Meeting Aster’s Birth Mother

It was rainy and cold here Tuesday. Aster discovered the raindrops and knelt beside our back door to watch them trickle down the window and puddle on our porch. It was so, so sweet to watch her as she watched them for the first time.

There was a chill in the air, so I turned on the heat. And for some reason that created a trickle of thoughts in my mind. Thoughts about Aster’s birth mom. Thoughts about how cold she must get and how she has no heat to turn on. Thoughts about how damp the one room adobe home where she lives must feel when it rains.

I felt sad and wished she was here with me in my warm house watching our beautiful little girl discover rain drops.

I thought about the day we met Hagere. I couldn’t believe it had been a month that we returned from Ethiopia with Aster, and just two days before that we drove down the dusty, bumpy roads of Addis to meet her birth mom. It was a day I had prayed for and yet a day I was very nervous about.
I wondered what I should say or ask her. What would Aster want to know?

I couldn’t sleep much the night before so I prayed through the early morning hours about our meeting and my concerns. Aster’s paperwork said her father had abandoned them when she was 8mos pregnant, and that she could not take care of her baby, her firstborn, her only child. But I’d struggled with how Aster would feel that her birth mom put her up for adoption although she was still alive.

God reminded me how He’d provided answers to those questions earlier that week. I’d met the doctor who cared for Aster when she was hospitalized for severe malnutrition. He was amazed by her current weight and told me Aster’s skin had been hanging off her bones when she was first admitted. Aster would not have survived had she not been placed for adoption. Here’s a photo of what she looked like then at 6 months, weighing only 8 lbs.

Remembering how God provided answers to those troubling questions, I tucked His assurance in my heart that He would provide again as we pulled up to the orphanage where we were meeting Hagere. As we got out of the van, we were greeted by two beautiful women who took Aster and started singing and kissing her and shouting, “Aster?? This is Aster? Look, this is Aster!”

And then I saw her. Sitting quietly on the porch. Waiting. I immediately walked up to her and said hello and asked if she wanted to hold Aster. She smiled and said yes with her eyes.

Hagere, being only 28 years old, looked worn and frail. So timid. Yet peaceful.
I’m not sure what made Hagere laugh, but I loved seeing her beautiful smile.
Oh the difference a hug can make. If you click on this photo you can really see how Hagere’s smile changed when I put my arm around her.
Hagere spoke very little. They explained to us that women are very subdued in the region she is from and that she is very shy. She only said she wanted to thank us and tell us that she wants Aster to be with our family. I sensed that she wanted to give us her blessing.I told her we knew Aster was a gift from God and that we had been praying He would bring us a little girl for years. She cried.Then she told the interpreters that she wanted us to know that she is a Christian, too. We were shocked. We had not mentioned we were Christians because we knew it’s a very Muslim influenced area and it could hinder our conversation. The fact that she would use those words to describe her faith was the biggest gift Jesus could give to us in that moment.

God had answered another one of my deepest prayers! I started bawling and told her about all of you who were praying for Aster and that I knew God had a plan for her life.

She had decided to give Aster back to me at one point in our conversation. I wanted her to see Aster smile so I started playing patty cake. We talked some more, asking questions about her family and living conditions. Her cousin had brought her and he explained that Hagere’s mother is still alive and Hagere lives with her along with 4 cousins and brothers in a one room mud hut.

He told us that they are very, very poor and can barely feed themselves. That is why she could not take care of Aster. He looked very sad but also very thankful to see her doing so well.
I thought she might want to see Aster’s cute little toes so I took off one of her socks. Then I gave her back to Hagere and offered her a bottle to feed her.
She seemed so pensive. It seemed so unfair to me that I could provide formula when I know with all my heart this young mother would do anything to provide her baby her mother’s milk. It was bittersweet to share this moment together.

But it was also beautiful.

And then our visit faded toward the end of our time together. She leaned close to hug her good-bye.
We gave Hagere a hug and then took her and her cousin to the city to catch a bus. JJ and I were so thankful for how our time together had gone. It could not have been any better. God’s so good!!!

