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

 

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_2211

Spent 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.

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I’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.

 

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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.

 

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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 savior
And you take brokenness aside
And 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.

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!

 

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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.

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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!

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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 website

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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.

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My pups looking after me during Thanksgiving break when I was sick.sick.sick

 

 

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}

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Will learning how to swaddle our “baby” at our adoption core training class…He is going to be such a great dad!

 

 

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.

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Loving on my hubby at Friendsgiving…so blessed to have a man to call my own with a huge heart for adoption. Baby (My) we CANNOT wait for you to be ours!

 

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.

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Ashley 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 Joy
Excitement
Nervousness
Anticipation
Peace
& 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

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Taking our First Steps….Fingerprints for Background Checks

I 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!

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Giddy over getting our fingerprints taken

The 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