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Episode 21

Adoption is Still Amazing

Nathan & Janet Gehring, AGCI Adoptive Family

You’re listening to Together by AGCI. I’m Dayn Arnold.

For those of you who don’t know, November is Adoption Awareness Month, and because AGCI has been involved in international adoption for nearly 30 years, it’s a big deal to us. In fact, stick around to the end of the podcast to hear more about the $500 grants a generous donor is giving families who apply to adopt through AGCI in the month of November.

So in celebration of Adoption Awareness month, we thought we’d revisit a story we shared a couple years ago. In 2018, we created a video series called Adoption is ________. Fill in the blank. So Adoption is Beautiful, Adoption is Amazing, Adoption is Open Hands. The idea was not only to help define what adoption means to three specific families, but to pull back the curtain a little on what adoption actually looks like in real life. It’s not always easy, not always sunshine and rainbows, but these families have shown the power of relentless love to transform lives. One of these videos, Adoption is Amazing, tells the story of the Gehring family whose son Quinton joined their family back in December of 2015 when he was 17 months old. Their video works perfectly well on a podcast, so I’m going to play it here, but if you have five minutes, I would encourage you to watch the video version as well, mostly because Quinton is one of the cutest kids I’ve ever seen.

After the Gehring family shares about their first adoption, I’ll hop on a call with them to talk about their second adoption from China, Quinton’s little brother Gabe who came home in August of 2019. Okay, here is Adoption is Amazing with Janet and Nathan Gehring.

So we never planned on adopting. That was never on our radar. We come from pretty big families and we just thought we’d have a big family.

I’d been reading Kisses from Katie. She adopted from Uganda. And I all of a sudden felt my heart pounding, and I don’t know how to explain it but, I very clearly felt like the Lord saying that he wanted us to adopt. And I remember saying out loud, Are you asking us to adopt? And that was totally foreign to me. That’s just not who I was. Other people adopt, not the Gehring family.

And I remember telling Nathan, like, I think we just need to pray for a really specific sign. And Nathan’s funny because he’s like, What do you think, we’re going to drive by a church and the

billboard is going to say, You should adopt? I was like, Yeah. Like something really… I would like a really good sign like that. And God was so good because probably like two days later,

Nathan had left for work kind of late… I was late, I was frustrated, I was listen to another radio

station that I usually didn’t listen to, and I had heard a message in the background about a young girl that was adopted. It really touched my heart. And I was convicted to the point like, you know, that’s God’s calling in our life.

So I called my wife up right after hearing that on the radio and I says, I go, dear, I’m all in.

Started out in Ethiopia because we were basically like, Lord if you’re asking us to adopt, surely there’s some healthy children. About a year into it we were told that they were closing

that country. So we are a little bit disheartened a little bit like, Lord what do you really want? But you know what? We’re like, Lord you equip the called. You don’t call the equipped. And so we trusted God had a plan.

And they [AGCI] kept saying, what about China? So we’re like OK. We’ll, you know we’ll switch to China. That’s fine.

And we started out like really minor special needs. And then as our journey went along there was this point with All God’s Children at that time where they sent a list of like, I don’t even remember, 30 kids or something, and they just said, Look through these because there’s a lot of different special needs that you’ve maybe not seen, and just see what you’re open to. And cute little Quinton was on there, our little boy. He was one of the first ones. He just seemed super happy and, you know, he was kind of chubby a little bit and just, I don’t know, he just looked like a beautiful child.

When we first saw his picture, it said intestinal fistula repaired. And so I asked some of the doctors, like, What do you think about that? They’re like that’s just really vague. Like, we don’t know what that means. And then by the time the next time it came with Quinton, it said anal atresia. So I looked that up and I was like, oh a little more intense. But we just knew, like, this is our son.

And thankfully we didn’t know everything. So thankful that the Lord didn’t at that time have everything out there, or we might have been scared.

We had told our girls, Just to expect that, you know, this baby is probably going to be traumatized, and really sad, and might cry a lot, and just give it some space. And then Quinton came home and he was just happy and funny and immediately, like, interacted with them.

We decided to go to Seattle because they do the best treatment around here for this anal atresia. They had some of the best doctors in the United States for that. They checked all this and they said, He doesn’t have anal atresia. And I remember that day we’re like, Well what does he have? I mean he’s got a colostomy bag. And they said, We don’t know, but he doesn’t have that. And I remember the doctor saying, But there is one thing we should rule out. I’m 99 percent certain he doesn’t have it but we should rule out this thing called Hirschsprung’s Disease.

