finding her new voice

I love this photo. It was taken the day we met. The way she is looking at me makes me laugh. In that moment, I was gone. Every emotion, the deepness of love, fierce protection I felt for her siblings…exactly the same for her. My baby girl…finally together. She, however, wasn’t feeling it so much! I can only imagine what her little mind must have been trying to process that day.Who is this crazy woman? Why is her hair that strange color? What is she saying? Why does she keep laughing and crying?

My friend Shannon took this next one on her second birthday. I love it equally as much…it makes me smile and laugh too. I think she’s feeling it now.

She doesn’t wonder anymore. She knows what I am saying and I think she kind of likes my hair. More than that, she knows my arms are a safe place to land…a safe place to heal. She is recovering well from her surgery. We are working to manage her pain – because it is there and strong. The nights have been rough, but overall she is doing far, far better than we could have asked or imagined. We were prepared for the rough parts of recovery. What we weren’t prepared for was her new voice.

She had just began saying a handful of words (not clearly like most her age), but we understood them. Now she is saying the same words, but they sound different. She makes herself laugh by trying new noises and blowing air out of her nose. One minute she is trying to cough to get her new palate to come out of her mouth, the next minute she is gently rubbing it with her tongue, a confused look on her face. With her palate now closed, air doesn’t escape from her mouth out her nose. Her sounds have changed. A friend warned me about this. She had told me to record her voice before surgery. I recorded a few things. The night of her surgery I laid in the hospital bed next to her filled with regret that I had not captured every little sound and word to always remember. How she said I love you, hug, Poppy(our cat). It’s funny how in moments like that you think of things that aren’t really important, but they feel like it. But you can’t stay in a place of regret. I can’t linger there – the places we are headed are too beautiful to think about what I wish I had done. Hopefully, I have a lifetime of hearing “I love you”!

Little One is healing. She has discovered she has a new voice. It is pretty amazing to witness….

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  • Monica - Just beautiful !everything….:)

  • Courtney - I’m so glad your friend had you record her voice! I wish I would have thought of that. My daughter had some of the largest tonsils and adenoids her ENT had ever seen. She sounded completely different after they were removed. Your story reminded me of it. So glad your baby is healing well!!

  • Bia - Dear Ashley,
    I had never think how some things are dificult, like all this cirguries… must been hard for you, for her, but in the pictures we can see how you had change too in this period, you look more happy, more complete, like thomething finaly is making sense… all the pain will pass, and some how, only happiness and good moments will remain in your memories
    Kisses from Brasil
    sory for the bad english
    P.S. My second child will be born in ougust or september, I will pass some time without seeing you and your kids and your blog… I hope that when I see you again everything coud be even better!!! You have a BIG place in my heart as an example of person and of humanity. I know that not everything is perfect and that just makes everything even more beauthiful. Thank you for being just who you are… Kisses again

  • Kerry - Crazily beautiful.

  • Dawn - So glad to hear Little One’s recovery is going smoothly. Those pictures are priceless!

  • Rebekah - The contrast is so beautiful. What wonderful imagery you use, I can just picture her feeling her mouth. πŸ™‚ praying for her continued healing and your continued strength as a family!

  • Natasha - Precious <3 God has big, amazing plans for her!

  • Debi - So glad that Little One’s recovery is going well.

  • Kelly W - sniff..sniff. Beautiful!!

  • Natalie F. - Little One is so crazy blessed that your family adopted her. Your patience and love and kindness are so very rare and her life will forever be changed in a powerful way since you came into her life. It’s just so amazing! How awesome is our God?

  • Lauren - a new Song πŸ™‚

  • Jenni - Those pictures! It’s amazing how much she has grown. I remember that first post. Those first pictures. The one where you are both crying just after they handed her to you. Ahh! Then to look at this one on her second birthday? God is good. Thank you for sharing all of it:). Your posts make me a better person. Every one of them.

  • Emily - What beautiful images, so happy for Little One, and your entire family!

  • Michelle G - You never fail to make me smile and remind me what a beautiful world we live in.

  • barnicles - beautiful xxx

  • amy jupin - crying at work.
    feeling so grateful for time and the Lord’s hand.
    He is our healer.
    and i’m so so grateful!

  • Midwest Magnolia - Melissa Lewis - It still amazes me the abundance of blessings that have come from Little One. She is blessed, y’all are blessed by her, and the countless others continue to be blessed by her story! Thank you Ashley for allowing your family’s story to be used in this way.

