Little One’s first surgery {cleft lip}

Last Wednesday my mom, sister and grandparents came over for a bit in the morning. I absolutely love this picture of my mom, sister and Little One.

Very early the next morning, Chris and I headed out of state with Little One. I had been dreading that drive for so long. I was certain I would spend all five hours just staring at her and crying. I did much better than I thought.

We arrived a little early and were able to grab breakfast before the day full of medical appointments began. This is one of my favorite pictures of her. I ache for this smile. I know that doesn’t make sense to probably anyone other than other cleft moms, but I miss it so much. I know that ache will lessen with time…when she can smile again pain-free. It is what it is for now.

After a very full day of appointments with various members of the cleft team, the day was finally over. Friday morning came too fast.

This is me doing everything and anything to evoke more smiles. Just one more. Then one more. Then one more…it wasn’t enough.

And this is me trying to memorize every little detail one more time. The way the right side of her top lip curved just so slightly. The width of her nose. The way I would always feel her front tooth when I kissed her. Every detail. Soak it in. Memorize it. Bury it deep in my momma heart to treasure forever.

After 2.5 hours of surgery, they put her right in my arms. It was so good to hold her again and know the surgery was over and she was okay. It is the strangest thing to have your child change so drastically in such a short amount of time. I can’t even explain the range of emotions and thoughts. Very surreal. Seeing her new lips and nose for the first time – bittersweet. That word that has haunted me and breathed life into me this year. Bittersweet.

In her pain and confusion, she looked to us. She let us comfort her. She let us hold and rock and sing over her….

She was released later that day and we headed back to the Ronald McDonald House. I cannot say enough wonderful things about that place. I hope and pray none of you ever have to stay there, but for those families that do – what a priceless gift. It was such a relief to return that night with her and be able to sit down to a meal provided by volunteers. It is a place where everyone just understands. No one stares. A safe refuge for families going through rough days. I might write more about it one day. As a couple far from home with a daughter just out of surgery – the Ronald McDonald House was a gift.

We drove home the next day and Little One perked up immediately upon seeing her siblings. FireCracker, who is LOUD without a microphone, serenaded her sister all day.

The pic below is from my iphone in not great lighting – so it is bit fuzzy. Nonetheless, you can see what an incredible job her surgeon did. It is baffling to be honest. I am so grateful for all he did for my daughter. She has been exquisite since the day she was born.

It hurts her to suck her thumb now, so she just stares at it an whimpers. As the swelling goes down, she is starting to show us little smiles.

Little One is doing remarkably well. She will have another surgery on her palate in about 6 months and then several more over the course of many years. Recovering is hard, but she is one tough cookie. I am a nervous wreck – constantly hovering over her, afraid of a fall. I do miss her old smile, but I am excited about seeing her new smile. These are early days post-surgery so she isn’t quite herself. Soon she’ll be back to her sweet, spunky self. I’ll be able to breath easier and I imagine that new smile will light up our family in the most refreshing way.

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  • Sara - I’ve been following your blog since just before you began your adoption journey w/ Little One. I love reading about your family and have been checking all day to see if you’d posted an update on your pint sized “Wonder Woman” (love that outfit!!). Healing hugs to your youngest and lots of love to your whole family…thank you for sharing your life with all of us.

  • Catherine - How surgeons can do that is beyond me. Oh, my heart aches a little bit too but she seems to be coping so well so soon. I never imagined she would be home so quickly! Now we can all wait for the next surgery with you. 🙂

  • Emily - I am so glad things went well. I’m keeping you all in my thoughts as she recovers.

    (not related – I love your watermarks.)

  • Cindy From New York - I’ve been checking once every few hours to see Little One’s update, I am so glad she’s doing so well. I am soooooo happy for your family 🙂

  • Sarah Wolfe - I’m so happy you are safely on the other side of such a stressful surgery… and all that dread. She always was beautiful, and still is. She will read this one day and know how much she is loved, how much she is treasured. I love that for her 🙂

  • kimberly oyler - i’m not even a momma and this nearly brought me to tears. the picture of you memorizing her sweet face just oozes and oozes love.

  • nancy - I’ve been waiting for an update on IG or your blog.
    It makes sense to a non-clcp mama too. Thank you for loving the beauty in all God’s diversity. And for being so transparent.

  • Emily @ I Love Farm Weddings - Thank you for sharing your journey of your remarkable daughter with us. She is simply perfect. My heart is in it with you all! I just love your updates, your photos, your moments (like the last few photos of the two girls playing – melts my heart it’s so sweet), your honesty. xoxo from my family to yours!

  • Susannah - It breaks my heart to see her without her smiles. It’s so wonderful knowing she’ll smile again in no time. 🙂 The doctor did amazingly on her lip! What a blessing to have an amazing doctor!

  • Gill - She just looks to be doing so well! It is so sweet to see the fantastic relationship between Little One and Firecracker too – you can just tell they are going to be best friends as they grow up! XX

  • Pamela - so glad it went well. The first thing I do each morning is check your blog!

  • Irma Y - :’) tears.. smile..