Doctor called a couple days later I think, or maybe we went up one more time and they did the biopsy. And then they called, and they said, I’m really sorry to tell you, he does have Hirschsprung’s. You need to come back up. We need to figure out how much of the colon is affected. Because Hirschsprung’s disease is where there’s a section of the colon that doesn’t have the ganglion cells to move the stool along. So you need to cut that out.

I remember going up for that surgery, and the plan was to just cut out that section, pull it down, hook it up, and he’d be done with that.

And so we went into surgery. And the doctor talks to you on the phone from the operating room, and he said, his whole colon has this Hirschsprung’s Disease. The whole thing has to be taken out.

So for me, because I’m a nurse, I’m just right away looking this all up and I’m like, This is so bad. This is total clonic Hirschsprung’s, like this is really bad Nathan. And Nathan was just so rock solid and just like, You know what Janet? God’s making diamonds. Like he just wants us to trust. Quinton is no different yesterday than he is today. This does not surprise God. God’s got this. And I just remember this peace of, That’s So true. Like God has this.

If his birth family had left a note that said this boy has total colonic Hirschsprung’s, Nathan I would have been like, Oh no, that’s way too much than our family can handle.

And I’m just so glad we didn’t know, because it’s totally Manageable. He does amazing. You would never know he has it. Most people don’t know that he has anything.

I praise God for this little one. He’s perfect even though he has no colon. He loves all of us. He has a perfect plan, and this child Quinton has changed our family. He’s given us a new heart and a love for the lost and the orphans. And and those that are in need.

I would say for anybody, if God puts adoption in your heart just pray about it, and I don’t think he’s going to say no.

It’s amazing. If adoption is on your heart, go for it. This little boy’s changed me forever.

[Gehring] Hello?

[DA] Hey, can you guys hear me okay?

[Gehring] Yeah, we can hear good. How’s it going?

[DA] It’s going pretty well. How are you guys?

[Gehring] Not too bad. Pretty good.

[DA] I watched through your video from a couple of years ago, a couple of times through while I was setting up for this. And, um, I can’t even believe it’s been two years since we did that. Like, it seems like it was just yesterday.

[Gehring] Oh, I know. Well it kind of seems a little while for us because now we have another little one.

[DA] Oh yeah. Well, my, I guess my history in between is a little different than yours.

Hey, can you remind me how old, like, how old is your oldest daughter?

[Gehring] So Caitlin’s are freshmen this year and then… So she’s just starting high school. Oh, so 14. [Okay.] And then Chloe is 12. She’s a seventh grader and then Hope is a fourth grader and Quinton started kindergarten. So that’s just the whole journey in itself online. And then Gabe is two. And he’s just a firecracker, just jumping off everything and dumping everything out while we’re distance learning. So it’s been wild.

[DA] Okay. So is it Gabe? That’s your, that’s your youngest now?

[Gehring] Yep. He’s our baby.

[DA] Tell me about Gabe.

[Gehring] So Gabe, um, he is amazing. So he has Tetralogy of Fallot. So it’s, uh, he has four heart defects. And we thought we were going to China to get like a blue baby that needed a massive surgery.

What does it mean that he’s a blue baby?

[Gehring] Meaning like his oxygen levels, like normal people have an oxygen level, like 99, 100%, you know, especially little kids. His was like in the eighties. So he literally, literally like he wasn’t getting oxygen because his heart had these defects that he wasn’t getting the right oxygen and the right blood flow, like his lips were blue. His face was blue… So we have pictures of that. Yeah. It looks kind of frightening. And right before we left, they said he had surgery in China. So we were like, wow.

[DA] Oh wow.

[Gehring] So, and scary, but amazing. So when we got there, he was 15 months old and um, super weak, but he was only like seven or eight weeks post-op, so super weak could barely sit up. It was actually a little frightening. We were both like, Is he okay?

[DA] Yeah.

[Gehring] And, um, you know, and he… He’s come amazingly far. He was only in an orphanage, which, Quinton had a foster mom, and you can definitely tell the difference in that. Um, just in the, you know, eye contact and bonding and all that. Um, so it took him a little while, but he’s amazing. I mean, and then, you know, it took him a while to get strong, but now he’s climbing everything, jumping off everything. He’s just a, he’s a happy little guy. If, like with us, he’s super happy and giggly, and we can, you know, make him laugh. With other people he’s, you know, Quinton would just laugh and smile at anybody. Gabe’s much more… He kind of gets serious. He gets more reserved or if he’s overwhelmed and he just kind of goes in his little box. He’s, he’s an amazing little guy. He’s come so far. And um, they said his surgery was really good. We had an echo this summer, again, this is the second echo. And they said, Come back in two years. He’ll need a valve replacement, probably, hopefully his teenage years, but medically he’s doing amazing. Like he is… He eats like a horse. He’s like almost catching up with Quinton, and there’s like a four year gap. He’s just a stout little guy. He’s a, he’s a cutie.

