back to normal but I will never forget this lesson I learned. While my story is not nearly the same as yours and I could sympathize with you before, I can empathize(feel it) with you now and I am grateful for your post. Just thought I would share. Keep up the blogging. You are encouraging so many!

  • on having a child with a cleft lip » ashleyannphotography.com - […] Those first couple of months home were very hard in regards to watching how others responded to my girl. I would waver between anger and sadness. I just wanted everyone to see my beautiful daughter and it felt like so many could not get past that her lip looked different than theirs. Sometimes I wanted to scream. Sometimes I wanted to cry. Sometimes I wanted to say something I shouldn’t. I wrote about all those emotions in an earlier post. […]

  • Lakiesha - I’ve been where you were. Three of my boys have a genetic eye disorder that creates them to have crossed eyes (right eye). We get the stares and whispers and even rude comments. I’m learning to rock it and know that God made them beautiful and in his image so who cares what others think. I am so intrigued by your blog as we have a strong desire to adopt a daughter very soon. Thank you for sharing your journey in a godly perspective. ????