Open Adoption // Birth Mom Visits Colorado

Two weekends ago, Milo’s birth mother came to stay with usin Colorado for the first time. We were so excited to show her our home and tospend time together.

Payton arrived on Friday afternoon and all three of us wentto pick her up at the airport. She hopped in the back and Milo stared at herintently the entire drive home.  At homethey played for a bit in his playroom and then she got to give him a bath forthe first time.

I watched them from the door and felt pure joy. Bath-time issomething that I already take for granted because it happens daily. But beingable to see her experience bath-time and to know how special it was for hermade me even more grateful. Milo played and sang and smiled at her the entiretime.

After Milo went to bed, we spent the evening catching up andgetting to know each other better over frozen pizza. It still amazes me howmuch we have in common with her and how easy it is to talk with her. We wereable to talk about things that had been on both of our hearts, worries andwonders. It was an evening I will treasure forever.

On Saturday we drove down to Denver and visited the Zoo. Wewalked around and looked at all the animals.

We saw a sea lion show and Milo loved just watching thewater. He did not even care about the sea lion.

Payton got to show him the lions, giraffes, elephants andgorillas. He is starting to recognize other animals and I cannot wait for himto understand more about them.

We fed Milo lunch and almost got attacked by crazyterritorial geese who were fighting each other for scraps and trash. I wasterrified.

We saw the orangutans who were flying around their playroomlike trapeze artists. The gorilla family was so cute, and the baby gorilla keptreaching up to his dad to be held. 

After Milo ate, we drove to downtown Denver not realizing itwas St. Patrick’s weekend. It was crazy busy and everything and everyone wasgreen. We showed Payton Union Station and 16th street mall. We wentshopping and made Will and Milo endure H&M and Victoria’s Secret.

That evening we grilled chicken and had yummy salads andmore conversation. Payton shared her plans and what she wants to study atschool. Will and I shared our hopes and uncertainties for a big family one day.

The next day we had brunch in Lafayette and explored Pearl St. on Boulder. She gave Milo his first taste of chocolate ice cream which he obviously loved.

On her last day, I had a doctor’s appointment so she offeredto watch Milo. After almost 8 months of growing our sweet little boy andbringing him into the world, Payton had not had anytime alone with Milo. Shefed him, changed him, and played with him while I was gone and I know that timethey shared together was really special.

Open adoption looks different for everyone. Some birth families watch from a far and receive updates through mail or social media. Other birth families have monthly visits and shared vacations with their chosen families. This past year we have been shaping a mold that is changing to fit the needs and wants of everyone.

Our open adoption and our relationship with Milo’s birth family will constantly evolve and change as he grows. I am so incredibly grateful for the relationship we have with his birth family, and that he will grow up not just knowing them, but calling them family.

A lot of people have told me they are in awe of myrelationship with Payton. Some have even said they would not be able to sharetheir child in the way that we do. But Milo belongs to both of us…I am hismother and she is his birth mother. His family circle is wider than most, butit is overflowing with love.

As a parent, you always put the needs of your children first. I know without a doubt in my mind that Milo needs his birth family just as much as he needs us. And I am confident that as he grows, his understanding of where he comes from will be easier to process because he has his birth family. There will definitely be a lot of bumps in the road and we will take each in stride, but we will do it hand in hand with his birth family.

xoxo Ashley

Finalization // Milo Payton Peck

The day had finally arrived. After home visits, sleepless nights, lots of paperwork and a whole lot of blow outs, we get to officially become a family. I woke up on Tuesday morning not really knowing how I felt. It had been such a journey to this day and it almost felt unreal. I put on my favorite playlist as I started getting ready for the hearing. As soon as Milo's adoption song came on, I broke down into big ol embarrassing sobs.

A year of negative pregnancy tests, 4 years of paperwork and putting ourselves out there only to be rejected by expectant mother, 3 agencies, so much waiting and heartbreak...all of those feelings came flooding in. But this time, instead of feeling immense pain and despair, I felt overwhelming joy. Milo had changed everything.

That morning I hugged him harder, spent more time just sitting with him and soaked up every laugh and smile. We left ridiculously early for the courthouse because it was snowing and I have a terrible reputation for always being late. The whole drive down we barely spoke...and I could not help but break down into tears off and on for that entire drive.

We arrived at the courthouse and after speaking to multiple clerks, we found our courtroom. 1R...the same dorm number I lived in my first year of college. We sat outside of the courtroom and waited for our family and friends to arrive.

Finally it was 11am and time for all of us to enter the courtroom for our hearing. We sat down with our social worker, with everyone in the row behind us. Our judge walked in and totally set the tone for the proceedings. He had adopted both of his sons and made us feel at ease with his kind nature and in sharing his story. He walked us through how the proceeding would go and then started the hearing.

We did not even make it 5 minutes before Milo peed through his entire outfit. We had to take a brief recess and it was all hands on deck to get him changed and cleaned. Looking back now, that embarrassing start allowed us all to relax and laugh. It was the perfect start to our hearing.

The judge started by questioning our social worker....was Milo a good subject for adoption? Did we meet his needs...financially, emotionally, and physically? She responded adamantly YES! The judge then questioned me. I raised my right hand (shaking to my core) and swore to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

He asked me if I was willing to look after Milo, provide for his needs and be his mother indefinitely. He asked me when I first met Milo, what I loved about him, and why I wanted to be his mother. He asked me if Milo had been to all of his scheduled doctor's visits and received the care he needs to thrive. He also told me that this adoption would be permanent, and joked that when Milo was a teenager, I could not take it back.

After my questioning was over, the judge made Will swear under oath and answer the same questions. He did so proudly and with amazing confidence. I looked at Will and knew that Milo has the most amazing dad. I know that Milo will grow up to be just like him.

After all the questioning, the judge decreed us Milo's legal parents. He looked right at me and told me from here on out, you will forever belong to him.

For the first time in almost a year, I felt like I could finally breathe. From the moment we matched, up until we finalized, I had been holding my breath. Even though Milo's birth mom chose us, even after seeing me at my most vulnerable through my blog, I was so terrified she might find some reason to change her mind. When we met in person, I worried that I would say something weird or crazy and make her change her mind about us. At the hospital, even though she was confident in her decision to place Milo with us, I was terrified she would change her mind.

