Hello Home Vol. 5 - The Reece Family
I learned about the Reece family several months ago (because turns out, Heather and I share the same amazing hair stylist) and couldn't get the story of this adorable little boy out of my mind. Little Oak was adopted from China into a family of six and needed immediate attention for heart complications. He had been left sick laying in his bed for the first eighteen months of his life, so Heather and Chad knew they needed to act quickly. What they have been through since then has been a true act of God to restore little Oak to health...and they are still fighting for his development and overall health every single day. During our shoot, Oak was into every.thing. so it was hilarious to catch him in his mischievous acts as well as his larger-than-life laughter. Here's more of their incredible story...
Tell us a little about yourself, your upbringing and your family.
My husband and I are both from Smyrna, Georgia. Chad is a union electrician and I work part time for the cleaning business I own. We have five children, Reid (25), Isabella (22), LiLiana (13), Knight (10), and now Oak (4). We now live in Douglasville, Georgia. Our oldest son is married to Kayla and their first child is on the way! Our oldest daughter is about to graduate from Liberty University. We attend and are very involved in Passion City Church in Atlanta. We love to run and spend time together as a family drinking coffee and talking.
What led you to adopt and specifically, from China?
About six years ago I read the book Kisses from Katie, about a girl that moved to Africa and ended up adopting multiple kids. As I was reading that book, God started putting the tiniest desire in me for adoption, but I knew it was something God would have to confirm to both me and my husband. When we started the adoption process we met every qualification for China, but during our home study the social worker thought that maybe we should look into other countries because we did not have a passion or overwhelming love for China or the culture. After researching every other country and the US, we ended up on China again. We realized that our love for our son from China would give us a love for the culture and people. When we fell in love with Oak we fell in love with China. Now I can see that I would adopt a child from any country because the love for them affects your love for their people.
How did you get started with the adoption process and what were your most helpful resources?
We have some friends that had previously adopted from China and they were a great resource for us to help with the process! We used the same adoption agency that they went through. They helped us through the process by telling us their fears, emotions, etc. If you do not have friends that have adopted, and you are in the process I would recommend reaching out to families that have.
What were the hardest decisions you found yourself making during that application phase?
The hardest decision was what kind of child we would be able to adopt based off the different special needs each child has and how it would alter the way our family functions on a day-to-day basis. Our culture says to pick what’s perfect and unflawed so when you are faced with choosing special needs it’s so contrary to what you are being told.
Tell me what happened when you got the notification that you were matched. Describe the scene when you met Oak for the first time.
When we started to pursue the adoption of Oak we were so excited to be matched with him, but we were also anxious and nervous and felt a sense of urgency to get him to America as soon as possible because of how sick he was and how urgently he needed heart surgery.
On our way to get Oak we got snowed in in Beijing, which caused us to be two days late to Kunming, to get him. Once we arrived we went to our hotel room and four women and one gentleman knocked on the door and brought in Oak. They instantly started telling us all the things to do with him and for him like leaving him laying down flat because of his oxygen levels due to his heart defect. We were handed an eighteen-month-old, very sick baby. It seemed overwhelming because we just wanted to know how we could help him. I have read other adoption stories where it was “love at first sight”, I did love him, but we were so overwhelmed with his condition. However, it did not take long for my love for him as a mother to become as deep as my love for my biological children, which is endless.
What have been the greatest challenges & greatest joys since bringing Oak home?
Because Oak was left sick laying in his bed for the first eighteen months of his life due to his heart condition it has created a great need for physical therapy, speech therapy, eating therapy, occupational therapy, and two heart surgeries (one of which he received right after we landed in Atlanta and one this past may). At eighteen months, developmentally wise he was an infant. We have had to teach him how to attach, love, and understand us. He has had to learn how to be loved, be held, give kisses, etc. But in all of that the greatest joy is that it has brought our family together in a way we never thought it could. God has taught us so much.
What advice do you have for families thinking about adopting a child of a different race?
Adopting from a different race, to me, is a perfect picture of God’s love.
You have such a special story in that two of your children were grown when you decided to adopt another child. How did they respond to your decision to adopt and how did you navigate any challenges here?
My two grown children, Isabella and Reid, supported us in every way because they knew we were following the Lord! They loved the idea of having another little sibling around. This experience for LiLiana and Knight, the two younger children, has allowed them to learn what it is like to have to really do the things that matter in life because as a family we are restoring a child back to health and the fullness of life by giving him a family.
The financial costs of adoption I’ve heard are very high. Are you open to sharing your overall investment? How did you navigate the financial hurdles?
We went into the process with no financial plan other than knowing we had to depend on God to provide through friends, family, complete strangers, and ourselves. Through donations and fundraisers God provided every penny we needed
What other advice do you have for families interested in adoption?
Go for it! If the Lord is leading you then do it! There is nothing like it, it is an amazing journey that stretches and strengthens you. All the while, offering a child a family. To see the laughter and love of a child that would not be alive if we had not brought him to America to get the help he needed is the biggest gift we could ever imagine being given.
ABOUT THE SERIES
"Hello Home" is a photojournalistic blog series about the ins and outs of the adoption process and a celebration of adoptive families in Atlanta. Over the course of this year, we will meet a handful of families with a variety of adoption situations - international, domestic, foster to adopt, adoptive families with biological kids, multiracial families, special needs, you name it. I'm so excited to learn more about some of the rarely told truths around the adoption process and to celebrate those doing this amazing work. In exchange for these families sharing their stories and answering some tough questions, I'm giving them a free lifestyle photography session.
Note: these families have been asked to share as much or as little about their story as they feel comfortable. All sensitive information has been freely and graciously volunteered.
Stay in the loop by following along on Instagram: @hayleyjophoto.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hayley Johnson is the owner of Hayley Jo Photo - an Atlanta based newborn and portrait photography business. Hayley is an award winning photographer and was named one of Atlanta's Best Newborn Photographers by expertise.com in 2016, 2017, and 2018. She was also named a Top Family Photographer by atlantaparent.com. Hayley is a member of the National Association of Professional Child Photographers and Clickin Moms, and her work has been featured by Beauty & Lifestyle Mommy Magazine, TheBump, and Pottery Barn Kids.