Episode 6: Jenn Uren on Adoption & TraumaMar 09, 2021
Jenn Uren, host of the This Mom Knows podcast, continues the story she started in Episode 3 and shares how she and her husband ended up with a sudden surprise adoption of two babies. She shares how this came about and how her family learned first hand about the trauma that accompanies adoption.
This is a transcript of the This Mom Knows Podcast - Episode - 6
I am so glad that you stopped by today. And I'm looking forward to sharing more of my story with you. Now if you missed it after today's episode, be sure to go back to Episode Three where I share about how I found myself buried under overwhelm and what it was that I did to get out of it. And at the end of that episode, I left you hanging with a bit of a question.
So today I am going to talk about the next chapter in that season in my life. This chapter revolves around trauma, and how it impacted our family in a pretty huge way. So hold on, because here we go.
Now part of my being stuck in overwhelm I had shared before was because of pride. And the Bible does say in Proverbs 16:18, that pride comes before the fall. And I am here to tell you that that is totally true.
And that fall for me came on a sunny Tuesday afternoon in October, when my friend Rachel tracked me down and out of the blue asked a simple question, one that absolutely turned my world upside down. She said, "Do you know someone who is looking to adopt? Because I just learned about a little boy who needs a placement within the next week, or he is going to be put into foster care."
I did know someone I had a friend who had been patiently waiting for the day that she would get the call that there was a baby.
And that moment when Rachel tracked me down, it has remained with me as vividly today, as it was then.
I stopped breathing. And this - I can only describe it as a warm chill ran up and down my spine. And I was totally consumed with the knowledge that we had just found this precious little boy a family.
I could not wait to get home and call my friend. So I got home. And I did connect with my friend and for a whole variety of real and valid reasons, she had to say no. And I was heartbroken because I knew we had found him a home. And I was not understanding this at all.
And so my husband called me to let me know that he was headed home. And he wanted to see how my day had been. And I know he was not prepared for what he was about to hear. And when I shared, I shared with him about this unexpected elation followed so quickly by this deep disappointment.
And I will say though, as much as he was not prepared to hear what I had to say, I was even more unprepared to hear what he had to say. When he said, "What about us?" And I said, "What do you mean, what about us?" And he said, "Would we be eligible to pursue adoption?" And with that a whole chain of events was set into motion.
So I called my friend Rachel to tell her the bad news that my friend had said no. But the good news that we were saying yes. And I think she was just as unprepared for that call is I had been for my husband to say those those words to me. So she called her friend, who called her friend, who called the social worker who said, "Yeah, it's a private placement." So we were eligible to pursue adoption.
So I should probably stop right now and explain. We were not looking to adopt. We were not foster care certified. We were not applying anywhere. We had done no home studies. We were 0 on a scale of 1 to 10 in our readiness for adoption. So this was truly out of the blue.
So we decided blindly, and probably naively, to move forward until God closed the door. That was certainly a memorable Tuesday for us. And that next day was a Wednesday obviously. And I got right down to the task of doing the next things that we needed to do. So I had been told specifically that I needed to find a lawyer, a social worker and figure out how to get a background check done.
So into my bedroom, I went I hunker down and I started making phone calls, which if you know me at all, I do not like making phone calls. So this was a big, big deal that I was doing this and my poor children. Oh my poor children. They had no inkling what was going on and they They were trying to figure out what was happening. And their their guesses were hilarious and ranged from all sorts of things. But let me tell you, the house was picked up, they were very well behaved. And they even made me lunch that day, they were a little nervous.
But the first call that I made that day wasn't actually -- the first call wasn't actually when I made. Actually, it was a call I received from Rachel. And after a deep breath, she told me that there was a baby sister. And that even though these two children were currently separate, separated in different families, that they wanted them to be kept together.
Well, a toddler is one thing, a baby is another, but both? So we were now looking at a 17 month old and an eight month old. So I called my husband, and he reminded me that this was a real long shot, that chances of this happening are so slim. And of course, we were going to keep them together. So I should call Rachel back and tell her that we were fine with moving forward until God closed the door.
And I did. So seven hours and 24 phone calls later, I emerged from that room with lots of answers and some clear steps. In fact, I only got voicemail twice and both of those calls were promptly returned. So it was a really productive day. And I remember the next day, calling the lawyer and saying, "Okay, what do I do now? What do I do now? I feel like I should be doing something." And she said, "Jenn, what you did in that one day, a phone calls, usually takes about two weeks to accomplish. So relax, things are fine, just wait."
So back to Wednesday, I finished those phone calls. And that evening, we told our older kids that we were pursuing this, and we did not know what would happen. But we wanted them to be aware. And they were surprised. And they were pretty excited. And then we sent them off to youth group and said you can't tell anybody, so those poor things had to keep a secret. And they did really well with that.
And from there on, we waited. And our next steps were really we had to meet with the parents, for them to decide if in fact, they wanted to assign guardianship to us with a plan for us to adopt the children. And that took some scheduling and rescheduling. But finally, two weeks later, we were all seated together in a room. total strangers discussing the future of two children who had a hold on every heart around that table. We had mom and dad, we had my husband and I, we had the couple who had been raising Wayne up to that point, and we had the social worker. And none of us really knew each other.
