Late one Monday night, I incessantly hit ‘refresh’ on my computer screen hoping for an email. Longing for THE email. The minutes felt like hours and then suddenly something popped up. The subject simply had a name – my daughter’s name. A flood of emotions overtook my husband Chris and I as we opened that file and saw her face for the first time. I saw her older four siblings for the first time in a hospital delivery room. Though the circumstances were very different this round, the feelings were the same. My daughter. My love for her was instant and deep and fierce.
She, on the other hand, had no idea I existed.
Nearly six months later, I found myself standing in a room in China, my daughter finally in my arms. On that overwhelming beautiful day I was able to breathe again, yet in other ways I felt suffocated by the great loss that accompanies when a child is not able to grow up in the family they are born into. The ache of longing for her was over, but a new journey was just beginning. I knew her love for me would not be instant. She didn’t know me. She didn’t trust me. She didn’t see that I was safe. She didn’t understand I was ‘mommy’.
It has been a little over a year and a half since that day. There are moments when her arms are entangled around my neck and I remember walking the streets of China with her staring at her hands, not understanding how to let someone hold her. These days she wraps me up in her hugs, she kisses my cheeks, she laughs and she says, “Mommy, I love you.”
Being a parent is such a spectacular adventure. My kids, all five of them, make life so grand (and loud and messy). Watching my youngest daughter blossom and come alive…well, there just aren’t words to describe this journey. I’m often baffled by her bravery. Her willingness to embrace me. To trust me. To let her silly self come out.
She knows I’m ‘mommy’ now. She also knows how to steal her brother’s Nintendo DS and hide in closet with it. She can chase a chicken like nobody’s business and is pretty close to mastering her front flip on the trampoline. She can fire a dart gun with precision and use a funny deep voice to make us laugh at the dinner table. She’s spunky, full of life, and definitely embracing her role as the youngest of five.
The first time I saw her face it was on my computer screen. Now I get to kiss her increasingly round cheeks every night. It is kind of super awesome.
In the midst of raising 5 young kids, who create wonderful (but messy) chaos, Ashley Campbell uses photography as a tool to delight in the seemingly not so glamorous moments of life. On her blog Under the Sycamore, and through her SnapShops photography workshops, she hopes to help others find and celebrate the marvelous in the mundane.
The Campbells spend the majority of their days on a couple acres in Oklahoma where their roots run deep. You can also find her on Instagram here.