When Life Turns Out Differently Than You Had Planned

by Jan 17, 2023Encouragement, How-Tos, Special Needs Parenting2 comments

When life turns out differently than you had planned, God is with you. Guest blogger & EA/TEF mom Kelly Simpson is living it.

When life turns out differently than you had planned, the first reaction may be fear or anger. Or a sense of being overwhelmed. Four years ago, guest blogger Kelly Simpson was completely overwhelmed when her husband was deployed overseas and their son Oliver was born and quickly diagnosed with tracheoesophageal fistula (EA/TEF). She’s here today to share five realizations that helped her overcome her state of overwhelm.

A job you love, a white picket fence, a caring and loving spouse, children—everyone can picture the life they want to make for themselves. I sure had mine all mapped out! In early 2019, my husband, Jeremy, left for development overseas. This was our first deployment, and our first child was due in the next eight weeks.

“It will be a quick eleven months.” That’s what I told myself. I was ready to take on a deployment as a solo parent to a newborn with a full-time job.

The next eight weeks passed quickly and at thirty-nine weeks, our precious baby boy was born. April 5th was a day with many emotions—happiness, joy, and love—but also despair, heartache, and loneliness. Other feelings I can’t describe quickly set in when Oliver was diagnosed with tracheoesophageal fistula (EA/TEF).

I felt overwhelmed. How could I take care of my child with these “problems”? Nineteen days in the NICU, nine or more procedures and surgeries in his first year of life. This was not in my expectations of becoming a mom.

I struggled for at least the first year with feelings of being overwhelmed and wondered “why me?” Here are a few things I learned during Oliver’s first three-and-a-half years of life:

1. I had to hand over my expectations to God—many times, everyday. What I have planned and expect from my life is nowhere near the goodness that He has planned for me. When I am in shock or despair, He is not. When I hand my expectations over to Him, there is room for His way and His glory.

2. Be content in my role. Shewww! This was so hard and can be an everyday battle. I struggled with “Why me?” for many months. Every person can think of their “Why me?” reasonings to argue with God. But they really amount to nothing—they will not change my circumstances. So, the more quickly I got over myself and looked for God and His purpose in my story, the more quickly I was able to embrace my new outlook on life and life to the fullest.

3. Jesus came to give me life to the fullest. John 10:10 states “…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” I can have life and have it to the fullest—best, more than I could ever imagine even with these circumstances. And you can too! Consider Daniel in the lions’ den from Daniel 6. God did not pull Daniel out of the den of wild and hungry lions. God did not change Daniel’s circumstances. He simply came down into the circumstance to be with him. God gave Daniel his presence in verse 6:22, “My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions.” God’s presence is with us in every circumstance. If God sent His presence to Daniel, he will surely come down here to be with me, right here, in this situation, during the many doctor visits, surgeries, and procedures, and during the night while I lie awake crying. His presence is a promise I hold on to.

4. God will use this circumstance for His glory—submit it all to Him.There’s such a weight lifted when I surrender my circumstances over to God. Whatever your circumstances are, your feelings are valid and real. I needed someone to tell me that in my new walk. But I could not stay there and let the feelings fester. My trials would not go to waste, and neither will yours. Your circumstances, trials, and feelings allow you to empathize with others who are hurting. Even though your situations may not be the same, your feelings may be. You will be able to help validate others and bring them comfort and wisdom. Don’t miss out on this opportunity. It will bring you and God great joy!

5. Do not be afraid to set boundaries. Others will not always understand and that’s okay. If others are not being respectful of child/family member’s needs, set boundaries. Do not feel bad for doing so. During these times you need those who are supportive and helpful to you.

I hope these realizations ease your sense of overwhelm when life turns out differently than you had planned.

Additional Links:
Pediatric Tracheoesophageal Fistula and Esophageal Atresia | Children’s National Hospital. (n.d.). 
Tracheoesophageal Fistula. (2012, April 29).

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Photo by Geran de Klerk on Unsplash

By Kelly Simpson

Kelly has lived her whole life in Kentucky. She and her husband, Jeremy, have an almost-four-year-old son, who, born during a deployment, was diagnosed with tracheoesophageal fistula (EA/TEF). She has always felt a calling to serve others and is living the dream as an Army wife, middle school teacher, and now, as an encourager to those who are living a dream different than they had planned.


  1. Jolene

    Thanks for those reflections, Duncan. Whatever the loss, however small it may be, it deserves to be acknowledged and processed. Only then can we move on.

  2. Duncan

    Reading your first introduction line at the top really got me reflecting on how I process this;

    “When life turns out differently than you had planned, the first reaction may be fear or anger. Or a sense of being overwhelmed.”

    I often find myself using and identifying the 5 stages of grief and loss;
    1. Denial
    2. Anger
    3. Bargaining
    4. Depression
    5. Acceptance

    But what is more interesting, beyond noticing these stages in myself, is this…

    Yes, I recognise these stages in myself, for medium less-than-grief losses, and even for minor losses. Anger, Bargaining, etc – but it is also fascinating to see these play out in our differently-abled children, when they deal with loss, but also with change.

    A change of plans to our autistic child when he was younger, used to kick-start this ‘grief’ process. A change of plans to him was like a loss of his expectations, of his mental picture, of the immediate future, so it was like a mini-grief to him.

    So it is interesting to watch these 5 stages of grief play out in even minor situations, like today’s plans have changed, to watch for low-level versions of anger, of denial, and hopefully, finally, acceptance.

    Best wishes

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Meet Jolene

Jolene Philo is a published author, speaker, wife, and mother of a son with special needs.



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