  • merideth - ashley!! such a beautiful post. you are such a beautiful mama!! i love that little one is part of your family. thanks for the update. she was so beautiful and is still so beautiful. i hope for a quick recovery for her.

  • noy - This is such an incredible journey for me to read. You are incredible and so is little one. I love her ‘cleft’ smile and my daughter does too. I’ve told her about your story. But i bet we will love her new smile too. My daughter loves when little one crinkles her nose when she smiles 🙂

    I have been to the Ronald Mcdonald house many times in Salt Lake city when my sister was getting treated for kidney failure and when she had her transplant. I agree with you, it is a godsend! I do love that place. They volunteers there gave my sister and i a quilt and i still have that quilt to this day…over 20 years!

    I wish your little one a fast recovery and i hope to see her infectious smile soon!

  • Katie - So happy to see it all went well. I can’t wait until you, and we, can see her beautiful smile (with the adorably crinkled nose) again. 🙂 You too, are also a strong cookie.

  • Gayle - Praising God the surgery went well. Praying for healing.

  • Emily - I keep hearing, “Mommy, what are you crying?” So happy it went so well. Thanks for sharing… love the pics of your pretty girl.

  • stephanie - sending so much love your way.

    she is as beautiful as she ever was. no more and no less visually, just so perfect as a little person.

    thank you again for what you are doing for Little One. i don’t think i will ever stop thinking about how you have changed her life for the better. to think she could still be in her cold hard cage, staring at her hands. she is running around with her big sister in a world full of love and bright colours. i know she is so young, but i am sure in her heart she must realize that something truly miraculous has taken place.

    you are such a huge inspiration.

    thank you for sharing this journey with all of us

  • RobyGiup - I’m so happy everything went fine with the surgery!!!
    I can understand you will miss her “old” smile, but I’m sure you will love her “new” smile as much! It’s not the appearance of the smile that counts, it’s the fact that your baby loves you and smiles at you! 🙂

  • dee - I am so glad that this surgery worked out so well.I know you have lots more to come but the result will be the same.You are a very loving family and I am sure that with the prayers of family and friends and blog friends God will watch over you all-love dee x

  • Kimberlee Jost - Praising him for he is the God who was,
    who is,
    and is to come.

  • Julie - I can’t believe how good her lip looks. They did a fantastic job!

  • Tonya - She is as beautiful as always.

  • danielle - Surgery is so hard. Your little girl is amazing.

  • Jackie - She looks so different, but so cute. I hope you get your huge smiles soon.

  • Frances - I am so happy the surgery went well, though I know she has a long way to go. This post brought tears to my eyes. *hugs*

  • Eva - I love how you have captured so many details of this life changing event. And I’m happy to see Little One doing so well. She is so blessed to call you Mama. And I adore the shots of FireCracker serenading her. Isn’t that what big sisters are for? 🙂

  • Ari - God is good and has given you a beautiful daughter, Ashley. Grateful she is doing well.

  • Gina at CampClem - beautiful xoxox beauty from ashes

  • Lori - So thankful to read your sweet update. She is one tough cookie indeed. Continued prayers for her recovery from this first step. She is such a cutie and what an awesome big sister she has 🙂

  • Erin C. - I’m glad she is doing so well. I’ve been waiting for this update! 🙂 The picture if you holding her memorizing her features made me weep! The emotion on your face! Continuing to pray for your family!

  • Kimberly Dial - Little One is one tough cookie … I think she gets it from her momma! Thanks for sharing Ashley 🙂

  • Sharon @ Discovering Blog - Ah, if only we could take away the pain our babies felt! I’m so glad that the surgery was a success, and thank you for sharing your family with us.

  • Jen - So happy to hear your got loved at the Ronald McDonald house. We too have stayed at one and there is no other place like it. It becomes a home away from home with caring new friends and comfort food. We are actually going to be cooking for our RM house this Saturday so it brought a smile to read about RM on your blog. May God continue to give you strength and comfort through each surgery and may you find deep joy in her new smile.

  • Brandi LeAnn - Oh my Lord, that sweet picture of Little One at the breakfast table just melted my heart…then the pic of you just staring at her….priceless.

    My little sister was diagnosed with Leukemia at 5 and my family and I stayed at the Ronald McDonald House. I can’t say enough about that place. Always a McDonald’s fan!!!

    Thank you for the update! Prayers for you all.

  • The Prairie Hen's Nest - Dear Ashley Ann,
    What a miracle this little girl is! The way she has brought joy to your family (and any of us watching as well), the way she has educated and spread awareness about clefts, the way she shows us all what beauty TRULY is.

    It is only natural that the change to her features, her smile and (temporarily) her behavior, would rock your world! We all feel it to some measure as parents, waking up one day to realize time has changed our baby into a toddler, our kid into a teen. We think, “This has happened overnight!” and for YOU it did really happen in a matter of hours! And in a way we all have moments like the one where you were memorizing her little face… we realize all too soon that each stage brings change and leaves behind bits of the child we want to remember forever.

    May God continue to give you strength as a mom just as He has given strength to Little One to be such a precious miracle!