There is so much more I want to share, but this post is already so long. If you’d like to follow Aster’s story and our family’s journey be sure to come back, or sign up for email updates in the top right sidebar under the P31 logo where there is a place to put your email.

In the meantime, I’ll be here with my beautiful girl watching raindrops and praying that Hagere knows I’m thinking about her and praying for her every time I see the rain.
About Renee

Renee Swope is a Word-lover, story-teller, heart-encourager and grace-needer. She's also a wife, mom, friend, daughter and author of A Confident Heart, a Retailers Choice Award winning book that became a best-seller and has been published in six languages, with over 150,000 copies sold. Renee is speaks around the country at women's events and and serves on the writing team for DaySpring’s inCourage blog. For twenty years, Renee served in leadership at Proverbs 31 Ministries and as former co-host of the ministry's radio program, “Everyday Life with Lysa & Renee.

Comments

  1. Tonight, I am praying for Hagere, too. Thank you so much for sharing her story with us. I'm moved beyond proper words or neat, tidy phrases.

    Just know that I am praying…for you all.

  2. Wow Renee, what a beautiful story. Thanks for posting those pictures. Aster's smile has brightened my night and changed my perspective.
    Paula G.

  3. Beautiful! God is so good!

  4. Gut wrenching….again, I am reminded of the blessings that I take for granted and those 3 sweeties sleeping in their warm beds with full bellies!

    What a tiny baby she was and look at her now!

  5. Renee,

    I know this is a blog…but it seems to be turning into a mini-novel (hint-hint)-BTW, its a good thing because personally I love to read your "Aster updates".

    The entire journey and underlying relationships you have experienced and shared are all coming forth are truly inspiring and are a reminder of the love and grace our Father above bestows upon us. I thank you very much for being so open and transparent about how much you and your family love this very special and precious baby girl-Aster. I just can't be more filled right now and will continue to pray for you all. Peace and blessings!

    Teresa

  6. Tears are my response. Renee, this is so beautiful. You've unwrapped so many gifts here. The gifts of touch, smiles, toes, family, raindrop reminders, God's provision, confirmation, letting go, receiving, hope, prayer, faith, trust, obedience and love.

    Thanks for sharing all these gifts with us.
    Love ya,
    Joy

  7. Thank you for helping me see the beauty in the rain. You are amazing.

  8. Thank you Renee! You are all in my prayers!

  9. Great pictures Renee and such a touching story. As I read about Hagere giving up her little girl, I couldn't imagine what she experienced as thoughts turned to my son, but also thought of God letting go of His son. Blessings beyond measure followed that and I'm sure Aster will experience blessings as well, I know she already is.

    I also recalled your illustration from Rise and Shine with the open hands – I saw it from your point of view – sometimes we do have to open our hands to receive all God has for us, but really Hagere had to open her's as well. I guess sometimes opening our hands involves letting go as well, I needed that picture too. Anyway thanks for sharing – you wondered about a baby and a blog, yes it's possible God works through the stories of our lives and journey of your heart.
    Blessings to you today,
    Jill

  10. Wow Renee, what a beautiful story. I don't know if you have read it, but there is a story called "Motherbridge of Love" about adoption. It is published by Barefoot Books and is about an adopted Chinese girl and how both mothers shaped her life. It has really beautiful illustrations. You can find it at http://www.ReadBarefoot.com. I'm really not trying to make a plug for a sale (I do sell Barefoot) but I have a heart for adoption as well and it really is a touching book for children who are adopted and your story is like that story brought to real life. Absolutely touching and amazing.
    I'm so encouraged, convicted, and called to prayer by your blog. I will keep Hagere and your family in my prayers. Thank you so much for sharing and for the pictures.

  11. Thank you so much for sharing.

  12. This is so beautiful! What a testimony of God's love for all of you, even Hagere. Bless her heart! The Lord is so good!

    Thank you so much for sharing. I love your devotion today, too.

    I am looking forward to hearing more!

