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Birth Mother Matters in Adoption Episode #65 – The Positive Impact of Adoption

Ron Reigns:

Welcome and thank you for joining us on Birth Mother Matters in Adoption with Kelly Rourke-Scarry and me, Ron Raines, where we delve into adoption issues from every angle of the adoption triad.

Speaker 2:

Do what’s best for your kid and yourself because if you can’t take care of yourself, you’re definitely not going to be able to take care of that kid, and that’s not fair.

Speaker 3:

And I know that my daughter would be well taken care of with them.

Speaker 4:

Don’t have an abortion; give this child a chance.

Speaker 5:

All I could think about was needing to save my son.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

My name is Kelly Rourke-Scarry. I’m the executive director, president, and co-founder of Building Arizona Family’s adoption agency, The Donna K. Evans Foundation, and the You Before Me campaign creator. I have a bachelor’s degree in Family Studies and Human Development and a master’s degree in education with an emphasis on school counseling. I was adopted at three days, born to a teen birth mother, raised in a closed adoption, and reunited with my birth mother in 2007. I have worked in the adoption field for over 15 years.

Ron Reigns:

And I’m Ron Reigns. I’ve worked in radio since 1999. I was the co-host of two successful morning shows in Prescott, Arizona. Now I work for my wife, an adoption attorney, and I can combine these two great passions and share them on this podcast.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Explaining the unexplainable. Trying to verbalize the impact of adoption as an adult adoptee. As an adult adoptee, I get so many questions, and a lot of them are because of the position I’m in and working for the agency. And when somebody hears that I work for the adoption agency and I’m adopted, here comes the questions, which is fine. I don’t mind them anymore.

Ron Reigns:

Were you ever offended by it?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Offended? No. I was never offended. I consider myself an exceedingly private person. And so, initially, I wasn’t so at ease talking about it.

Ron Reigns:

Okay.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

But I want to go back because I’ve touched on things, and I want to go back about my coming out of the closet story regarding being adopted.

Ron Reigns:

Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And because it happened in such an exciting way. It was almost like they said that that path just opened up, and all the lights were shining at the right time, and all the stars aligned, and that’s where we are today.

Ron Reigns:

Okay.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

So before being about 28, 29, there were a handful of people in my world who knew I was adopted. Now, my parents had told all of their friends and family members, and all those people knew, but in my social world, less than a handful.

Ron Reigns:

Your friends from school, your friends that you worked with.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Less than a handful. And so I really didn’t speak about that. And I think that as a society, we’re now changing it, and I love how open it’s becoming and how accepting people are beginning to be regarding people’s choices and lifestyles and so forth.

Ron Reigns:

And the life paths they’ve been on, and everybody has a different path, right?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And in the last 20 years, a lot about adoption changed. Adoptions are definitely more open adoptions than closed ones, and mine was closed. And I don’t think that my adoption being closed was a positive thing. I think it would’ve been much better had it been open, but that wasn’t a thing back then.

Ron Reigns:

It just wasn’t the way it was done mainly.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

No, it wasn’t. And I also think with celebrities talking out their adoptions on the cover of magazines, you’re seeing all of the children they adopted, and they have these beautiful multiracial families. I think it’s gorgeous, and I think it’s helping uplift people’s opinions of adoption and acceptance levels. And it’s educating. And as we’ve talked about a hundred times, education does everything positive for people’s viewpoints opinions. It helps them stereotype less and have less preconceived notions because they’re educated. Adoption nowadays is integrated into movies and television shows and books and plays, and you just have adopted characters. Whereas, back when I was younger, if it was about adoption, the movie was centered around.

Ron Reigns:

Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

It was the whole focus. It wasn’t just a cameo appearance of somebody being adopted; it was about the adoption.

Ron Reigns:

Nowadays, you have the show Modern Family, which has a gay couple, but it’s not about a gay couple. And it has an adopted daughter for that couple, but it’s not about that. It’s about the whole group.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And that’s a great example. It’s not just focused on the adoptee, the adopter family, or the birth line. They’re just interwoven into the fabric of life. Some adult adoptees have struggled in their skin, and others are fine with it. Everybody interprets being adopted, I think probably by the way it was approached, taught to them as a child, as the reactions that they’ve gotten in the past. Now I’ve never gotten an adverse reaction about being adopted. I’ve gotten surprising reactions, which I often didn’t know how to interpret. I didn’t know, are you surprised because that’s a bad thing or are you surprised because… Why does that surprise you? So, in other words, in my mind, I’m thinking, oh, I’m surprised you’re adopted. And I’m thinking, well, why are you surprised? What is surprising?

Ron Reigns:

What? You thought I would be a different person had I been adopted, right?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

A perfect way to say it.