    Amazed By Him in NE

  • Robin - I love how you document how much you love the little details about your daughter. I usually read your blog but rarely comment.I just wanted to thank you for sharing these moments. 🙂

  • sarah - so glad to see surgery went well. She has and will always have such an adorable smile! I’ll be keeping your family in my prayers as she still recovers. Thanks for the update!

  • Jenni - I am so glad it went well!

  • emmybrown - what I love the most is how you waited for surgery until she trusted and loved you! brilliant parenting!

  • Debbie C - She is truly exquisite Ashley! I can’t wait to see her ear-to-ear, crinkly nose grin again. 🙂

  • jody - Oh brave ones! your love is making the world shine!! you are blessed. hug close.

  • Jen - Thanks for letting us know how she’s doing! Glad she surrounded by her family to make recovery easier.

  • Lynn - Thank you for sharing your pictures and words on Little One’s surgery. Oh, how I love the Wonder Woman pictures………just perfect. She is a beauty and has so much strength like her Mommy. I hope her recovery continues to go smoothly!!

  • Victoria / Justice Pirate - Aw. That is sad about her thumb sucking and whimpering. It is quite a difference to see how her lip looks now after the surgery, and they definitely seemed to do an amazing job. I hope that each surgery is as successful. I am glad that she knows you were all comforting her and loving her through it all. she’s such a blessing and you are a blessing to her. How amazing the Lord is for putting you all together.
    I love her Wonder woman outfit, by the way.

  • Lisa in TX - She is still very beautiful and the surgeon did a wonderful job! I love that she went in as Wonder Woman….she is a fighter your Little One.

  • sarah k - So glad to hear the story and see these sweet pictures. It is amazing how different she looks! Precious both before and after. 🙂 Praying she recovers quickly and that you get to see abundant smiles very soon.

  • mandi@herbanhomestead - Oh that sweet baby…praying for her recovery. Praying for your mama heart. Really…

  • Monica - Hi Ashley! I am so glad to see you; you know what I mean 🙂
    I am so happy to see litlle One doing so good, as I said before kids have that magic to recover so quiqly and the recovery of little One doesn’t seem to be the excpetion. My nephew has open heart surgery at the age of 5 so it was pretty scared thing to do.I don’t know still how my sister had that stenght but I think GOD always provide everything that we need. I am so happy for your family that you are already home ,for sure they miss you all of you. Thank you again for being like that , sharing your life, sharing your feelings and your thoughts. I still don’t know how you do it, but I think you are a WONDER WOMAN too. :). Hopefully when you have time you one day write about how you handle 5 kids, LOL. I really would like to learn, I would like to be a good mom for my 2 girls, but sometimes I feel so exausted that my pacient is not enough. When I started to read your blog make me feel to have more kids. LOL. so who knows. But first I would like to fix my pacient problem. so please tell me more about that. Well I wrote a lot, but these are my feelings to share. Hugs and kisses for your little One, she looks different we know that but she still is Little One ” as beutiful how she was before!” I can’t wait to see her smile!

  • Alice H - Glad she is healing so well. Love the bunting you put on her bed (well I’m assuming you did it). I still cannot believe how much she looks like Chris! We can’t wait to see her new smile. It will be just as beautiful as her old smile.

  • Carlene Danielek - Thank you Ashley for sharing your journey with us! You are an amazing family!!

  • karen - awwww..thanks for the update!! this is amazing!! i feel like i breathe easier too knowing that everyone is doing awesome.

  • Angela - Thank you for taking the time to share this. Beautiful all around, as usual 🙂 Hugs!

  • Ann - Relief and tears for you! You are all so very lucky to have each other. As are we to have you to share your story so beautifully. Thank you for such a speedy update and stunnng pictures as always. Firecracker is some big sister! What a welcome home…:)

  • Marija - Little One is incredible! I am so happy everything went well!

  • Elizabeth - wow. absolutely wonderful!!

  • Alicia Millis - Thank you for sharing this part of Little One’s journey with us and sharing your heart. I pray she heals up quick 🙂

  • elsie - In tears again! I’m so proud of you. I don’t think I could do it. You’re such an amazing woman. Happy for your family this week!

  • pinksuedeshoe - I’ve been thinking about you and your sweet family and particularly your Little One a lot these last few days. I have known other children who have had cleft surgery and I have worked with Operation Smile to help provide surgery to children all over the world. But something always seemed so different about your family. And I think it’s because you have so many pictures of her smile. When any group is trying to encourage people to donate money or time or whatever to help provide surgeries to children who could not otherwise afford it they do not publish pictures of happy smiling children. In our world of marketing there are so very few pictures of beautiful clefty smiles to even look at. Thank you for sharing this short part of her life that you have been lucky enough to witness. Thank you for showing the world the beauty that can be found in different. It brings tears to my eyes to think of your decision to give hers up because of the many reasons that it will benefit her in the long run. But your story, her story, has inspired me to challenge myself this year to find Beauty. Seek it out, recognize it in the everyday. Create it, Share it, Celebrate it. Many prayers to your sweet Beauty in her recovery. And a few more for you in yours. Love from UT, erika

  • Jenny B. - So thankful that all is well! I don’t think it’s odd to miss her old smile or even be reluctant to let the doctors change it. I can imagine that it might be a tiny bit like my boys’ first haircuts. I knew it needed to happen, and I eventually got used to their new looks, but I still cried. Change is hard. Obviously, surgery is way more serious than a haircut, but I think you know what I mean. 🙂 Praying for continued progress and speedy recovery!