    Love you,
    Cheri

  13. OK…early morning, fresh makeup ruined!! I remember the day that we brought J's birth mom to our home. Our entire family gathered around her and thanked her for Julianna!
    These women are beyond special! No words.
    Love ya Mom, do enjoy!!
    Pat

  14. Beautiful! I love seeing how Aster's eyes have changed. The were once dark and distant. Now they sparkle and have joy in them.

  15. Renee, that was so touching to hear about Aster's birth mother. Thank you for sharing her story! God bless you and your family and Hagere, too.

  16. Lord, only you could put a beautiful story like this together. I ask your abundant blessings for Hagere's family. I pray for food provision and peace in their hearts. Lord, I also lift up the Swope family. May they shine for you around the world. Thank you God for loving all of us.

  17. In response to your devotion on Prov. 31 today, the Lord has asked me to write YOU a note of encouragement. The verse you used from Joshua today was given to me when our baby with Down Syndrome was born. We had SIX other children at the time, so the mountain which I had been given to climb seemed very high and VERY scary. He is 18 now and the true blessing of our lives!!! Scaling my mountain was made possible by trusting God that He NEVER makes a mistake and by the encouragement and love the Lord sent my way through those He called to encourage me. So,NOW, I encourage you to keep the faith and press on with the challenges that are and will be yours raising this dear, dear one for the Lord!!II Cor. 1:4 (Amplified Bible).I will pray for you this day that you will be courageous as you walk with the Lord by your side.
    He chose you to rescue this child from poverty and give her a hope and a future. Blessings!!

  18. I am in tears and grieving for a mother who knew she had to give up her child… yet there are tears of joy intermixed because God chose you as Aster's new mother to care for her.

    What a sweet blessing to meet her birth mother and share an experience with her that one day you can share with Aster.

    I am praying for Hagere.

  19. Beautiful Renee. I am so glad that you were able to meet her birth mother and share that time. I have no doubt that it warms her knowing her daughter is safe, warm, and above all loved.

  20. Thank you for continuing to share this beautiful story. It brought tears to my eyes reading this and seeing the pictures of Aster with both her loving mommies spending time together. May the God of hope bring peace and joy to you, your baby girl & family and also to Hagere & her family in Ethiopia.
    Angela

  21. Renee, thank you for sharing your story and your heart for Hagere.

    Our girls are ours through the gift of adoption, too. Their birthmoms were 18 and 19. I've often felt that God gave us four girls, not just two. Nurturing them and praying for them as they walked through the greatest sacrifice of their lives has bonded us together. It hasn't always been easy. There have been many bumps in the relationship. But this mother's heart will continue to pray and care for her girls…all four of them.

    Deb

  22. Renee, Thank you for sharing this poignant tale. It reaches deep into my heart, with hope, compassion, empathy and love. I will keep all in prayer and am grateful that the message from your son…. "She was the one God picked.." was posted earlier. It is sometimes easy to forget the purpose when we are in the thick of disappointment. Thank you too for the encouragement post. It was excellent and I'm unable to comment there due to temporary techno glitch.

    May God bless you and keep you safe. No doubt telling of this story will impact the communities with many blessings.

  23. That picture of Aster standing at the window is so precious.

    I am still amazed at the difference in Aster from a frail small child, to happy and full of life. What a miracle, Renee.

    I just read your P31 devo and was touched by it. How amazing that your fears were the last of your mind when you went to help the boy climb.

  24. My eyes fill with tears of joy, sorrow, and everything in between. Two of my brothers are from Ethiopia and the memories this brings back of when I went with my parents to get them have come back in floods. They couldn't sit up before we got them and now they are the stars of their soccer team, beautiful, healthy little boys. And most importantly, they have both accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. Adoption is incredible. Thank you, Jesus. And thank you, Renee, for sharing this with us.

  25. Buckets of tears, like rain drops, are spilling down my face. 🙂

    What a gift Aster's mommy has in you.

