Pondering the “What-Ifs”

July 21, 2016 coloboma, developmental delays, Developmental System, Family Stories, micropthalmia, prosthetic eye, Sensory System, siblings, vision loss 10 Comments

I remember reading all the recommended adoption books, watching all the training videos, stalking all the mom blogs, and talking to other adoptive moms during the time leading up to our own adoption.

I got myself familiar with so many new terms and tried to educate myself on any possibility of trouble our future daughter might experience: bonding, attachment, grieving, RAD, feeding issues, night terrors, delays, and so much more.

I felt I was educated and prepared for her, but in hindsight I realize I wasn’t prepared for me.

The call came on September 9th. We had been logged in since February and the weeks and months felt like they were just dragging by. Seriously, how many national holidays can a country have? But then things took off at warp speed. We saw her precious picture. We got the medical reports and paperwork. This is when fear began creeping into my heart. There were needs here that we did not check off on our “approval” list.

Hearing issues? Ok. We can deal with that.
Vision issues? Not so sure I’m prepared to deal with those.
Possible Unknown Syndrome? I don’t think I can do that.

We had a specialist look at her information and I’ll never forget the words of one of the doctors, “I recommend you give a nice donation to this orphanage and wait on a different child.” An acquaintance even asked me why we were doing this.

We had four healthy children already, why impact our family so profoundly by adopting a child with a known special need?
What did this mean for our bio children?
Were we asking too much of them?
How would this change them?

Constant thoughts and questions and worries swirled through my head.

Fear. Gripping, mind-numbing fear.
There were sleepless nights and so much prayer.

My husband and I didn’t want to make a decision based on fear; we wanted this little girl to be in a family that was best for her.

Was that us?
Was this who God chose to be our daughter?

She was.

He blessed us with peace about our decision and we proceeded.

The next months were filled with more paperwork and getting ready to add a 5th child (first adoption) to our family. A few weeks before travel we received a final update and where I thought I had known fear before, this took me to a whole new level. The update was so different from the referral, I wondered if it was even the same child.

At 17 months old she can’t even sit up on her own? Her original file said she was crawling and pulling up.
She can’t chew? Her original file said she did fine with solid foods.

And many more discrepancies filled that report.

Was the original doctor right? Was this too much? Could I handle this much unknown and unexpected?

“Be still and know that I am God.”

That verse from Psalm 46:10 just kept running through my mind and heart. There were brief seconds I could escape the fear and feel his peace in my heart. In the biggest step of faith we have ever taken, we left for the other side of the world to meet the daughter whom God would have for us. A daughter who I already loved even though I had never seen her in person.

Fear crept back in on the day we met her. She was terrified and screaming, hiding her eyes whenever she saw us looking at her and wailing whenever we touched her. Fear gripped me when I realized this 17 month old was pretty much developmentally an infant. She cried a lot the entire time we were in China, but so did I. There were sleepless nights where I stood staring at her in her crib and looking out a hotel window onto a foreign city where I wept before God and admitted I couldn’t do this.

I was so scared of the what-ifs and the unknown her future held, yet I already loved her.

I knew her little heart must have been even more fearful than mine. She had no say in this situation. She was losing everything that was familiar to her and was about to lose more – her language, her culture, familiar sounds and smells. I felt bonded to her in our shared fear. I knew the One who could calm our fears and knowing I could teach her about Him and share Him with her gave me strength. I started to feel protective of her; I started to feel joy at each tiny accomplishment and stopped fretting about the what-ifs of the things that might or might not be in her future.

His words continued to calm my heart and ease my fears during our weeks in China. Scripture after scripture and verses from praise songs and prayers from friends and family around the world helped all of us to push away those fears and see glimpses of the joys. Watching my husband pursue this little girl who was so terrified of him, watching him love her like he loved his other children broke that bond of overwhelming fear in me. Through Christ, we could do this.

And we have. Kaili has been home for two and a half years and soon will be four years old.

We found out once we were home she is blind in her right eye with a diagnosis of micropthalmia caused by a severe coloboma. Big scary words at first, but now they hold no fear over me. We had a quite a journey to find the right specialists to get her the prosthetic eye she needs to allow her facial structure to grow normally. (After she swallowed the first eye we found a team from St. Jude hospital in Memphis that made one that fit correctly).

Although her ears are not formed completely on the outside, once she had ear tubes placed, her hearing tested at the normal level. She has ringlet curls and those cute ears barely show with her wild head of hair.


Her misaligned hip bones straightened on their own once her nutritional needs were met and gave her the strength to do her physical therapy exercises. Within months she was strong enough to push herself into a sitting position, then crawl, and then – exactly on her second birthday – she started to walk!

Watching her grow and learn and change and adapt has been a very special and incredible thing. Sometimes I feel like I am getting a front seat to the work of God just by getting to experience things through her.

And our first four children?

The changes in them are true blessings. Their new sister has opened their eyes to needs that were previously unknown to them. They now have more compassion and understanding for people in all sorts of different circumstances. It opened up their world! It has changed their hearts and their future desires.


So much has changed in Kaili since she became a part of our family. The night terrors are gone. The panic attacks over food are gone. She chooses us to comfort her when she gets hurt. She now wants to be held and touched. Her favorite two words are, “Tickle me!”

Has it been easy? No.
Has it been worth it? Yes. A thousand times, yes.

The love our family has for this little girl is overwhelming. She has changed our hearts and our lives and her story continues to open the hearts of those she meets.

Do I still ponder the what-ifs? Yes.
But not in worry or fear about her future.
What if we had said no?
What if we had let fear win?
What if we had missed this blessing?

God is using her mightily and I am so thankful that the One who speaks to us to “Fear not” is faithful to His word to do so. Her unknown future doesn’t bring fear anymore.


Her future is completely in His hands, and we are totally blessed to be a part of it.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

– guest post by Jodi: facebook || email

10 responses to “Pondering the “What-Ifs””

  1. Gena Everitt says:

    So beautifully written, Jodi. It is a moving story of God’s love casting out fear and replacing it with abounding joy and delight. I am glad to follow Kaili’s journey in the Smith family. You are a great encouragement to all who read this.

  2. Michelle says:

    We too have a Kaili from China. She is 3 1/2. I can relate to everything you said. Everything. We are changed because of her! We also have four other children who are changed as well. Thanks for putting into words what so many of us feel.

  3. Crystal Kupper says:

    Great job, Jodi! Just make sure she takes piano lessons eventually. 😉

  4. Kay Smith says:

    Made me relive the time with you and the excitement of seeing her for the first time and then comparing to now the change is remarkable and God-blessed. Love can overcome most fears, and you have proved your love for God and Kaili.

  5. Jeannie says:

    Such a beautiful biography for this chosen child.

  6. David Foster says:


  7. Rose Ann says:

    You are amazing in many ways.your children are also. Thank you for sharing this blessing with me. Can’t wait for the day she calls me Haha.

  8. Elizabeth Mier says:

    Thank you for sharing your story! She is one blessed little girl to get to grow up so loved and will come to know the God who saved her! Think of ya’ll often!

  9. Kelli says:

    God is so awesome and has blessed you & this baby beyond measure!!!!!! Just beautiful!!!!!

  10. Tonia B. says:


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