Grieving Expectations by Katie Gleason | #adoptionstory
Yall, this is the last #adoptionstory for National Adoption Month! What a true blessing it has been to share the stories God is writing and has written for different families.
I couldn’t be more excited to conclude this series with a post from a long-time friend. I attended Carson Newman College with Katie and her husband, Brett! Katie and I graduated the same year and, if I remember correctly, we were actually sitting by one another at the ceremony. You know….just a year ago….(or almost 15)….LOL! Katie and I connected while she shared an apartment with a great friend of mine. We were both engaged and planning weddings so we had plenty to talk about!
I have been following Katie’s adoption journey from the beginning and it has been a true joy!
The best part about this #adoptionstory, is that Katie and Brett just starting the process of adopting again!!! Their adoption announcement video had me in tears! What I love most about this family is that not only do Katie and Brett have a heart for adoption, but their kids are just as passionate. In the video, when Brett shared with their five kids that they would be adopting again – the two oldest girls were in tears and beyond excited!!! (Which had me in tears…)
Katie’s enthusiasm and love for her family and for her Heavenly Father is obvious, as you will see!
It’s okay to grieve your expectations.
Those words still echo in my head two years after they were spoken to me. My husband was wise to say them during a night of intense emotions. It was the night that Kai received his autism diagnosis. Our son Kai had been adopted from China a little over a year before. That first year home brought so much joy and blessing but it was also a time of sadness and heartache. Our adoption story unfolded very differently than what I had imagined, and my son was a very different person than what I had pictured. Not any less loved and treasured, but very different. He was precious and beautiful and such a joy. But autism was not a part of the plan that I had for his life-or for mine.
When we began the process of pursuing an adoption from China we knew that the program only included children with special needs. I was okay with that, as long as the needs were minor or correctable. We already had four young children at home and minor and correctable special needs were just about all that I could handle.
My husband and I first saw Kai’s face on a waiting list through our adoption agency and our hearts were immediately captivated. His little face radiated pure sunshine. We spent several days praying over his file and God gave us such peace and clarity that he was ours. We sent his referral information to our pediatrician as well as some specialists. The information that we had received stated that Kai had a heart defect as well as global developmental delays. His heart defect was minor and seemingly correctable, but the delays were a bit more of a mystery.
We expected that any child from a Chinese orphanage would have some delays because there are just so many children and not enough nannies to care for them. I assumed that Kai’s delays were simply a result of institutionalization. I convinced myself that we just needed to get him home and he would catch up with lots of love and plenty of therapy. When I went over his file with our primary pediatrician he said something that should have been a red flag to me.
It’s possible that there is an underlying condition causing these delays. . . or it’s possible that he will come home and thrive.
It’s possible. I desperately needed to believe the latter. I didn’t want to believe that our sweet boy could have a life-long condition because I had already said no to those kinds of special needs. My heart was only open to adopting a child with a minor or correctable special needs. Not life-long. Not all encompassing. Not autism. My gracious Heavenly Father knew better. He continually gave our family the peace and assurance that Kai was our son and that despite the unknowns surrounding his delays we were to pursue his adoption. My Heavenly Father knew how desperately I needed Kai in my life.
Meeting Our Son
Meeting Kai in China was a heartbreaking and eye-opening experience. His developmental delays were worse than we thought. At eighteen months old he could crawl but was unable to bear any weight on his legs to stand. He had low muscle tone and was extremely floppy. His speech was nonexistent, although he could mimic a few babbling sounds. Thankfully his sweet personality helped balance out the scary unknowns. His laugh was infectious and his little smile could light up an entire room. God immediately filled us with love and affection for him that would help us in the difficult upcoming months.
As soon as Kai came home from China we had him evaluated for Early Intervention Services. He qualified in every area and we began an intensive schedule of physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and behavioral therapy. Our lives became filled with doctor appointments, meetings with specialists and evaluations. It was a difficult adjustment to a new normal. Our four other children needed our care and the impact of Kai’s needs felt so incredibly heavy and all consuming. I would feel so brokenhearted watching other adoptive families that we traveled with come home and settle in with ease while I wondered how long we would have to live like this.
