She Smiles

September 22, 2014 cl/cp, Craniofacial, guest post, referral 15 Comments

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.


4.14fam-8In 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.

15 responses to “She Smiles”

  1. […] second post is over at No Hands But Ours, a blog full of resources for adoptive families (with a focus on “special need” […]

  2. Karen says:

    I cannot believe how big she is getting. I love her story and you have a wonderful family.

  3. Stefanie says:

    Love seeing you and your precious family over here on No Hands But Ours, Ashley! Amazing how your daughter has blossomed… super awesome, indeed.
    Thank you so much for sharing <3

  4. beautiful. says:

    […] And, my-oh-my, how she has blossomed. […]

  5. Martha says:

    Ashley, I adore your blog and have been following your journey with your daughter since the beginning when you had your referral and would post glimpses of her. I love how you share your heart and love seeing you here on NHBO! Such a beautiful family!

  6. I have loved watching your girl bloom via your blog… Your post about her relationship with her big sister was especially encouraging to me shortly before we traveled to get our little one and I was all-wrapped-up in stress about how my 3yo daughter was going to react. So glad to have you posting over here at NHBO!

  7. Amy says:

    Thank you for sharing your story!

  8. Rachel says:

    It really is an amazing journey, isn’t it? You have a beautiful family!

  9. Randi Lanz says:

    The contrast in the two pictures is AMAZING!

    P.S. And I totally get the “kind of super awesome”. And to think those who haven’t been there done that think it is the KIDS who are the lucky ones. Nope! It is us!

  10. Andrea Olson says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story with us!

  11. Love your description of your precious one now. Such a wild and crazy life, isn’t it? Thanks for sharing your beautiful family on NHBO.

  12. Kathie Hikade says:

    wonderful! I so get what you mean! So beautifully written ….Thank you!

  13. Sarah says:

    You have put into words what so many of us adoptive mamas have felt when we are at that junction where a very long and arduous journey is ending and a very terrifying and tumultuous journey is beginning for our child (and maybe sometimes for us, too). Thanks so much for sharing this!

  14. Jenn says:

    love this story. such a sweet family. thank you

  15. Joanna says:

    Aww. She is beautiful, and you put into words what so many of us adoptive mammas feel! Thank you for sharing!

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