  • Charla - Thought about you, little one, and your family often this past week. I adore the way you write, & the pictures aren’t bad either(j/k) This post is precious, it tells of the agony of “fixing” something that is so perfect and beautiful to you and the others you have shared it with. I love how i can already see God bringing his peace and healing to little one and your family. Love how HIS restoration isn’t just beautiful and complete..its perfect! xo

  • Lori - Thanks for sharing all the pics. I liked seeing all the hospital shots…she looks sooo different and yet the same. Her eyes. She is a dollbaby. I looove the pic shot with the yellow doily…wow. Bless her and all of you as you all “recover”. love and hugs!!! She was beautiful. She is beautiful. She will always be beautiful. Just like all kids. Everyone is precious in His sight.

  • Kelli - Praising God that all went well. She is gorgeous, Ashley. Always has been, and always will be. Such a beautiful, fearfully made blessing.

    I’m so glad y’all waited, too. For her to be with you and for y’all to have bonded to where you would be her comfort. What a blessing for her to have her mama and daddy there with her when she is in pain.

  • Natalie - I just want to hug you and little one! As a every day reader of your sweet blog I have grown to love your sweet family. You are an incredible momma! Thanks for your example, your strength, your nurturing heart and compassion you have shown. You make me want to do more! Get Well Soon Little One!

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - I will be praying for your anxiety to lessen. Love you.

  • Christian T - Those post surgery tears are the worst. Breaks my heart to see my little guys (and any little one) like that – we’ve done it way too many times. Thank God for amazing doctors!

  • Raquel - I must say I never leave your site with dry eyes, whether they are happy or heartbreaking tears. I started following your blog shortly after I became pregnant with my little firecracker (she was born on the 4th of July!) when I was searching for red white and blue party ideas. You have such a way with words that I sincerely feel every emotion you have gone through with this adoption journey. I shared your joy when you finally got your TA, and bawled like a baby at the sweet pictures of your first time meeting Little One (The one of your husband in tears as he holds LO still melts my heart just thinking of it). I ached along with you when you shared your pain in grieving Little Ones sweet smile, and am filled with joy now knowing that her recovery is going so well. You are truly an angel to this Little One, and inspire me so much with ever post. I feel that I must tell you thank you for helping shape me into the mother I want to be to my little one! Praying for you and for Little One in your recoveries…Her for her physical, and you for your heart.

  • Tanya - Thank you for sharing your story. I was just catching up on your blog today after having a very busy December myself, and I realized it was about time for Little One’s surgery. Well, it looks like things went smoothly and you made it through! God bless you and your fam through the healing process–I hope all goes well. I am understanding better (through your words in the last several posts) why it’s hard for you to let go of the cleft lip. Change is hard sometimes, but God gives us the grace for it, and I know your daughter’s smile is going to be radiant either way.

  • amy cornwell - So happy to see an update and that everything is going relatively well. Made me tear up, as usual. So grateful you’re sharing your journey with us!

  • Melinda T - Thanks for the update! I’m glad that surgery went well and looks like Little One is doing great!

  • Juliemara - you are such a good momma and an amazing person, writer, photographer. Thank you for sharing your life with me. I’m happier knowing people like you exist in our world. I wish you could be the speaker at Haven this year, you were the talk of the town at the last one.

  • Tracy a - Bittersweet indeed…but I can just hear her daddy’s sweet voice singing over her.

  • Natalie - Gorgeous baby girl!

  • Kristin - The one of her laughing in that WW crown with Chris just gets me every time I look at it… Can’t help but smile! She’s amazing, Ashley…

  • amber - What a simply amazing story God is giving your sweet girl. Praying for you all as she recovers. Especially Little One & you. It breaks my mama’s heart to watch all this from afar…I can only imagine living it out every day. But what a tremendous blessing she is! Wish I could hug her sweet baby neck…

  • Maureen - This was a sacrifice & bittersweet because of your complete acceptance of your sweet girl and the depth of your love. The depth of your loved allowed you to make this sacrifice as a gift for Little One. Bittersweet can be so beautiful. Oh my, mama Love.
    I was struck at how much Chris & Little Ones expressions mirror each other in their photos. Oh my, daddy Love.

  • Lindsay Gee - Wow.. I can’t imagine how hard this must’ve been. My girl has a cold, I find it hard to comfort her while she coughs in pain. Ugh…. I commend you and your family. Such an inspiration to us all. And Little one is healing remarkably well. She looks beautiful, as always

  • Jacci in Ohio - Oh, Ashley. I was holding it together until the photo of you walking in to the hospital on Friday morning. Then the tears came.

    I cannot imagine the intense range of emotion. I am so, so thankful she sought her comfort in you. That is so remarkable after such a relatively short time home. Praise the Lord for the bonding and security she has with you!

