Episode 9: Jenn Uren on ConnectionMar 30, 2021
Jenn Uren, host of the This Mom Knows podcast, shares about how learning about connection and connected parenting was the key to going from a family of 5 to a family of 7 and how it breathed life back into a space once filled with overwhelm.
This is a transcript of the This Mom Knows Podcast - Episode - 9
Well, hello there. Today I am looking forward to telling you about the impact of that phone call that I mentioned the last time we talked about our story - the phone call I had with Hyacynth. So if you haven't heard it, after today's episode, you might want to go back and listen to Episode Three, where I share my story of how I found myself buried under overwhelm and what I did to get out of it. And then maybe Episode Six, where I share about our surprise adoption and how we learned about trauma.
Now, because our adoption was not traditional at all, we did not have all of the support and the preparation that most people experience. We actually did everything completely backwards. And where most people start with a home study, that was the very last thing that we did. That happened just two or three weeks before everything was finalized, and by that point, it was a mere formality. It was just something they had to check off to say that it was done.
So, we survived this adoption process, not knowing what to do as we went along, not knowing what to expect. And now we have these littles to raise and we had all sorts of relational damage from the trauma of integrating these, these sweet little babies into our family. And we were just trying to figure out what our new family would look like and how it should function. But we were doing it on a crumbling foundation, and it wasn't working. We needed help.
So it's interesting because when more than one person says something, you start to pay attention. And several people, I think in fact, I counted four or five different people who didn't, didn't know each other, or who I had never really met before. Four or five people in a very short period of time said to me, "Oh, you need to get in touch with this woman named Hyacynth." Hyacynth led an adoption support group out of her home. And I thought, well, if that many people are saying that I need to talk to her, then I better give her a call. Now, if you know me, if you were to know me in real life, you would quickly learn that I have what my husband likes to call a 'phone phobia'. I do not like making phone calls. And I really don't like calling people like don't know. So like, I could do it if I know you but calling a stranger is even harder. I will email. I will text. I will direct message. But please don't make me call!
But I did it anyway. I called, I left a message, and I waited for her to call me back. And when she did, she told me that they were hosting a three day intensive training called the Trauma Competent Caregiver. And that it would be very helpful for Jim and I to attend that as that would bring us up to speed on something called TBRI or Trust Based Relational Intervention. And TBRI was what they used in their support group that met monthly. And so once we went through this, and we were kind of up to speed, we were welcome to join this monthly group. And we thought, well, we don't we don't know anything. So this is probably going to be helpful. So we signed up.
On the first day when we walked into Hyacynths house, I had no idea how impactful this relationship was going to be for our family. That was a Friday. And so this first day was this Friday evening. And so we sat down on the couch, and we began to hear terms that we had never heard or we just didn't fully understand 'trauma', 'ACES', 'hard places', 'flipped their lid', 'connection'. So, we went home, we were in a little bit of a fog, and we came back for that next day, which was going to be a long day of learning like, I don't know, 8am to 5pm, something like that. So that day, we learned how traumatic trauma really is. We finally had a framework to understand where our new babies were coming from and what our older kids were experiencing. And we began to recognize the damage and the deep impact that these experiences had had. And we could identify some of the places where we could have handled things better or differently if we had known this sooner. So we had a little bit of grieving that was going on but we also started to have some answers.
But it was overwhelming. And we went home that night, that Saturday night, and I fell asleep but I didn't stay asleep. I couldn't sleep. I think in all I squeezed in about 45 minutes of sleep throughout the night for most I lay there, and I felt this heavy weight on my chest. And I was overwhelmed. And I was all consumed. And I kept asking myself, "What did we do? What we do? What did we do?' And I was asking God, you know, how are we going to make it through. And I just, I had no idea. I didn't know how things were ever going to get better, how it was going to change, and how we were going to survive this, this shift in our family. And so that final day of training, I was exhausted. And I cried a lot. But I shared my overwhelm. And I began to discover that this was a group of people that understood. And I left there with a speck of hope.
And so we started going to the monthly support group, and we met so many people who could relate to what we were going through. Not so much to the surprise part of our adoption, though, there were some with some elements that were similar, and they could relate in some ways, but mostly to the lonely, hopeless feeling the overwhelm, and the wondering if it's ever going to get easier.
So month after month, we we learned new things, strategies, sentences, to say methods to try. And bit by bit, we began to see some changes at home. We started to have longer stretches between tantrums. We began to see us settling into our home on the part of the babies. We were beginning to shift our parenting from one that had focused really on behavior and outcome and punishment to one that was focusing on relationship, discovering root causes, and more on natural consequences.
And so there was one time when Wayne was just out of control, throwing a temper tantrum, and I leaned down, and I said - I was employing a strategy I'd learned - I leaned down and I whispered in his ear, "if you can stop, we can go get the car and go get ice cream." And he immediately stopped crying. I said, "let's get your shoes on." He got his shoes on. And the the other kids are like what's going on, and I just took him and I left. And we went and we got an ice cream cone. And we sat there, and he ate it. And then we came home. And I was able to say to him the things that he could hear because he was now calm. And we were able to figure out what was going on and what was causing that. And of course, my older kids were like, "you just rewarded this bad behavior." But they were wrong. We met a need. We disrupted a behavior. And so we were learning all these new things.
Well, I had been looking, you know, for a simple solution. That's what I had been asking God for. And he definitely gave me a simple solution. But remember, simple and easy are not the same thing and where I had wanted a quick fix that addressed the outcome. God gave us a slow process that was addressing foundational issues. I was learning to have the heart of a coach and not the focus of an event planner. I was being challenged much like Martha in the Bible was challenged by Jesus, I was being challenged to set aside the things I was doing and lean into relationship. Relationship with Jesus and relationship with my family. And so as I learned to be connected in my parenting, I had to be willing to disconnect from the things I was doing. The groups I was leading the responsibilities, I carried, positions I held. Good things in my life, but good things that were keeping me from the great things that God had for me as I mothered my kids.
So the more we learned about connection as a means to heal trauma and build secure relationships, the more I learned about myself, and together, my husband and I began to see that, you know, we have allowed much of our relationship to be put on cruise and it was losing momentum. We also recognized that we had to do something about our health and our weight if we were going to be in for the long haul. There was no way we were going to be there for our kids when they were older if we didn't make a change, and especially for those littles because you need to know we were well into our 40s when we adopted them.
And so it didn't happen overnight. But we are not the same people today who said yes to blindly adopting. Our family is not the same. And it was one of the hardest things we have done, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. God is so good. And in the almost four years since that phone call to Hyacynth we are on the other side of that deep valley. Hope has been restored. Our littles have settled in with strong attachment connection. Our marriage is strong. Our health is on track. And we have begun to dream again with some big dreams for the future.
But one of the great gifts of this whole thing has been relationship. Deeper relationship with our kids. Relationship with new friends in this adoption group who understand and we can support. Continued relationship with so many people who were in the Littles lives before they joined our family. And healthy relationship with their biological parents and even relationship with their biological grandparents. It is such a blessing. We added two people to our family, but really our family grew more than 10 times that size that day.