When we brought Milo home, I was worried that I would never measure up to the honor of being his mother. Just like most first-time mothers, I questioned everything....was he gaining enough weight...was he sleeping enough...why was he upset? I was worried about sharing too much or saying something that might offend or make me look like a sleep-deprived crazy person.

So each week and month passed and I was still holding my breath. We had our post-placement visits from our social worker, we filled out reports on his health and development, and waited for our paperwork to be accepted by our judge. Our paperwork was rejected by the judge three times which was so nerve-wracking.

It was nothing to do with us as parents but all to do with the fact that Milo was born in Utah and we were finalizing in Colorado. Each state has different laws and procedures when it comes to adoption, and our state is the strictest. Our judge was very thorough and now I am extremely grateful. He is a man of great integrity, who has adopted both of his sons, and can say with complete confidence that our adoption of Milo is forever. Nothing can overturn it or change who we are now...his parents.

We are so incredibly grateful to our family and friends (near and far) who have walked alongside us in our journey to parenthood. We have been truly blessed with a community who have supported us, prayed for us, showed up fiercely for us and encouraged us. They are the people who did not let us give up hope, who have reassured us when we felt unworthy, and who love Milo unconditionally.

I could not be the mother and wife that I am today without these people.

This journey has been one of the hardest, but it has been the absolute best. It has brought the most wonderful people into our lives. People who understand the heartbreaking struggle of infertility and the absolute joy that is in adoption.

We are so thankful to God for his faithfulness and for the joy that we now get to experience as Milo's parents.

Milo Payton, we are so honored to call you our son.

xoxo Ashley

Milo Payton Peck // Officially

Ithas almost been a year since we were first introduced to the agency and theexpectant mother that would change our lives completely.

A Photo from our Match Announcement // March 2018

February26, 2018, we were contacted by a friend about a potential situation. It was outof agency, out of state, and completely out of our control.  Three days later, after anxiouslycorresponding with Payton (the expectant mother) and getting to know herbetter, she decided to choose us! Then began the waiting game for Baby M to beborn.

I remember those two months like they were yesterday. I was so excited for him to be born and so terrified that she would change her mind. I remember thinking how we had waited for him for so long (over 5 years) and how each day leading up to his due date felt like forever.

Despiteall of my planning and preparing, Milo made his grand entrance into the world amonth early. Eight months later and he is still doing things in his own timeand on his own terms.

The whole time we waited to become parents we imagined our future child. We pictured who they would be and all the things we would do as a family. Nothing could have prepared us for the joy that is Milo. He is better than anything we could have hoped for or imagined. We thank God for him every single day.

Nothing about our journey to parenthood has been easy or direct. Infertility almost destroyed our marriage and the long wait to adopt almost destroyed us personally. But I would not change a thing because it brought us to Payton. I still am in awe of her bravery and her love for Milo.

Our relationship with Payton and her family has been the biggest surprise and the biggest blessing. We had no idea how much of a bond we would feel with Milo’s birth family.  We are so thankful that she changed her mind and chose an open adoption with us. She encourages me daily and it is an absolute joy to share pictures and videos with her. Open adoption is a beautiful thing.

Milo is so incredibly loved.

So how can I sum up the last 8 months, well really the last 5 years. We started this journey full of hope and completely naïve. We assumed we would match quickly and become parents, despite the statistics and long agency waiting lists. We had no idea how long the entire process would take.

Forthe most part we remained optimistic, even after the first agency ended upbeing a complete waste of our time and money. After months with the second agency and multiple rejections fromexpectant mothers, we started to loose hope.

We survived each holiday thinking it would be the last one we would experience childless. We watched all of our friends get pregnant and start their families. We ignored all the unwarranted advice and suggestions from naysayers. We focused on building our home, adventuring to new places and spending intentional time together.

Our home and our hearts were ready, we just had no idea who we were waiting for.

All of the paperwork, the waiting, the longing, the rejection, the brokenness and despair were completely worth it. I can look back now and see how God was preparing our hearts for Milo. He had chosen Milo for us and I would do it all over again just to be his mother.

Andnow here we are…8 months later and we get to officially call him our own.Social worker visits, court ordered documents, judge approved paperwork, andall the hurdles have been completed. We will sit in that courtroom with our sonand legally promise to care for him (physically and emotionally) for as long ashe needs. The honor and the responsibility are not lost on me.

Finalizing Milo’s adoption feels like the culmination of our adoption journey, but really it is only the beginning. One signature cannot capture a lifetime of parenthood. Its in the big and the little things of life….the nighttime feedings and the first steps, packing lunches and learning to read, the conversations and the heartbreaks, the comforting and the celebrating,  the hugs and the goodbye waves, the school dances and the college essays.

We get the honor and responsibility of raising him, of shaping him, providing for all his needs, and most importantly, loving him.

We get the opportunity to declare in front of our family and the judge all the promises we have made from the moment we said yes. Milo, we will be there for the ups and the downs, the firsts and the lasts, the trials and the triumphs. We will hold you when you cry, help you get back on your feet when you fall, and guide you as you grow. We will share all of the things: laughter, adventures, rugby, french fries, and a love for DIY.

We love you to the moon and back , Milo Payton, and we are so thrilled to officially call you our son.

xoxo Ashley

Milo Payton // What's in a name?

It’s been over six months since our sweet Milo was born. I cannot believe still have much he has grown and all the new things he can do. This age is equally exciting and exhausting for all three of us. Eating solids and learning to roll over have been the big highlights. He is such a happy baby (until he is hungry or tired or bored) and we love him so incredibly much.

Most of you know that during our adoption journey we called our future baby, Baby M. It would have made sense to call him Baby P(eck), but honestly I did not know that was a thing. We chose ‘Baby M’ because both of our baby names (boy/girl) begin with the letter M. It was easier for me to picture and pray for our future baby by giving them a name. We were not sure at the time whether we would be chosen for a baby boy or girl.

