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.

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

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 

Endless Paperwork

IMG_7414I have had more than my fair share of paperwork over the years. I went to a Catholic College prep high school for my Freshmen and Sophomore years. After two terrible years of mean girls and rich kids and skirt measuring in the hallway, I decided to finish high school through independent study. It was one of the best decisions I have made in life so far. Yes I missed out on more high school dances, and football games, but I was able to work with a small group of like-minded kids who also did not fit in with the status quo. It gave me the freedom to start classes at the local community college and through one english class my fate was changed forever.One of my best friends and I took a lot of classes together. She was two years older than me but most of her friends had gone away to college. I had a reputation of speaking my mind which made me not so popular with most girls (hence me leaving my high school) and so after a viewing of Pride and Prejudice we became fast friends. We were taking an english class at Saddleback Community College when we heard about their study abroad program in England. Now my friend had already done a semester studying in Spain and was totally up for another one. I, an avid reader and lover of literature, had always dreamt of visiting the places where my favorite authors had lived and wrote their novels. One little problem...my friend was actually in college and I was a 17 year old still in high school with a curfew.Well my clever friend did all the research it took to make sure I would be able to go and then asked my parents for me one evening when she was over having dinner with my family. And for some crazy reason...THEY SAID YES!Now while the adventures that followed are worth a novel in themselves...I find myself at the original point to which I am writing. Paperwork. That started the first ever visa filing that I would undergo. So much paperwork for a three month study abroad program. Little did I know that I would later on complete the paperwork for 5 visas in total.Now I don't know about you, but if you have ever filled out a visa application, you know how much work is involved. You have to get the right pictures (no smiling) and you have to get forms notarized, and make sure there are no errors. Background checks and proof of residency and bank statements. We had to overnight an affidavit signed by my dad in California for one visa. I missed spending our first Christmas married with my family in California because of visa delays. I also had to go to the American Embassy for my hubby's visa to get my tax returns filed....that was a trip!IMG_7415The hardest visa I applied for was my fiance visa to move to England and get married. I had to provide statements of my relationship with Will with a timeline and photographs as evidence of our love and commitment. Everything had to line up perfectly...Will got a job which meant he could sign for our rental agreement which gave us a place to live (and was required for my visa to be granted). But with all the freak outs and last minute scares and forms being filed left right and center...everything always came together. I got my visas and Will got his greencard to move here. We trusted God and did everything by the book...and its by his grace and strength that we are here today.So while I am sitting here feeling completely overwhelmed by the amount of paperwork and forms and background checks we have to file, I can remember that we have done this before..... And through this whole adoption adventure, I can hold onto this truth:

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart    and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him,    and he will make your paths straight."-Proverbs 3:5-6

We are going to do everything by the book when it comes to filling our paperwork and we are going to trust God that he will open the doors that need opening and close the ones that need to be shut.

{Stepping out in active faith and trusting God no matter the outcome}

How did you get through all the crazy paperwork? Are you, like me, already feeling overwhelmed? I would love to hear your thoughts, struggles, and encouragements as you went through (or are also going through) this stage in the adoption process.

Ashley xoxo