  • Jenny L. - I can’t get enough of your story. I have said this before but imagine being Little One and landing in your family with loving parents and all those wonderful siblings and extended family after being in such a small world at the orphanage. We have had the privilege of watching her not wonder anymore and it has been great. I can’t believe she is 2 – it doesn’t seem that long since she came home. My favorite picture of this adventure is the one where Chris is holding her in the hotel room and tears are streaming down his face. What a blessed little girl to have a father like that and a wonderful mother like you. A beautiful story because you were determined to give her nothing less than the happiness she deserves.

  • Jenny S - You got me all weepy here at work. What a wonderful thing to remember:

    “But you can’t stay in a place of regret. I can’t linger there – the places we are headed are too beautiful to think about what I wish I had done. Hopefully, I have a lifetime of hearing β€œI love you”!”

    I wish you an abundance of beauty and wonder.

  • mandi@herbanhomestead - Oh that last picture brings tears to my eyes! To see that beautiful girl securely placed in her family is seeing redemption at work. And how can I not bawl my eyes out at the beauty of Jesus’ grace?

  • Debbie C - Ashley, I love this post, and your perspective on things. That first pic (actually anything from that first meeting post) always brings tears to my eyes. So happy for you and Song!

  • Emily O. - Beautiful! And so sweet.

  • Honeybee Mama - I am so thankful she is healing and you guys are finding strength to press on each day. What beautiful memories you are making!

  • Becky - My daughter was 10 months, so she didn’t have too much of a before voice. But wow… After her surgery her cry was immediately so loud and clear. It was amazing and everyone close to us noticed. My daughter also said dada for the first time after she healed! I love reading your journey. It takes me back to those moments. At the time it (feeding struggles and surgeries) felt like a nightmare, but now looking back I can’t help but smile and think of it as a sweet memory.

  • Angie Walsh - Just lovely!xxx

  • Aimee Fannin - I too am on the same journey you are for the second time. My little one will be 3 in August. I love to read your blog and can totally relate. This time around we did palate first and then lip. After the first week it’s not too bad. I had an extremely hard time adjusting to her look after her lip was fixed. Of course they are beautiful, and the surgery is amazing, but the changes are a little hard to get used to. It’s good, just different. Thanks for writing….I enjoy reading. πŸ™‚ Your whole family is beautiful!!

  • Angela - Ashley Ann your blog inspires me daily! I discovered it after reading Parents Magazine (I think) just about a month ago. We are in the process of adopting and have been in the approved/waiting period for almost nine months. I think your blog was just another gift to help support that journey. It’s a difficult position to be in and your journey has helped me cope. I have a photography hobby and am eager to sign up for your next class offering, it seems perfect for me. One of my very close friends has a 2 year old with cleft lip/palate and I remember the post palate surgery with her little guy. Hang in there, my friend’s son is doing great! They can look back on this now and say, it wasn’t so bad. Thank you for all the beauty you provide.

  • Ipek - Ashley, you ‘re such an inspiring mom. I love how you hold your baby so tight! Felling very inspired about adoption when I see moms like you!

  • ali thompson - these two photos are so precious. i love the change in facial expressions. cherish this for sure!

  • Sarah - Thanks for posting. You have such a gift with words. I’ve been wondering how the surgery went and it’s so heartwarming to know that Little One is doing okay. She’s a warrior, and so are you!

  • tracy a - both those pictures say so much! I just love the look she is giving you in the first one…makes me laugh! And the beauty of her comfort and joy in the second. Love!!

  • Eva - Nope, she sure doesn’t wonder anymore. What a joy it is to see her grow and blossom with your love.

  • Melissa M - Life’s greatest joy is to love and be loved. When I see this second photo, it is such a testiment to the way that you have given this gift to eachother. This is exactly as the world is meant to be and it makes my heart burst with joy for you.

  • Missy - She is singing her song!!

  • laura - Love this post!such beautiful words!and really happy litle one is doing fine!!kisses

  • Kimberly Dial - The story of Little One — such a love story. Thanks for sharing it Ashley πŸ™‚

  • Georgia - So beautiful! I just wanted to thank you for bringing me such joy when I read your blog. I wish you and your family all the best through the Little One’s recovery πŸ™‚

  • Claudia - I’ve been Learning so much about love with you and your family. Thank you all.

