tl;dr We love Empowered to Connect, will be there this year and think you should be too.
We began our adoption journey in January 2015 and had no clue what we were getting ourselves into. Adoption was so much more involved emotionally than we had anticipated and, at times, we felt completely lost. Fortunately, Christine had decided to attend the Empowered to Connect simulcast at Christian Chapel that year.
Thom was out of town for work and unable to attend, so we downloaded and listened to the presentations and thought they were great, but when we went together in 2016, it changed our lives – we know, that sounds cheesy, but it did.
A little backstory.
Our dear daughter was born in February 2016. Our birth mom experienced some high-stress situations throughout her pregnancy and, as a result, our daughter was born exhibiting symptoms of high cortisol levels. This means she fell into the “high needs” baby category. For the first four months of her life, Ellie often cried inconsolably for extended periods of time, had difficulty sleeping and transitioning from asleep to awake, and, much of the time, was generally fussy. It was a hard time for her and a rough time for us as first time, new parents. First, we obviously ruled out that there was any medical problem that we needed to address. Our doctor assured us that Ellie was physically fine, she just fell into that special “high needs” baby category. We struggled with the best way to console her and understand why she was so upset. Fortunately, we gained an understanding of what Ellie was going through and why from Empowered to Connect which helped us find more patience than we knew we had and also gave us a game plan as well as the hope that things would get better.
We went back and revisited some of our notes and the recordings from Empowered to Connect and put quite a bit of into practice. We combined with some parenting books like Happiest Baby on the Block and implemented strategies to comfort our girl. We swaddled her tightly, shushed and rocked her gently, walked with her outside, and held her nonstop throughout her crying fits (which on more than one occasion lasted over eight hours straight). Christine would be in tears, and Thom would be exhausted, but we knew, based on the transformations we saw in the lives of some of the kids we saw at Empowered to Connect that things would get better, and they did. Once we put the techniques that we learned through ETC into practice, we immediately noticed results in her ability to soothe and her sleeping habits.
Ellie celebrated her first birthday last weekend. She’s a bright, funny, cuddly, smart little girl who loves people and is always happy. You’d be hard pressed to find a time where you won’t see a smile on her face and her trying to put one on yours. We learned over the last year how to help Ellie calm down when she’s upset and, in turn, she has found great ways to self-soothe. We put the attachment parenting model into practice and have a self-confident and assured little girl who is equipped to handle anything life throws her way. If we hadn’t had Empowered to Connect, we honestly don’t think we would have had the skills that have helped Ellie become the happy well adjusted little tot we know now.
The lessons we learned apply to so much more than just our relationship with Ellie. We’re able to identify quite a bit within ourselves and each other. We’ve spent hours talking about what we’ve learned, how we see these things play out in our everyday lives and push each other to grow. It also helped us understand our birth mom and others in our lives so that we can more easily understand and support them.
As we were going through the adoption process at CPO, we enjoyed the Adoptive Family Support Groups, the Waiting Family Workshops, and getting to know our mentor and others who have walked through this process before us, but we both agree with 100% certainty that none of that compares with what we got out of Empowered to Connect. We will all be there again this year, and every year it’s offered. This two-day simulcast is free and offered at Christian Chapel this year on April 7th and 8th. Wherever you are in life, adoptive or bio parents, rearing older or young children, a teacher or just about anything else you can imagine, you will walk away with so much from ETC. We have encouraged countless friends and family members to attend in their cities because we feel that this conference has extremely valuable information about building nurturing relationships with your children and with others. We hope to see you there this year.
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Thom & Christine Crowe