So Baby M became the name.

Naming our future child was so important to us. I already was not going to be able to create, carry and birth our child. I did not want to loose another part of motherhood and prayed desperately that our birth mom would allow us that honor.

  

As many of you know, Milo’s birth mom wanted a closed adoption when she chose us. While we were hopeful that she would one day want a relationship with him, we were given the right of naming from the start. I, however, was still terrified of sharing his name. I knew that if she did not like it, then it would be hard to name him Milo.

Up until Milo’s birth, my communication with his birth mom had been through her mother. I shared his name finally when she asked through email. I was so relieved that they loved the name. Now we had to figure out what his middle name would be.

I had my short list of names but they all felt wrong. I spent hours looking up middle names that would work well with “Milo” and even thought maybe our original name just would no longer work. And then on a forum I saw someone suggest the name Milo Payton. I knew then that this would be his name.

If you know us well and have spoken to me in person, you will know why this name is so special and so significant. I shared my feelings about the name with Will, who then shared that he had been thinking the same thing all along. Payton had to be the middle name.

This past weekend we went to Utah to visit Milo’s birth mom and her family. Over the past 6 months, both Will and I felt like one visit a year would not be enough for Milo to have a relationship with her. We asked her if she would be willing to see us more, and she said that she had wanted more visits but did not know how to ask.

God was stirring this in all of our hearts, and so we planned a trip on Thanksgiving weekend.

We have not shared personal details, pictures and names on social media to respect Milo’s birth mom’s privacy. This trip was so significant because we grew closer to Milo’s birth family and his birth mom is finally sharing her beautiful story.

This means, with her blessing, we are now able to share her with you all too.

Payton is one of the bravest and most selfless people I have the privilege of knowing and now calling family. She is the reason I get to call myself “mom”. We chose to name Milo after his birth mom because we have the greatest amount of respect and love for her. We want Milo to always know where he came from, and to not doubt for a second that he is so incredibly loved by her.

When we met Payton and her mom for the first time (two weeks before Milo was born), we were terrified. Terrified she would change her mind about us, and terrified that, knowing she wanted a closed adoption, that she would not be okay with us choosing Payton as his middle name.

Obviously you know that neither of those fears became realities. She loved that we wanted to use her name, especially since she was so worried he would hate her one day for her decision to place him for adoption. She had also decided that she wanted a semi-open adoption, and we were really excited and hopeful for that.

These past six months, I have shared pictures, videos and updates with her. Payton and I text almost daily and I love that I get to share Milo growing up with her. She has encouraged me and affirmed me as a mother. When I find things hard or think I’m failing as a mother, she responds with grace and kindness.

I cannot wait to share this past weekend with you all. I am in awe by how God has redeemed both our stories and is shaping this journey for us. We are so excited that Milo gets to grow up with two families who love him more than anything.

xoxo Ashley

Mother's Day // Past, Present & Future

Two years ago, I sat proud during church and told myself it would be the last Mother's Day I would experience without being a mother. We had just signed and became active with our agency two months earlier, and we were so confident that Baby M would come home that year. It didn't help that most people we spoke to affirmed our desires to adopt that summer. It also didn't help that most of our friends were becoming mothers for the first time that spring and summer of waiting. We were so sure that it was our time, and that no one deserved a baby more than us.

Well as you all know, God's timing didn't match up with ours.

Looking back over the first year of waiting, I can see how God began preparing us to be parents. All of the things we hadn't figured out, that were out of our control, God was working out for us.

 One year ago, Mother's Day weekend snuck up on me and affected me more than I could of ever predicted. Most of my friends who were mothers or planned on becoming mothers all had a Mother's Day brunch together. For the first time, I realized that my journey to motherhood has been almost invisible. It is not acknowledged like the traditional route to parenthood.  I do not have the positive pregnancy test, the gender reveal party, the pre-natal classes or the growing bump to prove my motherhood.

It sent me down a deep dark hole that I could not climb out of for days. For months I had been dealing with our infertility and waiting in such a positive and God-centered way that I could only say was by the grace of God. I would be asked at baby showers and baby birthday parties about how I kept my composure and didn't break down at my own longing and emptiness. And honestly, my personal struggles and longings have never been impacted by those already blessed with families. Which is why Mother's Day weekend and my response came as such a shock.

This year, as you all know, Mother's Day holds so much hope and promise for me. Baby M has yet to enter the world, but motherhood is just around the corner. But this Mother's Day I also feel the loss for our expectant mother, who is making the ultimate sacrifice so that my arms will be full next Mother's Day, and hers will be empty.

Motherhood, for me, will never look the same as most people. I would love to say that I have fully come to terms with that, but I am still human. Even now, I have to convince myself that I deserve the same things all traditional mothers have, and that even though my journey to motherhood looks different than most, I am no less a mother than them.This Mother's Day, thank the women in your life who have shaped you, inspire you, and sacrifice themselves daily for their children. But also think of the women who are still waiting for their baby, who have struggled with their infertility and longing, who have felt the unbearable loss of a child. And think of the men who stand with them on this impossible day, who support and encourage them, and feel the loss just as much.

Happy Mother's Day

xoxo Ashley

 

2017 - Love & Marriage

Will and I celebrated our 6 Year Wedding Anniversary on July 23, 2017. Everyone warned us about the 7-year itch and that we should prepare ourselves for a hard year. What nobody knew was that we were already in the thick of it. We had been carrying over 4 years of disappointment in not being able to conceive and then struggling to adopt. We also got to a point in our marriage that we realized we had run out of things to share and say. It was not exciting anymore.Daily life was such a routine and there was no romance. We fought about everything...and not just arguments but full blown shouting matches where we upped the anti with idle threats and hurtful verbal attacks. I just kept praying so hard that I would find something to love about my husband. How do you continue to love someone when you have the hardest time even liking them.There is nothing more isolating than being in a marriage that is deteriorating. You go from being soulmates to strangers and eventually to enemies. We picked apart everything that the other person did and said. I felt so hopeless and alone. Every conversation we had with each other about our marriage turned into a fight and I was way too proud to talk to anyone about it or seek out counseling.Looking back now, I said and did some pretty shameful things. I let a lot of my disappointments in my life take root and spoil the good things I had been given. And honestly I could not tell you what has changed. My husband and I are finally coming out of the fog that was the last year. I can say its nothing that either of us has done...but by the grace of God we are picking up the pieces and rebuilding our marriage. But it is not something that can be fixed over night.