    I had wanted to send another email, but thought better of it. The last thing you need right now is to feel like you have to reply to emails. But, I just wanted to say that the prayers aren’t stopping on my end just yet 😉 Praying for healing and comfort…

  • Megan - from one momma to another~

    thank you for sharing your journey. i started following your blog just as you were bringing little one home and your family has quite captured my heart. while i have never adopted nor have children with a cleft i am a momma, and know a mommas love for their child. you have opened my eyes with your refreshing honesty. it is appreciated. i will continue to lift you and yours up to Jesus in prayer.

    ~many blessings

  • the inadvertent farmer - God is good! Thanks for the update, she has been in our family’s thoughts and prayers. After seeing your little one’s journey, our only daughter is quite convinced we should travel to China to bring her a sister with a cleft lip/palate. Thanks for broadening our horizons and filling our hearts! Kim

  • sarah newburn - thanks for posting this. my husband and i are awaiting a court date to pick up our little girl from ethiopia. she is 5 months old and has a bilateral cleft lip and palate. sarah wolfe told me about your blog (y’all met at a crafting weekend.) i know y’all came to fort worth or dallas for little one’s surgery. i was wondering if you’d share your doctor and experience. we live in fort worth (about a mile from cook children’s hopsital.) we have a name of a doctor from a couple of friends and our pediatrician. just wondering who you ended up using and if the drive to dallas is worth it if that is the route you ended up. thanks for your help. i’ve enjoyed following your story. it’s been a great resource for us.


  • Traci Ricci - Ashley, thank you so much for sharing with us (strangers) about the journey of your precious little girl and your family. A few weeks ago a guy in my Sunday school class had a prayer request that his family is adopting a little girl from China. They will go over to China in February I think. After class I told him about your blog and he said that their little girl has a cleft too! I told him that your story would be of great encouragement to them. I hope they have logged on to see what God is doing with you all. I am constantly touched by your blog and pray that God continues to strengthen you all right now. What a blessing that this precious little girl was meant to be part of your family! Blessings!

  • Lennie @ Jackson Valley - Glad to hear you are back home wiht the whole fam. Hope Little Once recovers quickly. Praying for your family.

  • Stoich91 - Beautiful baby, beautiful family, beautiful story! 😀 The Wonder Woman spirit must run in the family 😉

  • twirling betty - I too have been checking every time I log on for an update…hoping and hoping all is okay. I’m so glad Little One is slowly returning to her normal self. The photo of her crying and Chris looking up just about killed me. I know you have more bittersweet moments in your future (because they have to happen in Little One’s next few years) but I do so hope that those moments are just a tiny bit sweeter than they are bitter.

  • Jessica - Thank you for posting Ashley! I am so happy to see Little One and that she is doing well. I have been thinking of her and you since the morning of her surgery and praying for that sweet child. It’s amazing that I feel like I know you all, even though we have never met and you don’t know who I am! Much love to you and your family!

  • Josephine - Strength to you, brave Mama. I can’t begin to know what it feels like, but you explain yourself beautifully. For what it’s worth, Little One was gorgeous before and is delightful now. I hope her recovery is speedy and problem-free!

  • Barbara - How great that she’s home again! And looking great!! I’m sure she’ll be back to her old self in no time!! I feel for you, can imagine the stress you’re going through as parents!!!

  • Carrie - Proverbs 31:25b “She smiles at the future.” 🙂

  • liz - so glad it went well and that she has you guys to love and comfort her! what a beautiful story God is weaving! she was a beauty before and even moreso now! the surgeon really did do a remarkable job- crazy how talented surgeons are! (we know one of the top US pediatric heart surgeons who operates on babies hearts- he’s literally one of the best “stitchers” in the world!)
    thanks for sharing about your life and adoption. blessings to you all as baby girl recovers!

  • linda - seeing these photos… reliving our little one’s surgery this past April… tiger pajamas and all. Aching to suck that thumb. I understand and am praying she bounces back quick. Surgeries don’t get easier, we’ve been through a few. But Ronald McDonald House and praying friends make it bearable. Tommy (our little one) did fall a couple times and boy was there some blood, but I guess no real damage except for my nerves. You will get through it – God’s grace is sufficient. Bless you guys.


  • mary - you are so right.
    she was exqusite then and she is exquisite now.
    SO thankful she is doing so well.
    the shot of you staring at her gets to me.
    also the sunny shot from behind the chair…SWOOON!

  • Steph - She was gorgeous before and is gorgeous after. Bless your heart and little ones..

  • Tina I. - Oh, Ashley. Amazing. I realize that I don’t even know you, but have thinking about you and your brood frequently as of late. Keeping you in my prayers, and looking forward to watching what the year has to hold for your family (even if its just once a week). Thank you so much for all that you share.

  • Lyn - Blessing. She is beautiful. Thank you for sharing. Praying for the days to get easier and less painful for Little One.

  • Ashley - Absolutely beautiful post. She will someday look back at those images and cherish them!

  • kelley - Praising God for a successful surgery! Praising God for a LOVING family to care for Little One! Praying for comfort for your heart as you grieve the loss of her first smile… and then praying for even more joy and love for her second smile. Thanks for the update!