  26. Thanks for sharing this amazing story with us. With tears in my eyes, I realize I will never be able to look at rain the same way I used to; I will forever think of you, Aster & Hagere. My prayers are with you all.

  27. What a beautiful story of sacrificial giving. A helpless mother, a feeble child, a loving family, an awesome plan, a mighty God!

    Love,
    Leah

  28. Renee,

    Words just can't explain the blessings that just the simple sharing of your story with Aster has brought blessings to my heart. Thank you.
    Hugs and much love,
    Diane

  29. Thank you my sweet friends for crying with me today. It took me two days to choose which photos to share and write this story. I couldnt stop crying which made it hard to see the keyboard.

    God redeeming love has invaded my heart in a very tender and sweet way with His presence through Hagere's sacrifice. And to think that I was afraid of all that God was calling me to as a woman, as a mom. I am so, so glad He didn't give up on me and find a more willing and courageous woman.

    Please say yes to Him today in whatever He is asking you to trust Him with! He wants to bless you!!!!! Do not let them enemy use fear to steal your faith.

    I am so thankful for all of your prayers and your encouragement that has walked with me through this beautiful and sometimes treacherous path in my journey.

    Much love,
    Renee

  30. What a blessing for you and your family to be able to meet Hagere. The pictures of Aster with her mother will be priceless in years to come. God is so good to your sweet little girl. She has two mothers that love her so very much.

  31. Oh,Renee! I am in tears after reading this post. Beautiful…just beautiful. Sending you a great big hug and one for your entire family.

    Love you!
    Susan

  32. Beautiful my friend, just beautiful. So happy for you and proud of you. Watching eagerly to see what God will do next…you are beautiful.
    love you~

  33. Renee,

    Oh, after my time with your sweet girl yesterday, this meant all the much more to me. I LOVE seeing her birth mother and how God allowed you to be together…what a gift to both of you. Thank you for allowing us to share in your beautiful journey!!

    Love you,

    Wendy

  34. Oh Renee, this is such a profound story. The depth of emotion you showed us all was so beautiful. I am so glad I popped over here to read this. Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.

  35. What a sweet story. Thank you for sharing.

  36. Hi Renee, couldnt wait to hear the story, thank you for sharing it. I have been touched by the sacrificial love of Asters birth mom.

    When i looked at one of the pictures up close, i could see tears in her eyes just than i started to cry. I thought about the many nights that Hagere must have rubbed her belly and prayed to God that He would take care of her baby, not knowing what was to come.

    God answered her prayer and not only did he do that he gave her the blessing of seeing her child loved and adored by a family and Women of God, that God had handpicked himself. What a blessing, what a Sacrifice, What An Amazing God.

    Praying for Hagere. God bless you sister in Christ.

  37. Renee, what a beautiful pictures Also her name. Thank you for sharing Aster pictures.

    Blessings.

  38. You have such a beautiful, beautiful heart. I hardly even know what to say. What a day full of precious gifts for everyone there!!! How precious of you to make sure Hagere got that time with Aster. How beautiful it is that you have not only welcomed Aster into your heart, but also her mother.
    Still struggling for words over here…God is just so amazing!

  39. Wow! She looks like she's lived a rough life but you could see some light when she held her daughter.
    What a blessing to know that she's going to have a good life.

  40. So so sweet.

  41. Those photos will be a real treasure for all of Aster's life. The fact that you took time to meet her Mom and to share Aster with her is something very beautiful.

    God is good.

  42. Sitting in a FL hotel room, crying over this story … and praying for you – you're speaking right now in Reno.

    Love ya ~ R

  43. Renee,
    How neat to read of Aster and Renee's story and to see the moving photos. My brother and sister in law brought home a beautiful baby girl from Addis last January. There were many similarities in your stories. I will have to share yours with them. God bless you and your family (and Hagere too!)

  44. Tear-jerker!

  45. This kind of story can NEVER be too long. I am moved beyond words and so thankful to know the background to the story. Had a few moments in the late of the night and saw this on Facebook. So glad God brought me here.

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