MANATEE — Sunday was Easton Fulmer’s first full day in Manatee County, and it included adoring hugs and kisses from friends and family, several bottles of tasty formula and two inquisitive silky terriers.
What more could a five-month-old boy want?
Easton, who arrived in the United States from Africa on Saturday night after a 29-hour trek home, achieved a bit of local fame due to the faith-based story of his newly adoptive parents, Palmetto’s Ashlie and Ryan Fulmer who are members of Woodland: The Community Church on State Road 70.
The Fulmers, as the Bradenton Herald reported June 16, were unable to get pregnant after two years of trying, so about a year ago, they decided to pray about adopting a child from Africa.
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Ten months later, with the adoption well in the works, Ashlie, 28, a second grade teacher at Wakeland Elementary who has now taken a year off from her job, found out she was expecting.
Though the six-month pregnant Ashlie flew home from Africa on Friday with Easton, a brother is on the way to share his African-themed nursery.
Ashlie in June flew to Easton’s orphanage in Ethiopia to hold the then three-month-old Easton in her arms for the first time.
“I was overwhelmed,” Ashlie Fulmer said Sunday of that first moment. “He was a little peanut, weighing less than 10 pounds. He was wearing pink. They didn’t have gender appropriate clothing. He was wide-eyed. I remember he started smiling at me.”
She remained in Africa for an extended visit and cared for her son daily, although each night she had to relinquish him to the orphanage while his passport and visa were being finalized.
On July 21, Ryan, who couldn’t fly in early June due to work commitments, had his first meeting with his son in Ethiopia.
“It was an amazing sense of peace to finally have him in my arms and have all of us together,” Ryan said. “It was pure happiness.”
Fulmer said Easton looked right into his eyes that first moment.
“I would say he did know I was his dad,” Fulmer said. “As soon as I gave him a smile, he smiled right back.”
Ryan Fulmer returned to America on July 26 to eventually start a new job at Schroeder-Manatee Ranch in the accounting department.
“We decided to take the first day kind of easy,” Ashlie said of Sunday, Easton’s first day home.
Easton met Kanga and Roo, the Fulmers’ silky terrier dogs.
“They weren’t quite sure what to make of him,” Ryan said of the dogs.
For his homecoming, Easton wore a “onesie” outfit his parents had made for him with an outline of the African continent on it and a scripture from Isaiah 43.
Developmentally, Easton is a month or two behind other five-month-olds, his mother said.
“That is suspected with any institutionalized child,” Ashlie said. “He’s pretty small for his age and he has a little cough from an upper respiratory condition. But overall, we are amazed how healthy he is.”
“The 29 hours of traveling were extremely difficult for me being pregnant,” Ashlie said.
“Today I am feeling that was the hardest thing I ever did. But I feel accomplished. We set off on a journey and we got there, although another journey is just starting.”
The family has a link for donations at www.fulmerstory.blogspot.com.