  • Chelsea Wilson - She is amazingly beautiful. I just discovered your blog last week and I’ve already developed such a crush on her sweet smile!

  • Michelle H. - What a beautiful smile. I too, on the “rockin’ a new hairdo & lip” post, had to scroll back & forth to grasp the change that happened so quickly. You have a more than beautiful & wonderful family. Being childless, I can’t thank you enough for sharing your muchkins with me. ~ hugs ~

  • mary wilson - this is great!

  • Lorna MacDonald - Hello Ashley, I have also been following your blog since you began your adoption process – I stumbled across it and it has blessed me and my husband immensely, because we too, are in the adoption journey. We are Americans living abroad in Germany, working at an International Bible school, hoping to adopt a German child. I cannot tell you what a blessing your posts have been to me, and what an encouragement to read of the journey your family walks with Jesus at the center. Even though I don’t know you personally, I do pray for you and your family and especially for Little One at this time. Your family portrays Christ’s love and hope in good and hard times… thank you for your encouragement! God bless you guys.

  • Ali - She looks just as beautiful as before. Even without personally knowing Little One, I also miss her cleft smile. I know her new smile will be just as amazing though.

    Continually wishing the best to her and your family.

  • Michelle Bostinelos - Hoping for a speedy recovery for Little One! What a sweet girl and what a brave Mama!

  • Susie - She is so beautiful- all of you are. Praying right now for a speedy recovery and the Lord to hold your heart’s very close and give you immeasurable strength!

  • jessica - sooo glad she came through this first surgery okay. it seems like just yesterday when i was reading on your blog about you heading across the world to pick her up!

  • amy jupin - you are exceptional.
    and this post blessed me in so many ways.
    thank you.

  • Stephanie Rohde - All the best to you, Little One and the whole family!!! You are just a beautiful family and everybody can see, that GOD always holds his hands over you!!! I#m so glad the first surgery went well and you are already home and Little One can recover in her loving family home!!!! God bless you!!! Love from Germany

  • Sara G.. - Ashley,

    I am so thankful the surgery went well and that it’s over with! Your daughter is PRECIOUS!

    Your photos from the last few days are preparing me for my 8 year old nephews open heart surgery on the 14th. I am feeling a little (actually, a lot!) anxious this week! My husband, siblings and parents will all be with my brother and sister-in-law during the surgery, and I pray that we can be a comfort to them. We are so thankful the Lord is our Rock!!


  • Nicole - Wow- it changed her whole face. I am glad it went well. I hope future surgeries go this well. Kiss her for me.

  • giozi - I’m really happy for her and all of you. She looks great, was an excellent job.
    She always was a beauty baby.

    Another thing. Your mother !!! ohh she looks so young.

  • Tiah - What a HUGE difference just one surgery can make. Wow. Does she still have her teeth?

  • Sarah{Handbags*N*Pigtails} - I love what you said about her being exquisite since the day she was born. That’s so true!
    My heart was aching for you as I read this,Ashley. I cant imagine having my child leave my arms looking the only way Id ever known her, knowing when she was returned she would look totally different. And yet that is what you have faced.
    And yet, this too shall pass. Like you said, she will start to feel more like herself. And then you’ll get to learn her new smile. 🙂
    Blessings from NY

  • Nao - i’ve followed your blog for quite some time, but this is my first time commenting 🙂
    i’m a social worker, and did research/worked with children and families with cleft palate. i absolutely love visiting your blog, especially to read about your journey with little one.
    i continue to be amazed at all of your children’s resilience, adaptability, and kindness. i think it’s an incredible reflection of your strength as parents and as a family.
    it’s such an inspiration to us all, regardless of the family situation.
    congratulations on a beautiful new chapter with your little one.

  • Sandy - Both her smiles are beautiful! Thanks for sharing the journey :’)

  • Julia - so good to see the pics. she was heavy on my heart last week. thanks for sharing.

  • Auburn - Such precious pictures. I’m so glad I got to see her gorgeous smile pre-surgery while we were visiting. I’m not her mommy but I think I understand what you mean about missing that smile. Totally understandable.
    But oh the new smiles that are to be had!! 🙂

  • meghan - Ashley, I have been following and praying for your hearts and her spirit and pain tolerance for the past several weeks. She is one tough cookie. I can’t imagine what she is going to have to go through, but it is good for me to read your posts. I have had 2 facial reconstructive surgeries due to tmj and bone degeneration. Both of these happened when I was older, and my face did not look as beautiful as hers did after i came out of surgery. my sweet mom cared for me through both of these- through the metal wires and feedings through tubes and morphine drips. it is good to hear your heart through this because it helps me to understand a bit of what she went through emotionally as she nursed me back to health for months and months. Thank you for being so open.

  • Anna - My Ellie and I are rejoicing with you and your family. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. In this difficult season of recovery, we will be praying for you and Little One as the Lord brings you to our minds …. and the last picture is BEAUTIFUL. Love the flare and the chair 🙂

  • Abby - Congratulations on Little One’s surgery! Bittersweet indeed. She was gorgeous before and is beautiful now. Prayers for a healthy, happy recovery!