"A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person."-Mignon McLaughlin

Marriage takes effort and marriage comes with growing pains. Will and I essentially grew up together, but we also grew apart. We are not the same two people who stood together 6 years ago and made our vows. But even though we might have changed, our commitment is constant. We have to work hard to be intentional with each other...to re-learn how to love and support one another. We are not where we were a year ago and we are not where we want to be yet.

Fight for your marriage even when it seems like all hope is lost.

I have been so blessed in who my husband is as a person: loyal, strong-willed, funny, lovable, and highly-skilled. What excites me the most is how amazing he is going to be as a father to our kids.

xoxo Ashley

 

2017- The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

As I reflect over the past year, I see a lot of new beginnings and wonderful memories. My brother got married to his high-school sweetheart and I gained a gorgeous new sister. We got off of the waiting list and were approved with a new agency. Our hearts were so full with all the friends and family that visited. We went to New York and had the chance at seeing our favorite actor perform in an incredible musical. We went on a cruise with 22 of my family members and explored different parts of the Mexican Riviera.

But 2017 was also a really hard year. 2017 is the year my marriage almost broke down completely. It is the year my health began to deteriorate again. 2017 is the year we thought we would become parents....really really thought we would! Its also the year that friendships changed and ended and we doubted our place here in this small but growing town. 2017 was the year that my integrity was challenged at work. It was also the year that I felt the most isolated and alone.I was so happy to put 2017 behind me...and naively thought that it would take all of its struggles and hardships with it. But pain does not follow a calendar. And I am finding out that a lot of the issues are still present with me. So to help me process this past year and to bring all of my brokenness out into the light where I can hopefully heal...I am going write.These are the posts I have been avoiding writing. This is me at my most vulnerable and this is me completely broken.

Over the next few of weeks I will be sharing a couple of posts about the hardships I have endured over the past year. It is going to be messy and show a part of me that most people have not seen. My hope is that by me sharing my story, it will help someone else be brave in sharing theirs.

If this finds you in your brokenness, know that you are not alone and that there is always hope...even when its not visible.

Thank you as always for allowing me to be vulnerable.

xoxo Ashley

 

Waiting...An Adoption Update

This post was written back in September and I am finally sharing it with you all.

https://www.lfsrm.org/will-and-ashley/

I took a little break from sharing our story over the summer. We were officially approved with Lutheran Family Services at the end of May, paid our first two installments and became active on their website. This summer was crazy busy with family and friends visiting from England and traveling to different places for weddings and holidays. I was convinced that we would match and have our baby placed with us during the three weeks that Will's parents were visiting. Each day passed by and the dream started to feel less possible.Well here we are in September, I am back at work as a Special Education Teaching Assistant and am way more distracted with my 9-5. We had our book looked at about a month ago. Our book is a 20 page photo album that I created. It covers our story (how we met and fell in love), our families, who we are as a couple, what we love to do and how we think we will parent one day. The book is shown to expectant mothers who are making an adoption plan for their unborn/born baby. The expectant mother chooses the family to place her child with from those books. We worked really hard on our book as it is our only voice and platform to connect with our future birth mom.

View Our Book Here

With our agency, we have set up parameters for what we are comfortable with in regards to matching with our baby. Those parameters deal with drug and alcohol exposure, with age, gender, and disability. We spent time researching and praying before we decided what we were and were not comfortable with, and that was not an easy task. When a potential expectant mother decides to place with our agency, they find the families that fit with her story and situation. They take the photo books of those families and share them with the expectant mother. She then chooses the one she feels would be the best to parent her child.So our book was looked at in August for the first time. We were not the family that she chose.With our parameters that we set, we also decided that we would be open to crisis situations. A crisis situation is most likely a situation where the baby has already been born and the mother has decided she wants to place her baby with an adoptive family. In a crisis situation there is usually not a lot of information available about the mother or the baby, and saying "Yes!" to one is a total leap of faith.We got a call on Wednesday, August 30, about a two-day old baby girl, born to a mother who was incarcerated and had decided to place her baby for adoption. The information was so minimal...they could only really guess how much the baby had be exposed to drugs and alcohol. They were not aware of who the father was and if he would want to parent. We prayed and talked to a friend of ours who is a medical professional, and with all the unknowns we could not stop smiling. We decided to put ourselves forward with 6 other families.Our social worker told us to get a few things ready just in case we were chosen. She told us to enjoy a night out together and warned us to not get our hopes up because it was not a sure thing.We went to Babies R Us and bought a carseat and some little premie outfits. We had our last date night eating sushi and gushing about potentially picking up OUR baby the next day! We finished all the projects in the nursery...hanging the curtains...organizing the diapers and swaddles. We were so full of hope.If only we had guarded our hearts.After two anxious days of waiting...of checking our emails every other minute...of constantly watching our phones...of getting updates that the mother was delaying her decision...we found out that she chose a different family. I took the news in stride. I prepared myself to emotionally deal with the news in anyway I needed to. What I did not expect was how the news impacted my husband.He had planned a whole weekend spent with his brand new daughter. He imagined us driving down to the hospital to pick her up. He saw himself waking up early on Saturday to feed her while they watched the rugby. He pictured everything. And one phone call took that all away.Looking back now, I know that baby was never ours. My husband and I both grieved in different ways and it taught us that adoption is messy and heartbreaking. For us to have a family, we have to destroy another one. That is a reality that I am coming to terms with even now. This journey has not been an easy one...filled with pain, disappointment, doubt and longing. But it has also been one of hope and promise. We trust that our baby will come to us in HIS timing, and are excited to finally one day become parents.

