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Palmetto couple’s plan to adopt Ethiopian baby brings another surprise

PALMETTO — About 10 months ago, after two years of trying to get pregnant, Ashlie and Ryan Fulmer decided to adopt a child from Africa.

The young couple researched the American World Adoption Agency and — after a lot of prayer — decided to adopt an Ethiopian baby.

On May 13, they were matched with a 2-month old boy whom they named Easton and plan to bring to the states by summer’s end. They even have an African-themed nursery in their Palmetto home ready for his arrival.

The irony?

Ashlie Fulmer, 28, learned a few months ago she was expecting.

She visited her doctor in Sarasota on Tuesday and found out her soon-to-be adopted son will now have a baby brother.

“We have a healthy baby boy,” she exclaimed just hours after having an ultrasound that told her the baby’s sex.

She and her 30-year-old husband found out she was pregnant about nine months into the adoption process.

“I wasn’t feeling well so I took a test and I could not believe it. I could not believe it,” said the second-grade teacher at Wakeland Elementary in Bradenton. “I surprised Ryan really well, too.”

Ashlie Fulmer placed some newborn clothing in Easton’s nursery before she told her husband they were expecting.

“This isn’t going to fit Easton,” Ryan Fulmer told his wife. “It just didn’t sink in — I didn’t get it,” he said. “The wheels they were moving real slow, but once it all settled in, beyond excitement didn’t capture the feeling.”

Now the couple awaits two sons.

“They’ll be best friends, I know it,” she said.

Although the couple hasn’t settled on a name for their unborn child, they said they can’t wait to start their family.

Ashlie Fulmer, four months pregnant, will board a plane to Ethiopia on Friday with her mother, Pamela McFarland of Bradenton.

She’s had all her immunizations, has been cleared by her doctor for travel and plans to stay in Addis Ababa, the country’s capital.

By Monday, she said, she’ll hold Easton in her arms for the first time.

She also plans to remain in Africa for two months to volunteer in an orphanage. That’s because she’s leading a mission trip with 30 other people from across the United States, including six members of Woodland Community Church. The group will travel to Uganda and then back to Ethiopia with a Christian organization called Visiting Orphans.

“Our purpose will be to feed, hold and play with orphans throughout Africa,” she said. “The goal is to have volunteers in the orphanage everyday.”

Karen Windon, who will accompany Ashlie Fulmer on the mission trip, called the Fulmers a loving couple.

“It’s amazing. It’s obviously something God decided to have happen,” said Windon. “They knew exactly what they wanted and what that little baby over there needed. They’ve made a commitment to also parent that child and I thinking that’s just amazing the character they have.”

For now, the couple awaits a hearing in an Ethiopian court, which Ashlie Fulmer will attend later this month or next so a judge can formally approve Easton’s adoption.

“After that, the U.S. Embassy will make sure he’s a legitimate orphan and we pray to have him home by August,” she said.

Because the prayers worked before, they have faith they’ll work again.