    On a different note, I thought of you and your blog when I read this one: Specifically, her point in #2. Possibly something you may want to look into.

  • Amelia - She is beautiful. It is such a blessing for her to have you and, I am certain, for you to have her as well. Thank you for sharing your journey; you have touched many lives through your words, your photography, and your candor. Continued prayers for your family. God bless!!!

  • MarthaB - Thank you so much for sharing this part of your family’s journey with all of us. Our daughter had several surgeries in China (for a different SN) and it breaks my heart to think about her going through them alone. She and I spent a good hour looking at all of your pictures over and over again…she kept coming back to the ones of your daughter in the hospital and we had the opportunity to talk about what it is like to be in the hospital, talk about the doctors that took such good care of her and then talk about what she calls her “China scar” when she saw Little One’s lip repair. She goes through phases where she asks questions related to her hospital stays (she was too young to remember them), and your pictures helped bring to life what it means to be the strong little girl I always tell her she is.

  • elizabeth H - Ashley, i was praying for Little One the entire day…and glad that she’s back home! {Firecracker’s songs are, i’m sure, a JOY to her!}
    I’m ever so amazed & thankful for our talented physician’s.
    PS. that pict of Little One at the table is P.R.E.C.I.O.U.S!!!!!
    She is BEAUTIFUL!!!

  • Suzanne Gaines - I have tears in my eyes reading about your littlest one. I looked at the picture of the one where she is on the quilt staring into the camera and thought she is the sweetest and luckiest little baby to be loved! I know she has brought you all so much happiness.

  • Ashley - I love, love the pictures of your children and family, and your beautiful home. Mostly, though, I’m captured by your newest daughter and the way you love and care for her. Thanks for sharing your life in pictures.

  • Amy D - thanks so much for sharing. hope you got to bond even more as you had time to focus just on her. love that your little one found her comfort in you! we just got home from our daughter’s surgery, and that was one of the most treasured moments of our hospital stay! hearing from the nurses how much calmer she was as soon as we walked up to see her in recovery! it was bittersweet though, because i was NOT prepared for how much hair they would shave. and now we’re thinking of shaving her whole head, which breaks my heart. she has the most wonderful curls. we just treasure how our little ones looked when they came to us, don’t we! praying for you and your family as you get miss her old smile and learn to love the new one!

  • Clea - Ashley I always read your blog, and have been so overwhelmed by your story with Little One. Your family is such an inspiration to me. I hope she recovers well. xx

  • Crystal Prychidko - I loved every moment in this post!! The surgeon did a remarkable job on Little Ones cleft. It’s amazing the difference it makes. I showed my mom your blog and pics of Little One before and after surgery. She said Little One was darling and my mom awed and oo’ed at each picture. Loving the ones before just as much as the after surgery ones!!

    Your family is beautiful, you are blessed. Thank you for sharing your family adventures with us!!

  • Heather Cockerill - Ashley, your daughter is gorgeous, as is your whole family. I’m an adoptive mother of three, all from China. We adopted our youngest daughter from Hubei Province in November 2012. I recognized some of the sights in Guangzhou from your photos. Our little one was born with a unilateral cleft lip and palate, right side, just like your Little One. Our daughter’s lip was repaired prior to us receiving her referral, but she’s yet to have the palate surgery. A friend I play soccer with introduced me to your blog and I appreciated reading through your adoption journey and your preparation for your daughter’s surgery — it’s encouraging as we begin the process for our little girls surgy/ies. Blessings to a beautiful family!

  • Inga - thank you. your posts have a raw, genuine feeling that pulls on my heart. i truly enjoyed this last post on little one. five years ago i was an outcomes photographer for operation smile on a mission trip to the philippines (before and after pictures of children with surgical procedures for cleft lip and palate); my experience was phenomenal. the plastic surgeons made macrocosmic facial differences in just a few hours and the nurses made monumental emotional differences in all of our hearts in minutes. I distinctly remember the infants were bandaged with wooden tongue depressors on their arms so they would not touch their healing wounds– the nurses called these “no-no’s” and it has stuck with me as a lighthearted aphorism for a desperate moment.

  • Peggy Garcia - Today is my cleft baby’s 9th birthday. The photo of your husband holding Little One right after surgery reminds me so much of his big day and coming back to us. I hold tight to the memory of kissing his little lips. He’s handsome , spunky and full of smiles. Thank you for sharing 🙂 She’s a doll!

  • Wen - Thanks for sharing these beautiful and personal images. Little one is and has always been sooo beautiful! Hope her recovery goes well and quickly!

  • Katie - Hi Ashley! You may have already heard of this children’s book, but it’s one of my favorites and I thought you might like it too, especially because of the name — Room for a Little One.

    I highly recommend it and It’s only $3.99 at Barnes and Noble right now:


    PS. Hope Little One is getting better each day! She certainly has lots of entertainment to keep her distracted.