  • Jacci - Oh, my! What precious, precious pictures. See? This is why our photos matter. Little One (and her mama) will treasure those beautiful photos for a lifetime <3

    Her voice changed? Wow. That's definitely not something I would've known to expect. So glad a friend prepared you. Sweet baby. I'm praying for her pain and for all of you as you keep loving her through it.


  • Lori Danelle - . . . bittersweet. . . πŸ™‚

  • jules - What a beautiful story… in pictures and words. A wonderful way to start my day with a cup of coffee and your post. Blessings unto you as you journey this next chapter together!

  • Lindsay - So glad to hear that Little One is healing well. Your blog has become a must-read for me – I just can’t get enough of your photos and your stories! The other day we borrowed a book from the library called “I Love You Like Crazy Cakes” by Rose Lewis. Although I’m sure you have already heard of this book, it immediately made me think of you and I just had to share it. The book had me in tears as I read it to my six-month-old daughter, and I am sure it would not have touched me so deeply if I hadn’t been aware of your journey. Thank you for sharing so much of your life and your journey on this blog – reading your stories has been a truly wonderful and eye-opening experience for me.

  • Shannon Phillips - Oh girl!!! Crying over here…..wait…no….SOBBING. Sheesh I love this. Such a painful journey full of so much beauty.

  • elma - Such a beautiful pictures!! Praising God for her healing!!!

  • Jerusalem Greer - amazing. what a gift-for all of you. finding ones voice is so important to living out who we are created to be-uniquely. blessings and prayers for this journey.

  • Debbie - Little one’s journey is melting my heart. Thank you for letting us peak inside your united story. AND, these photos – what an amazing story they tell. Hugs and prayers for you all.

  • Kimberly - That is so beautiful.

  • Aurora - Enjoy every precious moment. Your posts always make me cry happy tears πŸ™‚

  • christina larsen - So many wonderful surprises ahead for you all, praying she continues to heal completely and gets to use her voice as God intended. πŸ™‚

  • Kate - I burst into happy tears at that second photo! It may be that I’m 6 months pregnant, who knows, but I what I do know is when I see pure love and happiness. You are both on such a beautiful journey that is amazing to witness from my desk each week.

  • Weekend Reading - […] Finding Her New Voice // Under the Sycamore […]

  • Ashley - Love this! Ashley, I have been looking at your blog for a couple of years but don’t know that I have ever commented. Anyway, I go to church with several of your old youth group ladies and am also a speech pathologist in BA. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. I was never a craniofacial Specialist, but have had kids with cleft lip amd palate repairs come through. Also, I used to feed newborn babies with the cleft palate feeder at the children’s hospital in Dallas. Did you get the surgery done at CMCD? I worked there for eight years. I would love to hear about your experiences there. Anyway, just wanted to throw that out. Your baby is beautiful as are all of your kids. Love the tooth fairy raccoon teeth post. Hilarious! Boys!

  • Bethany - Wow! Even a trip to the dentist and a minor change in the feeling of my teeth bugs me like crazy for a few weeks. I can’t imagine what she’s weathering right now in your arms there. But the familiarity of the feel of her mouth will come and it will seem strange that it was ever different. It’s so funny how we take change. Bless you all and I pray for some rest and grace and healing and comfort.

  • Stephanie - my five year old was looking at the top picture of you looking at each other when you got her and he said “they’re having a staring contest. and you know who’s winning? the baby!”

    so cute. I love this. your family is so precious and so PLANNED by our heavenly father. I love that.

  • Amy @ The Gifted Gabber - Your posts about Little One touch my heart like few other blog posts do. I was born with a cleft lip (no palate) and your post several months ago about the way Americans reacted to Little One before her surgery hurt my heart. But, yet, I wasn’t really surprised at the reactions. I believe that my parents experienced the same before my surgery. The raw way in which you write about these experiences with her – the adoption, the reactions, the surgery, the recovery – are powerful.

  • elizabeth H - BEAUTIFUL post Ashley!
    Little One is definitely feeling it ~ the smile on her face is the overflow of her heart. What a joyful voice she {is} .

  • Victoria / Justice Pirate - That is really cool and interesting about her voice and the sounds that come out of her mouth now and how it surprises her every time too as she adjusts. These are great comparison shots too. Does she have any other surgeries lined up, or was that the last? She’s had two so far, right? I’m trying to count what I remember in reading your blog over the past couple of years.