[DA] That’s great.

When you guys went back to China for Gabe, did it feel like you were in a familiar place? Like, did it feel like your previous experience was helpful in kind of navigating the ins and outs of even what that trip looked like on the ground?

[Gehring] Yeah. We ended up going to Beijing the second time, cause Caitlin went. We took our oldest daughter. So that just seems super familiar. We went to, then, then we went to, uh, Gabe’s province, and you know, since we’d done it before there really wasn’t kind of the nerves that we had before. It definitely wasn’t the experience that his province was beautiful, but it wasn’t even close to Quinton’s. It was hotter than I can ever imagine. Like when I got off the plane in my jeans, it was like 90% humidity, 90 degrees and like smog like the fires that we just had. And I’m like, this is how people die. So… The temperature, the temperature itself was brutal. Uh, but the experience still was wonderful, but I mean, it was, it was like, we purposely, only went out in the mornings with Gabe because it was so blistering hot.

[DA] How has it been as an adjustment for, for Quinton?

[Gehring] I would say… do you think, Nathan, I would say good. I would say Quinton just adores him. They share a room, um, and he’ll really stick up for him and he loves to make him laugh. Now they do fight sometimes. And like today, for instance, I don’t know what was happening. I thought they were playing nice and laughing and then pretty soon Gabe had a bloody nose. I don’t think it was on purpose, but it was a little _____. But for the most part, they’re actually super cute.

[DA] How are the girls doing with, like, now they’ve got a real busy body in the house, like, and they’re all starting to get a bit older, like high school, middle school. Like how, how have they adapted to having another little brother?

[Gehring] Oh, they would totally take another one in a heartbeat. They love him. I mean they just like… Sometimes they’ll run up and they’ll get him out of bed and they’ll be all talking to him and snuggling and they’re making them laugh. And now when they’re trying to do schoolwork, they get highly irritated. But they do, they do well. Like Janet and I, obviously, we try to get out as much as we can during these times, and we’ll go on a date or something for a couple of hours and they watch him and Quinton and they do awesome. They do really good and they love him.

Caitlin came to China and her and Gabe have like such a sweet little bond. I mean, they all just adore Gabe. Um, yeah. No, they’re… I mean they’re, yeah. We’ve all bonded, I think, really well. Definitely Gabe, you know, at first we were pretty concerned, Oh, I know why. At the beginning it was a little stressful because I thought he had this thing called DiGeorge syndrome because some kids with Tetralogy of Fallot can have that, where… And that means they’re like higher risk for autism and, uh, really delayed and mental health issues. And he, he would, I think it was his coping mechanism, but he would just like stare off, and you’d be like Gabe? Gabe? But I think it was more of a coping thing. Cause he’s kind of, he’s, he’s amazing now. I mean, still for other people, he’ll sometimes kind of zone off if, if he’s overwhelmed, but not with us.

[DA] He’s been home for a year and a half now?

[Gehring] Uh, it was a year in August.

[DA] A year in August. Okay. And it seems like you guys have just adapted and it’s, like, just business as usual with the family.

[Gehring] Oh, it’s pretty amazing. Like honestly, before the coronavirus and things got too wild, we were like, Oh, I think we can do this again. Now we’re like, yeah, I think we’re good. Cause they both been such a blessing. I mean, we both are like, I can’t imagine life without these boys. And [Yeah.] they’re amazing.

[DA] How do you feel that the experience has been different from, from Quinton to Gabe?

[Gehring] Uh, I don’t know. I feel like the experience is pretty much the same. And I, we, it just is streamlined. I feel like, um, are you talking about the adoption process?

[DA] Yeah.

[Gehring] Cause cause there, there, there is a completely different dynamic between Quinton and Gabe, as far as… You know, when we brought Quinton home, there was a lot more involved. Like probably more stress, more, uh, medically. But Gabe, it’s more like… There’s a little, I think there’s developmentally he’s was at the beginning lacking and now he’s just grown in that. Um, but, but he’s still delayed a little bit. But as far as the whole process, it seems like just like very fluid as the last one was. We just kind of roll with the punches. I mean, honestly we, we grew up in bigger families and you just kinda go, go with whatever comes our way and we manage well.

[DA] Totally.

It sounds like things are going super well for you guys.