  • Kathie Robson - Ashley, I am so happy that Little One’s lip repair went so well, she seems to be healing quickly and her new little mouth and nose are beautiful. I love all of the pictures you took of her before the surgery and I’m sure one day she will treasure them as you do! My son, also from China, had a bilateral cleft lip and palate and his lip was repaired in China when he was 5 months old. I envy the months of pictures you have been able to take of Little One with her adorable clefty smile! I have only one picture of my son before lip repair was done. What a priceless gift recorded through pictures that will no doubt be treasured for years to come! I can’t wait to see Little One with her new wrinkled up nose and ear to ear smile! Blessings to you and your family and thank you so much for sharing your life in pictures with so many! Hugs from Colorado!

  • Kim@StarrySkyRanch - It is just amazing what they can do. And even more amazing to me that you can do so much work and still be released that day. As a mama who waited through 20 surgeries in our son’s first 20 yrs I am so grateful for modern medicine and old fashioned love. : )

  • Becky - This touched my heart. That sweet girl…

  • Fran - Each one of these photos speaks volumes for the love you have for each other! So beautiful!

  • Shannon - I’m glad it is going so well. My daughter had foot reconstruction back in April at a Shriners hospitals, and that is another place that is a real gift to parents. It’s great to be surrounded by caring people who just get it.

  • able mabel - Your surgeon did an amazing job! I love that picture of you trying to memorize her face. It’s very touching.

  • Nana PP - What a BEAUTIFUL Little one. So precious and sweet. I was born with a partial cleft palate and my husband was born with a cleft palate and cleft lip. His oldest was born as he was and she had her tubes tied so she would never give birth to someone who might be born “disfigured”. What a shame she robbed herself of knowing the love and joy a child brings. I admit when i was pregnant i wondered if my babies would have the same cleft I did. All 3 were born without any complications and even not knowing if they would face the same scarey surgery as I had i still longed to see their smiles and kiss thier tiny lips no matter the outcome. your story has touched my heart and has given me the nudge i need to go ahead and support Operation Smile so other Mammas and babies can find joy in a smile. My girls are both mothers and neither of them ever worried what thier babies would look like or the challenges that they would have to overcome with a cleft or downs syndrome. They both said, this is My child and God made him just for me and i love him no matter. P.S. I was adopted also and my parents said when they came to the hospital to pick me up the nurses said “oh we thought you would change your minds since shes you know. My parents just took me into their arms,o thier hearts and their home and never loked back. they say I was thier greatest blessing, but ya know, I think i’m the one who was blessed. Blessings to you and your Beautiful family.

  • Cynthia - I have to fully agree about how amazing the Ronald McDonald houses are. I have stayed in two of them with my family when I was younger and my little brother was in the hospital. The comfort and kindness there makes going through hard times easier. They are such a blessing and I am so glad that you were able to relax after Little One’s surgery and take comfort there. Lots of love from my house to yours!!!

  • jessica - my little one also recently had her lip surgery, and i feel you every step of the way – i was so scared to let her go, give her up to the nurse… luckily surgery was quick and once they allowed me to go sit at her side in recovery i practically ran – it was rough to hear her cries and not be able to fix her pain and hunger (at 3 mos she had never felt such an empty belly, she hadn’t been hooked up to tubes/wires since she was a wk old and able to leave the nicu, she was in arm splints to keep her touching her mouth, and in a strange place – did i mention she was asleep in my arms when i handed her off to the nurse?) she was a trooper tho, once fed, not requiring any added pain meds and in the evening she had loosened her i.v. and was granted permission to leave it removed, and of course able to come home w/ us the very next day! 🙂 feedings were a little difficult at 1st; it was like having a newborn once again, feeding only a couple oz at a time every couple hrs until her tummy was able to hold larger amts again….

    fast fwd to nearly 6 wks later and i find myself truly in love w/ her smile now; at 1st like you, i missed it terribly – i was used to this wide grin, but now i get the “o” face 🙂 i found myself looking back on some early pix of her and i hardly recognize her in many of them – i can only imagine how her pallet surgery will effect me, and her of course, and what shape her nose will take as she both continues to grow and w/ future surgeries (6 wks post opt appt is in a few days, and i’m sure w/ her continued amazing healing we will have a better idea and plan for the future….

  • karen hochstetler - hello, i saw your blog in parents mag. wish i would have “met” you sooner. I do not have internet just e-mail, so i dont know if i will get a reply, but i have a daughter that was born with a cleft palate. what a journey. she is my 4th child but so special. she was very colic the first months n it would have been so nice to have somebody that has experiance to ask questions. She is now almost 10mo and has repair surgery scheduled for the last part of July. Would love to hear from a mom instead of just the nurses! I’m know your a busy mom, but wanted to say Hello. Karen from northwest OH.

  • Cecelia - She is with the right family. Wow!

  • Kristen - Awe…she is just so adorable! I am going to miss the old smile too! Its so funny to me that she is whimpering at her thumb. I just broke my 2 1/2 year old from her paci and she whimpers saying I want paci and its so cute 🙂

  • Audrey - I completely understand missing the old smile but being in awe of the new one. Our baby girl had her CL/CP repaired just two weeks after we got home. A friend told me about your blog and I’m so glad to have found it to know someone else feels so many of the same emotions. Blessings to you and your family!