Ron Reigns:

And I think it’s more just, oh, I didn’t know that about you, more that kind of surprise than… It depends on how you interpret it. But yeah, I think generally.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

But when you’re hiding in a closet with your story, and you’re sensitive to it, and you open up to one person, and they say, oh, that’s really surprising. You kind of take it like-

Ron Reigns:

You don’t know how to take it, right?

Speaker 3:

You know, I’m going to run back in the closet and shut the door and lock it. So yeah, I think that, because adoption is more openly spoken about and more of a normality, children now, who are adopted, are not looked at as the purple person in the room.

Ron Reigns:

Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And I love that.

Ron Reigns:

I do too. I couldn’t agree more.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

You know, as a child, I didn’t walk into my third-grade room, and they didn’t know I was adopted. Whereas now, if someone always says, oh yeah, I’m adopted, people aren’t like, oh wow. And they don’t stare at you like you just grew wings on your back and halo over your head or what have you.

Ron Reigns:

Right. So when I look at anything from an outside perspective, I want to know more, so that’s why I always ask you questions. It’s not like, oh, you’re some sort of freak of nature. I just want to know what brought you to this [crosstalk 00:07:08]. I’ve talked to your kids about you, and you are a freak. But I just like hearing different stories that I’m not familiar with. So if I ever cross any lines or make you feel uncomfortable, please let me know and stop me. It’s just….

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Absolutely. No, not at all, Because I think the questions you have are the same questions that everybody else has. And we’ve agreed over and over again in this podcast, we’re going to go there wherever there is, we’re going to go there. And we’re going to clear up misconceptions and be honest and talk about adoption truth, and that’s important.

Ron Reigns:

And contrary to popular belief, adoptees are actually people.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Absolutely. That was a joke, by the way.

Ron Reigns:

Yes, it was.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

So talking about my coming out of the closet on being adopted. It’s something that I want to explore a little bit because everybody will have their own story. My adoption journey started when I was placed for adoption. And then, in many ways, it halted until this moment because nothing changed. I didn’t meet my birth mother. There was no further development with adoption. There wasn’t a kumbaya moment or an aha moment until I was in my late twenties. There was just nothing. And I actually may have even been in my early thirties. I’m trying to remember precisely when this occurred. And I was married. I had had biological children. I was working as a school counselor, and one of my coworkers was also married and working at the school. And he had children the same age that I did. We both had a child in the onsite daycare at the school. And so, not only did we work in the office, but we also had a child in the same classroom. And so we would see each other frequently and idle chit-chat around the high schooler, and he was doing the pleasantries, how was your weekend? And I was going on, and I asked him about him, and he said that he had had lunch with his birth mother and time just froze. Everything stood still. I remember thinking a million thoughts at that moment. It was as if he told me the sky was forever going to be polka-dotted. There would’ve been no differentiation as to how shocked I was. It was literally one of those moments where everything else goes silent, and you get tunnel vision, and your whole life stops.

Ron Reigns:

Was it that way because he told you, or because you didn’t know he was also adopted, or little of both?

Speaker 3:

It was everything. It was the fact that he so openly spoke that he was obviously adopted, the fact that he had had lunch with his birth mother. The fact that he said it as if he just told me that he was chewing Hubba Bubba bubble gum, rather than- And it was monotone, it wasn’t anything like, oh, I had lunch with my birth mother. It wasn’t that it was; yeah, I had lunch with my birth mother, and then he kept going on. I remember just thinking, what? Do you know what I mean? It was one of those moments that I will never forget. And he kind of looked at me; I’m sure I had a stunned look on my face, and he probably thought, do I have something in my teeth? Because I was blown away. And I asked him. I remember my first statement was, you’re adopted. And it was as much of a question as a statement you’re adopted. And he kind of nodded like, yeah. As if you have two arms. There was no response, no emotion, nothing. It was like the color of his hair. And so I said can I ask some questions? And he kind of nodded. And I remember saying I’m adopted too. And I remember lowering my voice because I didn’t know who could hear me. And it felt like I was confiding something.

Ron Reigns:

Deep and dark.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

A deep, dark secret.

Ron Reigns:

Whereas he’s handling it so calmly, and you’re like, what is this?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And he was like, oh, you’re adopted. Cool. Yeah. I mean, again, this was not phasing him at all, phasing him whatsoever.

Ron Reigns:

I have a question then. And you may not even know, did he have an open adoption?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

From what I remember, remember this was now about 18, 19 years ago. He had a perfect relationship with his birth mother. I don’t remember him mentioning his birth father. They knew each other in the relationship with his birth mother, his adoptive family, and his birth mother. So it must have been an open adoption or at least somewhat open. And he was my age. So they must have had a very different situation working because he had always known he was adopted. So he said he was willing too, so then because I’d never really known anybody who was adopted that I would open up to or talk to. It was almost like I threw up everywhere. I didn’t really, but probably, I just felt like I threw up everywhere, and this poor guy was probably thinking, oh my gosh, I just told her I had lunch with my birth mom. It wasn’t even anything to elicit this response.