A Year Later...An Adoption Update

This post was written back in February, and only recently have I had the courage to post it. I am trying to be vulnerable and transparent throughout this entire process, and that is not easy. I struggled with the feelings and emotions in this post, but I owe it to myself, Baby M, and those who have committed to stand by us. So here it is:A year ago we finished all of our paperwork, took adorable adoption portfolio photos, and shared our news with the world about wanting to adopt. So here we are a year later...and not much has changed in regards to our wanting to adopt. We thought we should give you all an update about where we are at and how the past year has gone...So hear it goes...2016...the year we thought we would add a baby to our family. Well most of you know that did not happen. Our agency, Adoption in Bloom in Boulder, did not have one placement/adoption in 2016. For the first three months that we were approved...I checked my phone and my email constantly. I was so sure that we would be receiving potential matches weekly, if not monthly. But we never received any. After months of silence from our agency I reached out via email. The agency had not been approached by anyone trying to place their baby. I tried to take that as positively as I could. So we waited...

Those first couple of months were incredibly hard. No one wants to know you are adopting...its uncomfortable and a lot of people pity your misfortune. And the longer you wait to adopt, the more they feel sorry for you. Struggling through infertility is incredibly lonely. Waiting to adopt is even lonelier. You watch as all of your friends start having babies. They tell you it won't be long until you have your own. Except it is long. And its unpredictable. And as hard as you try to be present for their struggles and joys of motherhood, it breaks you down bit by bit. You start to hide your heart away, because the less you feel the easier it is to bear. You love the children in your life and you thank God for the blessings he has bestowed upon your friends and family. But your heart hurts. People around you ask about the adoption plans and how its all going. They don't ask about the state of your heart, or your marriage, or how the waiting and disappointment affects both. Honestly, you don't hold it against them. Because infertility and adoption are not the norm. Unless you have experienced either, its not a natural concern. And even when I am at my lowest, and feeling completely and utterly alone, I still have hope. I trust in a God who is bigger than our infertility, who is greater than our longing to be parents. He is working out our story in a way that I can't even fathom. And I am so excited about what he has in store for us.365 days later. Where does that leave us? We are no longer with our agency. We felt that their lack of communication and placements were not something we could endure for another year. We went to a foster information meeting in Adams county, and didn't feel that was our course, yet. So what are our next steps? After researching other local agencies, we decided to go with Lutheran Family Services of Denver. They are transparent with how many adoptions they facilitate annually and do not take on more families than they can support. We are currently on a waiting list with them and are hoping to become active with them in the next couple of months.Our adoption story has not taken an easy or quick course; but we are not giving up. This past year has been hard, but it has also been a part of our story. We still cannot wait to meet Baby M, whenever that is meant to be.

Thoughts from November

A little something I wrote back in November:img_2211Spent some time today just sitting in this room...our beautiful nursery. I seem to have avoided this room for the last couple of months. I guess I've been busy, preoccupied with other things, or I have learned to see how full and blessed my life is right now. The longing for our Baby M hasn't subsided, but the feeling that we are lacking, empty, or not whole, has been graciously taken away.When I think about our future child, which is often, I am reminded about how much time we have to prepare for them. This month marks 9 months of being approved and certified to adopt. Most families have 9 months to prepare for their baby's arrival. We have been preparing our hearts and our home for much longer. And every day, week, month and year until we are given Baby M means more time for us to become the people, the parents, God has called us to be.P1190191_editedI'm taking this season of waiting that we have been given and am using it to grow as a wife, a friend, a daughter, and a coworker. I'm celebrating all the things we get to do everyday before we become parents. Like sleeping in late on Saturday, spontaneous movie theater dates after work, projects around the house (so many projects) and filling up our time with people and things that we love. I'm working on putting my husband first, before myself, because when we become parents I will be tempted to put him last. And I'm searching for the joy and blessings in everything...taking moments to just sit in grace and gratitude. 

The Struggle is Real

It’s officially been a year since I started this blog…which means that we have officially been on our adoption journey for more than 365 days. Its been a few months since my last blog post, and I think its time for some real talk... Adoption has been apart of my story for almost a decade. It has been on my heart since I was 16 and I have always known it would be a part of how I grew my family one day. Now that might sound a little cray cray because how can anyone know what the future holds? Well you can call it whatever you want but when it comes to my call to adoption, I have not wavered once. 

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 Over the past 365 days I have been blessed with a divine sense of peace about who I will be as a mother and a steady trust in God to provide me with the children I am to care for. Friends have asked me how I am doing with the waiting process, and for the most part I have trusted God’s timing and provision (honestly and truthfully!). But I have only realized recently the walls that I have put up defensively to protect myself. When people question me about adoption, it has been easier to talk about not wanting to get pregnant or do the whole birthing a baby thing. Now while those are true due to my current health and the uncertainty of what daily issues pregnancy could contribute to an already complicated life, I haven’t shared the whole truth with most people. The whole truth is that my husband and I tried and failed to conceive for about a year. This was one of the hardest years of my life and a very trying time for our marriage. Each month I felt like a broken mess that for whatever reason couldn’t do what I was created to do. Not many people know about that year…because it is easier to smile and laugh then it is to cry and weep with those we surround ourselves with. And I am really good at putting up a strong front. 

"Oh you're adopting...I'm so sorry!" - the general public

 Over the past five years we have faced enough pity from those who hear about our plans to adopt. When you throw infertility in to the mix, the responses become unbearable. Infertility is accompanied by shame and disappointment and pity, not just from the couple directly experiencing it, but also from those who are made aware of it. Friends, family, strangers…but most importantly those who are ignorant to the struggles of infertility end up making the most impact with those who are experiencing infertility. I was adamant about this journey of adoption being documented for our future children to read. I want them to know how much they are longed for, wanted and loved. However, I think I have tried to separate our calling to adoption from our struggles with infertility. I wanted our future adopted children to know they were loved and wanted without the messy dialogue that infertility brings. And because of that, I have denied myself of the support I so terribly need. 