[Gehring] Yeah. It’s really, it’s been pretty amazing. Now I’m doing a neurodevelopmental check with, um, Gabe next week.

[DA] Okay.

[Gehring] You know, just cause, you know, he might need a little bit stuff to catch up, but he’s come leaps and bounds from when he first came home and yeah, for the most part, I mean, he’s just part of the family. He’s probably the busiest kid I’ve had.

[DA] Okay.

[Gehring] Yeah, we’ve already been to the ER, like stitches and… He pulled down a hot coffee pot on himself.

[DA] Oh no!

[Gehring] By the grace of God, he didn’t get burned at all. Cause he dumped basically he laid, he fell down on the ground on top of the hot coffee, shattered glass and got punctured by the glass. Janet threw them in the sink instantly. And we are so fortunate. Took him in, he had a couple of staples and came out of that pretty much unscathed, which is amazing. It was in the middle of the big graduation party at our house. Yeah. It was great.

[DA] Nothing makes a party like puncture wounds.

[Gehring] Oh I know. Nothing like heading to the ER. Um, no, he’s, he’s busy. He’s jumping off stuff and he’s definitely a busy one. So it, it makes life interesting with the distance learning.

Quinton’s in the middle of his kindergarten assessment on a zoom meet, and Gabe’s standing up on the bench by him and just falls off, and screaming his head off, and the teacher’s like, Is your little brother okay? And then Hope comes around the corner, Oh, it’s the third time today. No, goodness.

[DA] I totally forgot. Quinton’s doing kindergarten on Zoom. That sounds awful.

[Gehring] Oh, it’s, it’s, it’s quite something because, like I have to sit right there so he can stay focused. Cause you know, it’s all exciting. So the other day I went into the laundry room and all of a sudden I’m like, it’s getting kind of quiet come out. Oh nowhere to be found. He’s outside with the laptop, just hauling around, trying to show them the cat. I’m like, what are you doing? Come in. But yeah. No, it’s, it’s interesting. But yeah, we’re doing good. We’re definitely feeling blessed. And our boys are, I mean, Gabe, especially medically, like Gabe’s doing amazing.

[DA] Yeah. As far as like, uh, a little bit of delay, like is he old enough to start receiving services for that kind of thing?

[Gehring] Well, that’s what we’re going to check out. I mean, he’s coming along, he’s talking and he’s starting to talk more and more. Um, and then like physically, I feel like he caught up pretty quickly cause he couldn’t even walk. He couldn’t even sit up and he’s climbing on stuff. Um, and he’s in his twos, you know? So he’s getting frustrated if we don’t understand what he wants. He’s definitely, I mean you can go after Quinton. He definitely knows what he wants. But I think he’s doing… I mean, I don’t know. Sometimes I’m thinking he’s going to go on and be completely fine and normal and amazing. And sometimes I’m like, Oh, he could be a little delayed. I mean, obviously he had a massive heart thing and probably some lack of oxygen, you know, but… And he was honestly on his back, like, most of those 15 months. Yeah. He didn’t have the same, have the same care because they didn’t, I think they sometimes don’t know what to do. So they just don’t want to make it worse. Well, they were scared cause he was a blue baby. And…

I mean, I think he’s doing great. I mean, some of this probably could be just kind of like that lack of, um, you know, stimulation when you were a baby that he didn’t get that for the first 15 months. But he’s, I mean, he’s doing amazing. He’s doing so good.

[DA] Awesome. Well, thanks for letting me interrupt your evening and, and just kind of catching up a little bit. I I’m just delighted to hear your guys’ voices again.

[Gehring] Yeah. Thanks for checking in on us and yeah, it’s fun to, to give an update cause, yeah, things are, things are good.

That was Janet and Nathan Gehring. Don’t forget to check out their original video from two years ago. There’s a link in the show notes.

At the start of this episode, I said I would share more about that $500 adoption grant. Here’s what you need to know:

In celebration of National Adoption Month, a generous donor will provide adoption grants of $500 to all families applying this November! With the exception of Oregon Foster Care adoptions or transfers, these grants are available for AGCI’s adoption programs worldwide, for families completing contracts by December 31st.

If you’re ready to begin your adoption journey, click the link in the show notes.

If you haven’t done so already, please subscribe, rate and review our little podcast on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen. And if you have any ideas or feedback for us, send us an email at We’d love to hear from you.

Let’s all pray that Adoption Month 2020 leads to dozens of children being united with their forever families so we can hear more stories like the Gehrings. We hope that you will continue to share these stories with us, side by side, Together. We’ll talk to you soon.