And as we sat there and got to know each other a little bit, we cried together. I really, I really had a heart of compassion for the mom and dad as they had to make this hard, hard decision. Because they love their kids so much. And as they signed those really sterile documents with those, that stroke of the pen, all of our lives were changed and suddenly became intertwined together. So we were now strangers who have a common goal around these littles.
And we now also had way less than 72 hours to get ready for these these babies to join our home, join our family. We had to find cribs, we had to rearrange furniture to make space, we had to find clothes, and bottles. And we still had to do all the things that we had committed previously to doing. We had work commitments and school commitments and church meetings we couldn't get out of and there was so much to do, and so little time. And I absolutely froze. I didn't... I couldn't move forward. And if you've ever seen the movie, mom's night out, she talks at one point about how she's stressed paralyzed. And that is exactly what I experienced in that. That moment.
This is Thursday night, two days after we've signed the papers. And the next morning, our lives are gonna change. And I was completely overwhelmed. So I called Rachel because Rachel had just adopted a few months earlier. So she kind of knew the drill. And she dropped everything she came over to help me she brought a friend along - another friend of ours - and together these two women walked into my home with their arms just full of bottles and toys and clothes and storage bins because they know me and they know I like things neat and orderly, so they brought storage. And they just came in and they took over. And they rearranged and they integrated everything into our house so that we would be ready for that the next morning.
So Friday morning, it's just 16 days after that life changing moment, we woke up knowing that nothing would ever be the same for our family again. Now our volunteer family volunteered on a regular basis at a local share center, a food pantry, and we were slated to work that day. And since it was a commitment, we really couldn't work around, we made arrangements for our new daughter Malayiah to be brought to us there. And so as guests are arriving to take home food, we were anticipating the arrival of our baby girl that we would be taking home.
And finally, we were told she's here. So we raised upstairs and gathered around the door. And, oh, I can't even describe that moment when they walked through the door, and they placed this little baby in my arms. And we all saw her for the first time. Oh, it was. I can't I can't put it into words. It was an amazing little moment.
And that evening, we went home and we began to relearn all the baby things that we thought we had long left behind us. So the next morning, it was Saturday. And that was the day that our son was going to arrive. And the couple who had primarily raised him, brought him over and helped him settle in.
And when it came time for them to sleep, the tears began to flow from all of us. But especially little Wayne-o. And for hours baby Wayne stood at that window watching for them to come back for him. Oh, it was so hard.
Now we had been given a lot of advice on attachment. But we really just we're winging it as we went. And so that next day was Sunday, we got up and we all went to church as usual. But Jim and I each kept a baby with us and we hung out in the in the back of the church. And we were tired, but so far, so good things were going really well.
And then Monday morning hit. And that is when trauma reared its ugly head and roared. So Wayne, like I said, was only 17 months old at the time, he was old enough to know that his world was spinning out of control. But he was still way too young to comprehend what these changes were and what they meant. And he was big for his age. So he he was feisty and strong. But he couldn't really talk yet. He didn't have a lot of words. And so his only form of communication was to throw things, bite, hit, scream, and moan. Moaning was how he self soothed and it was it was hard to hear so much of the moaning.
He was out of control. And helping him calm down and keeping him from hurting himself was just exhausting. And then we still had the baby Of course to hold and feed and care for and so it was tiring.
We knew we had done the right thing. We had no doubt whatsoever. We knew that God had been telling me in that moment that we had found this little guy home. We just didn't know that he was telling us it was our home and not someone else's home. So we had no doubt that we were doing what we were supposed to do. And we leaned into this new experience with no training. No, I say no support, minimal support, no traditional support. And the constant concern that this adoption was going to fall through and these kiddos would be leaving us.
For us it was a long six months of trauma before the adoption was finalized. And we could rest easily that these kids were not going anywhere. It was also six long months where trauma had dug in and really left its mark on our family, particularly on our older kids. Because as we focused on the babies, and it took almost all of our time and attention for both Jim and I. As we worked hard on the things that we needed to do to form attachment with them, it meant that mostly Jim and I were the tending to the physical needs the caregiving of these babies.
And so that meant that sometimes we had to over exaggerate a response for example, when our new son would cry, I would drop everything and run to him so that he knew he could depend on me to meet his needs. It was part of building trust and building see for him. But as I did those things, I had no idea that our older kids were feeling abandoned and left out. They saw these attachment responses as us loving the babies more than them. And because we had to do the bulk of the holding, they ended up doing more of the chores, and that left them feeling like Cinderella. They experienced what we would call secondary trauma.
So we found ourselves in a hopeless existence, doing the things we knew we had been called to do, but somehow sacrificing our family in the process, and we didn't know what to do, and we didn't see a path back to joy. Every day, it kind of felt like we were studying for a final in a class that we never even took. We had no idea what to do. But that all changed one day with another phone call with a woman named Hyacynth. And I'm going to tell you more about that next time.