I waited and waited and waited for God.At last he looked; finally he listened.Psalm 40:1

 Most of the time I am still trusting in God’s timing and provision. However, there are moments, gut-wrenching and time-stopping moments, where I am floored with the feelings of longing and emptiness. Where I shut down and forget all the ways in which I am blessed. I know deep down that I will make a wonderful mother, if only I were given the chance. I can’t possibly know why my path is different than most. I don’t know why God is making me wait when almost everyone I know doesn’t have to. I am so overjoyed by those I know who are already growing their families. And I trust that those little ones that will be entrusted to us are coming soon…in their own way and in their own time. 272060_1827832057294_7540181_o  47402_555309150861_6387024_n I look over at my husband…my darling Will. He is patient and kind and so understanding. He has agreed to walk this earth by my side, all the days of our lives. In him I find my support, my encouragement, and my strength to continue this crazy journey we have embarked on. Without him, I could not carry on. 40084_554116680581_766383_n256376_3354546584128_1856047773_o So friends, family, strangers…when you hear of someone experiencing infertility…please do not pity them. Do not give them advice on how to conceive (seriously…that happens!!). And when a crazy couple says to you that they are pursuing adoption…don’t tell them they are brave or better than yourself for doing something so uncommon. Don’t separate yourselves from them…rejoice with them…encourage them…pray for them! Don’t complain about your pregnancy when there are those who will never get to experience that miracle. Instead, support them by walking alongside them…by asking the hard questions…by being a shoulder to cry on. Don’t ask them how the waiting is going…ask them how their heart is faring through it all. Understand that every pregnancy and birth they witness is bittersweet. 

You are a saviorAnd you take brokenness asideAnd make it beautiful-All Sons & Daughters

 Research shows that 1 in every 8 couples experiences infertility. That means that in every close friendship group, someone is most likely experiencing infertility of some sort. I am that friend. It is time that I own who I am fully. It is time that I embrace the person God has created me to be. I don't know how He will do it, but I know that he will take this brokenness and make it beautiful.

Home Study Visit {1}

I am so excited to share that WE ARE APPROVED TO ADOPT! After completing ALL the paperwork (and boy was it a lot!), doctors appointments, background checks, and a weekend of training, we were able to start the home study process. Now I am going to be honest...I found the prospect of inviting a stranger into our home to evaluate us as future parents completely terrifying. As a couple, we wear our feelings and our hearts on our sleeves. Whenever we meet new people, I usually apologize at the start for anything my husband may share. We kinda lack filters, not in a crude inappropriate way, but in an awkward truth kind of way. The more nervous and uncomfortable we are in a situation, the more we reveal. And even though we are honest people with nothing to hide, I was still anxious about the whole situation. I mean what if I said something wrong and it changed the social worker's opinion of me? What if we awkwardly joked about something that made us look like we would be terrible parents?So with all of those worries and thoughts in my head, we stepped out and said "What will be will be." Deep down I know that Will and I will be great parents. We have both been blessed beyond measure with the parents and families we grew up in. Our childhood memories are those of love, adventure, and stability. I look at Will as a husband and father to our fur babies and am so sure of the man I married. As a team we are awesome (if I do say so myself) and with our ups and downs we still laugh and love and have the best time.IMG_8911We met our social worker the first week of December 2015. She came to our perfectly cleaned and organized home and sat down with us for two hours. She asked us questions about why we wanted to adopt and all the questions you ask when getting to know someone. And I quickly realized that she wasn't asking those questions to see if we fit a specific adoptive family criteria. She really wanted to know us personally...to build a study of who we are not only as people, but as a unit. Our likes, hobbies, jobs, and dreams. And for those two hours we talked with a sense of ease and feeling of peace. We did not try to impress or win her over. We just talked about us.IMG_9043Just like that...one of the three visits I had been so terrified about was over. We kept looking at each other and saying "Was that really it?". I mean, ok, we still had two more visits (one being the individual interviews), but wow what a feeling. It wasn't the paperwork or training that made me realize we could do this. It is the partnership I have with my husband, the life we have already built together, and trust in our God who has called us to adoption. Baby M we love you already and cannot wait for you to be ours.IMG_8792Thanks for reading and stay tuned for Home Study Visit {2}  

Adoption Announcement Photoshoot

We are coming to the end of our homestudy (post coming soon about our experience) and when it is finalized (the 2nd week of January) we will be eligible to be matched to a birth parent and baby! P1190187_edited It is our plan to send out a "We are hoping to Adopt" Announcement at the start of the year! This is to let our extended family and friends know about our adoption plans and to enable the people in our lives to support us, either through prayer, sharing our story, or financially through donations.P1190152_edited We are praying for a baby to join this House Full of Pecks in 2016! We know that adoption is hard, that the process can take years, but we are staying positive and praying for God to bring our baby to us this year. That might sound crazy or naive, but we are stepping out in faith and trusting God's plan for us. And as hopeful as we are for a baby in 2016, we are willing to wait as long as it takes for our baby!P1190178_edited And what is an adoption announcement without a photoshoot?!?!? I met Kate this past summer when I drove her and a few other high school girls around Erie for the Amazing Race. This is an event for High School students who are part of our Church youth group, which I have been volunteering with since this summer.  It was a really fun afternoon and our team came in 2nd Place! Anyways, I have come to know Kate over this past semester at youth group and discovered she has a love for photography! She is so kind, has a great heart, and I knew she would be perfect to take our photos! And let me tell you what an awesome time we had!

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 Kate made us feel really comfortable and was able to capture us and our personalities so well. She even managed to get a few of the four of us, despite Miss Bennett not co-operating! We would highly recommend her for any and all of your photoshoots and will definitely be using her for our photoshoots in the future! You can see more of her work on her websiteP1190191_edited I am currently finishing up our adoption profile book that will be viewed by birth parents for a potential match! This journey has been so beautiful and has taught both of us about not only trusting in the Lord for his provision and timing, but to treasure this time of waiting as he prepares us to be parents. I spoke to someone recently who had adopted through our agency and they said one of the most helpful things I have heard in regards to waiting. It is not a question of "if" we will get a child, but a question of "when" our child will become ours completely. 