Lord Jesus, we can’t do this.
After several months of being home we began to accept the reality that Kai might not ever catch up, that there was in fact something else going on. On the day before Thanksgiving, over a year after we had brought him home from China, we received his diagnosis. Kai had autism. Forever. Not fixable. But not hopeless.
It’s okay to grieve for your expectations.
Grieving the life that I thought I was going to have has allowed me to see the beauty and grace in the journey that I’m actually on. It has made room for me to experience the joys and the blessings that God has set before me instead of being caught up in all the things I can’t control. Having a child with autism is not what I had pictured. But I absolutely could not imagine my life without him.
Over the last three years God has used Kai to teach me so much about grace and humility. God purposed for Kai’s autism to impact my soul in such a way that nothing else could. Adopting a child with special needs beyond what I thought I could handle has given me the beautiful gift of experiencing the truth that God’s power is made perfect in my weakness. I get to daily experience the richness of God supplying all my needs because nothing within me, on my own, can walk this out. Autism puts me in a position of not knowing the future, not being able to control my life, and completely having to rely on the kindness and faithfulness of God. There is no better position to be in.
It’s okay to grieve. I still grieve. It doesn’t follow a schedule and sometimes it hits in unexpected ways. Sometimes when I see people post their beautiful adoption stories on social media my heart aches just a little. Sometimes I cry when a friend’s adoption goes much better than expected and their child thrives so easily. Because that just wasn’t our story. But our story is God’s story and I’m getting to witness the beautiful ways that He is using the unexpected surprises to show me more of Himself.
You can read another one of Katie’s guest posts here.
Do Your Part
Everyone can take part of God’s mission for orphans. Below you will find some ways you can help. Today’s suggestions focus on adoptive familieswho have adopted children with special needs.
Take a moment to pray for Katie, her husband, and her children. Pray for all adoptive families – specifically those who have adopted children with special needs. Pray for:
- the adoptive families as they raise their children.
- adoptive families who have children with special needs.
- Opportunities for self care – care taking can take a toll emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically
- For comfort, peace and friendships – taking care of a child with special needs can often be a lonely journey
- For their marriage
- wisdom and discernment as they answer questions and make decisions along life’s way.
- the children God has placed in the adoptive parents’ care
- doctors, therapists, and teachers who are part of the care team
- the birth parents as they continue to grieve the loss of their child.
- organizations that support those who adopt children with special needs
- Talk to organizations and ministries that support and minister to adoptive parents. Find out how you can get involved.
- Volunteer to babysit for a family who has adopted a special needs child
- Provide a meal every so often just to help out (Often parents with special needs children have a number of appointments throughout the week. Find out a day that is especially full.)
- Lead your church is “adopting” an adoptive family. Many times, there are post adoption challenges families face that many are unaware of. See how you can love and support a family you know that has adopted.
- Check out the concept of “Care Communities” by Project 686. This is a GREAT way to create a support system for foster and adoptive families.
- Help share adoption stories on social media. Go ahead and begin advocating today, by sharing Katie’s story!
- Connect with me on instagram and Facebook and share quotes, videos, statistics, stories, and prayer requests.
Maybe you sense God calling you to adopt, check out the following websites for more information:
More ideas for getting involved with orphan care can be found here.
Want to read another #adoptionstory and find out ways you can get involved? Take some time to read other stories from the #adoptionstory series:
Caleb and Kaila’s #adoptionstory: Clinging to the Father in the Wait
Jake and Shay’s #adoptionstory: Q&A about Adoption
Kristin Hill Taylor’s #adoptionstory: How Open Adoption Built My Faith
Sarah Frazer’s #adoptionstory: 3 Ways Adoption Built My Faith
Cheri Dee Johnson’s #adoptionstory: Why Adoptive Families Need a Support System
Ben and Kristi Graves #adoptionstory: Funding Our Adoption
Naomi Quick’s #adoptionstory: But God | God’s Faithfulness in the Beauty and the Hard of Adoption
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Looking for some more encouragement? Check out some of the blogs where I link up throughout the week here.