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We are also praying for our future birth parents...that they will see how much we already love this child, and how humbled we are to get to partner with them to raise this baby. We pray for strength and courage as they make their adoption plan and for wisdom in choosing. We are two imperfect people, striving to live a life worthy of the children we will be given.

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Thank you for taking the time to look at our pictures and for following us in our journey. We are so grateful for your prayers and support! If you would like to receive an adoption announcement and to support us in our adoption journey, please connect with me on here or on Facebook.

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"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."-Joshua 1:9

Lately...

So I am gonna be honest....its been awhile since my last post. And that is not because our adoption journey has been delayed in anyway. In fact it is moving along quicker than I had hoped at this point! But I guess I should bring you all up-to-date with a few changes we have experienced recently. Back in August my husband got a new job...and I was left to manage the stores on my own (The UPS Store servicing hall residents at CU Boulder). It was not a great time for him to leave but it was a good move for us as a family. He is working for a small business that relocated to Boulder and is loving it. However, I had to deal with one of the busiest times of the year without him being by my side. But despite all my fears and anxiety about it...I rocked it! I can honestly say it went smoothly and I didn't cry or lose my cool at all (which is HUGE for me!).However...the stress and responsibility took a serious toll on my health. If you do not know...I suffer from severe migraines that come on for various reasons. I also have a head condition that makes the changing weather and pressure here in Colorado really difficult for me...like in bed all day can't do anything difficult. Now...I am not a complainer. I am blessed beyond reason in so many aspects of my life. I don't even like talking about my health (or lack of sometimes) as I know there are those who have to deal with much more than I do. But I got to a point where I knew I needed to make a few changes to get my health back to functioning.IMG_8510  Before I moved back to America, I used to work as a teaching assistant supporting children with learning difficulties. I have always gone back and forth between becoming a fully-qualified teacher but have realized that I absolutely love working more one-on-one without all the paperwork and stress of running an entire classroom. So I decided that the happiest and healthiest I had been job-wise was working in that capacity. I applied for a ton of teaching assistant (para-educator) jobs and thanks be to God I was invited for an interview at a local elementary school in the town where I live. Well I guess I made a good impression because they hired meand were willing to work with me transitioning from my current job.{Fast forward 5 weeks}I LOVE my job! It has taken pretty much the last 5 weeks to really get into the rhythm of the job and to enable my students to get familiar and comfortable with me. It wasn't easy. I had to deal with quite a few tantrums and chasing students down the hall or around the playground, but I did not give up. And believe it or not...I have only had 2 migraines since starting my new job (thats two migraines in 5 weeks when I was getting migraines 3-4 times per week!!!!!). I have also found a doctor who totally wants to figure out why my body just doesn't get some things right and that is so awesome!

{Our Adoption Journey}

IMG_8444  We completed our Core training in November with Adoption Choices of Colorado. What.an.eye.opener. The weekend training (required to adopt in Colorado) was fantastic! Our trainer focused on the differences between open, semi-open, and closed adoptions, what questions to ask when called about a potential match, and what to expect and hospital etiquette when the baby is born. We have always been pretty sure about wanting what is best for our baby first, and then making sure the birth mother is included in a way that is good and healthy for the baby. I would say that we had a few "definites" change to "umm...we are open to discussion" as we were made aware of very possible realities with the birth family and how that can affect the emotional development of our baby. We also were completely naive to the harsh reality that our baby would most likely be subject to alcohol and drugs for any sort of time period, depending on when the birth mother finds out she is pregnant and when she alters her habits for the benefit of the baby.What was so reassuring was our complete trust in God as we follow our calling to adoption. As much as I would like a stress-free match and placement (including the relationship with the birth mother/family) and as much as my heart desires a happy and healthy baby, I know that this world is broken and imperfect...and our baby will be loved no matter the circumstances that have brought them into this world. We cannot wait to meet our little baby...I feel like we already know them and are just waiting for them to be given to us forever. I imagine seeing their little face...holding their little fingers...counting their tiny toes...and loving them with everything I have to give.IMG_8506 So we have decided not to worry about the details...that we will know when we get offered the right match...and we will go into it with open hearts and a desire to do what is best, not only for our baby, but for their birth family. I have no idea what that is going to look like...and frankly thats ok with me. What parent honestly can say they had everything figured out prior to their first baby being born? If you did...please share some of your wisdom!Baby (M) we cannot wait to be chosen to love, care, and parent you for as long as we are given (hopefully forever). You are already so loved my darling...and your mummy and daddy are longing for you to be home.largeAshley xoxo

And so it begins...

So back in June we decided on the adoption agency we wanted to use for our first adoption. We started filling out a ton of paperwork, got our fingerprints taken, and even had to get police certificates of good behavior from the UK.

{ then summer got cray cray }

Will's parents visited from England for almost 3 weeks which was super fun. I know you all are thinking that having your in-laws for three weeks could never be fun, but my MIL and FIL are awesome and I love spending time with them. We went on vacation to Vegas, which was an experience to say the least. My mom and brother (no. 2) came to visit for a week before he headed off to his first year of college (he is sooo grown up). And our really good friend from college stopped over for a flying visit between a trip to Canada and Virginia.

{ then we had some big life changes }

From August until about now, work was absolutely mental (that means crazy for all your non-brits). I have never been so exhausted in my entire life!!!! And on top of that my wonderful and adoring husband got a new job. For the past 18 months Will and I have been working together in the same job, commuting to work in the same car, eating and living together in the same house, and sleeping in the same bed. All of the sudden a huge part of our days were no longer spent together. And let me tell you that was hard to get used to. Most of our friends have always wondered how we worked together and for awhile there I didn't know how I was going to survive working life without him. Its definitely gotten easier and I am so glad we are still working in the same city because we can have spontaneous lunch dates.These past few months have been quite the whirlwind for our little family of four (yes my pups are a part of our family). Our friends had recently asked where we were at with the adoption process. And to be perfectly honest, we held off for the last two months because we wanted to be ready. Its a huge step in faith for us and not a decision to be taken lightly. The seriousness and reality of sending in our application and officially starting the process of being approved had weighed on our hearts all summer.And now, as I am finally coming up for air, we feel settled enough with Will's new job and income to finally get this adoption process started. Last night I got all the completed paperwork together, wrote out some (hefty) checks, and put together our application to send to the agency. And about 10 minutes ago, I emailed over the paperwork to the agency. (ahhhhh!) If I could articulate how I am feeling right now, I would. I wish you could all get a glimpse into my heart. We are one step closer to holding our baby and forever calling it ours.

Overwhelming JoyExcitementNervousnessAnticipationPeace& Longing

Those are just a few words to describe the cornucopia of feelings I am experiencing right now. Stay tuned as we continue what will be one of the greatest adventures of our lives.Ashley xoxo 

Gatsby's Ancestry Revealed

Its been a couple weeks since I have written on here and boy have I been busy! With a trip to Vegas with friends, my birthday and my in-laws visiting, its been harder to find time to stop and write. But today I finally was able to sit myself down and am excited to share more about our #familyoffour.When we rescued our little Gatsby we were told he was most likely a 2-3 month old lab mix who had great growth potential. At the time that was really important to us because we wanted a good playmate and brother for our 70 pound American Bulldog who needed help learning how to play positively with other dogs. We soon found out from the vet that he was actually a few months older, most likely of corgi descent and probably wouldn't get bigger than 35/40 pounds. After loving him for almost a year we decided to have a wisdom panel taken to find out what breeds made up our energetic and completely adorable (little) pup.gatsbyAfter a month of waiting for the results, we finally received them from our vet last week. She was so excited to share Gatsby's ancestry and even was able to notice different characteristics that he currently exhibits that matched the results.So the big reveal..... Gatsby is a Australian Shepherd, Rottweiler, Golden Retriever mix.Gatsby's Ancestry RevealedWe were totally surprised by the results! We had an inkling that he would be a shepherd of some sort but Rottweiler...WOW! Looking at him now we can see all three breeds, in his coloring, in his ears, in his brown little eyebrows, and in his constant herding of Bennett in the backyard and his boisterous and playful personality.I am not gonna lie, I was thrilled to find out that he is not one bit corgi, and that his short stature is due to the "mixed breed" that makes up a portion of his ancestry beyond three generations. They selected 5 breeds that most likely contributed to that mixed breed ancestry, and that it is likely only one or more of these breeds played a part in his genetic makeup. The five breeds listed from most likely to less likely are Shetland Sheepdog, Pekingese, Samoyed, Alaskan Malamute, and Shih Tzu.We would guess from the way he is shedding his undercoat this summer that he has at least a little bit of the Alaskan Malamute in him. And as all three confirmed breeds have floppy ears, Gatsby's adorable ears that stick straight up would be attributed to one of those 5 breeds as well (maybe the Samoyed or Sheepdog).IMG_7742As exciting as this has all been, it has really got me thinking about the importance of ancestry and family. We rescued Gatsby with hardly any information about his age, breed, or past circumstances. And as we have filled in some of the blanks with him, it has not changed how we feel about him one little bit. I have loved him the same now knowing his breed and age as I did before I knew those things. Through our rescuing of both Gatsby and Miss Bennett, I think God has been teaching me about unconditional love to prepare my heart for when we adopt our kids. It won't matter where they came from or who they came from for me to love them unconditionally. And as they grow up and we learn more about them as parents do with their growing children, it will only make my love grow and grow.IMG_7488At the end of the day Gatsby is Gatsby...our little honeybadger. He is the best brother and playmate for our Miss Bennett. Even though he is only 35 pounds to her 70 pounds, he can still take her down when they play fight. He is loyal and constantly makes me laugh with his belly rolls and little flirtatious grunts. I would not be the same person without him.  

Oh Me of Little Faith

Here is our family of four doing my first #fridayintroductions on instagram @housefullofpecksA couple of weeks ago, my husband and I had decided on an adoption agency and had scheduled an appointment to meet with the director. I wanted to meet her in person and also give my husband a chance to own the decision as well by asking questions and hearing the answers straight from the agency. I had done all the research prior and had been the one to inform him of what I learned. So it was really great to finally decide and own the decision as a couple.As this was our first face-to-face meeting with an adoption agency, I wanted to know exactly what questions I should ask before deciding to move forward with them. We live in a small(ish) town that has a great Facebook community where you can voice opinions, raise awareness, ask for help, share events and news, and give reviews. I had this deep desire to know and be apart of a community of families who had adopted, were adopting or are just looking into adoption who live near us. Connecting with people and doing life with them can be such a huge blessing, especially when you share something like adoption as a common thread. So I stepped out in faith and posted on this Facebook page hoping maybe one or two people would respond and want help me foster this community I was longing for.

{ Oh me of little faith }

The response I received on that Facebook post BLEW. ME. AWAY! Comment after comment from families who were in every stage of adoption, including adoptees! God saw my longing and he provided for me more than I could have asked or imagined. And to top it off, those who commented wanted the same thing...a community for families in our town who have/had/are going to adopt!

Now I am not a leader of any sort...I have always seen myself as just another sheep in a huge flock. I saw a need that I was hoping someone else could fill for me...but instead it was so clear that I could fill that need for myself and others. So I created a Facebook group for us...an online community for support, encouragement, and wisdom and a safe place to share our fears and worries. I also met someone who is moving to our town this summer and wants to co-lead the group with me....to make it more than just an online community. We have not met yet, but I am so excited to see how God can use the two of us in this amazing town for all of these awesome adoptive families. These families who are an inspiration to me and who have done what may seem impossible to others. They have opened their homes to those who were homeless, given families to those who were without families, and loved those who were once unloved and unwanted.

In any and every circumstance,I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.{Philippians 4:12-13}

As I approach this exciting new chapter of my life and step out in faith, I will hold onto those words of truth. Will and I have been blessed in abundance and have struggled through needs. In each trial and blessing we can only hold onto the strength we have received in faith through Jesus. I know I can do this because he has been there with me in all things.

How are you supported in your community? I would love to hear of encouragements, ideas and what has helped you most.

Ashley xoxo