Ron Reigns:

But it was so life-changing to you. And so world-shattering.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Okay. It was comparable to this. When I was a little girl on St. Patrick’s day, I truly believed that I could catch a leprechaun. To this day, I still wonder. Anyway, I would go out, and I would literally look for a leprechaun until my late teens, and no, just kidding. And I imagine catching on. That was comparable. So I sat down, and I remember asking him everything from, how long have you known? You tell people? Like you tell people that you’re adopted?

Ron Reigns:

On purpose? Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And how did you meet your birth mother? And does your adopted family know? And what do your kids think? And can you tell me everything? And this is just a coworker. So now he’s probably thinking, oh, wow, okay.

Ron Reigns:

I think I opened a can of worms that I didn’t need to open.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

He opened Pandora’s box, and then Pandora threw up. So that’s where we were. So I must have asked him a thousand questions. I threw off, unfortunately, admittedly, the rest of the Workday for both him and I; neither one of us worked in a classroom. And so it wasn’t like I was impeding him from… I’m sure it was.

Ron Reigns:

From taking care of children.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

But at that point, wild horses couldn’t have drugged me away because I had to understand; I had to learn how somebody so confident and normal could have gone through the same thing that I had and talk about it like this.

Ron Reigns:

So do you think people listen to this podcast, who are adopted or adult adoptees? Do you think they listen to this and look at you the same way you looked at this coworker? Like, how can she be so confident and share everything so open?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

If they’re in the adoption closet, I hope so.

Ron Reigns:

Yeah. You could open somebody’s world as he did for You.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And he was so gallant and friendly and patient because it had to have been obnoxious. I mean, I’m sure not only did I ask a thousand questions, but I probably asked them again because I was trying so hard to not inundate him or rush him or make him not want to talk at all. But at the same time, I had never met anybody. It’s like, you’re a purple person, and you walk in, and you see a first purple person after almost 30 years. And you’re like, you’re purple, and people know you’re purple.

Ron Reigns:

And you don’t care that you’re purple.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

No, you’re not covering up your purpleness. So yeah, in having him help me walk out of the closet and close the door behind me, which is really what he did. I started to let the other workers at school know. Of course, this poor man, I probably talked to him about adoption every day until we no longer worked at the school, and that is how the other co-founder and I started the very beginning of the agency. She found out that I was adopted, but that wouldn’t have happened had this gentleman not disclosed that he was adopted.

Ron Reigns:

That’s amazing.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Yes. And then, the other coworker adopted children from Russia and wanted me to help her with some post-placement reports afterward. Anyway, long story short, the stars aligned. I got a little braver every time I said it; I remember thinking, okay, it’s like momentum, okay, that person didn’t react weirdly. And so Kelly, next person, I can watch their reaction, and then it’s like the purple started to fade. When people find out that I’m adopted or tell them I’m adopted, I still get the same questions. How does it feel to be adopted? I wouldn’t know. I don’t know what it feels like to not be adopted. There’s no level of comparison. So I think that’s kind of a funny, silly, dumb question.

Ron Reigns:

It’s like asking anybody anything along those lines; really, they don’t know any different.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Absolutely. And you can understand that with your site as you’ve talked about before. It’s the same thing.

Ron Reigns:

What’s it like to be colorblind? Well.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

What’s it like not to be?

Ron Reigns:

What’s it like not to be? Yeah, exactly.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Do you feel lucky that you’re adopted? Another question? I feel lucky that I was adopted by my adoptive parents and reunited with my birth mother. I feel lucky that I had a solid group bringing a good childhood. I don’t know if lucky is the right word. Blessed is probably a better one. The other question I get is why haven’t you adopted if adoption’s so great. That’s the other question that I get, and that to me is kind of funny, actually. I always thought that I wouldn’t, and there isn’t a reason I haven’t. I have four biological children, three stepchildren, and seven seem enough. I know the TV show disagrees with us. Because they say, eight is enough.

Ron Reigns:

Eight is enough. Come on.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

But for us, seven is enough. Would I ever adopt in the future? Maybe. I mean, who knows what the future holds? The stars align; who knows? But it’s not something that I’m looking to do. It’s not something that I wouldn’t do, but I get that question all the time is, oh, why don’t you adopt? Well, for the same reason.

Ron Reigns:

Just it isn’t my path.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

It hasn’t been in the cards. Another question is, are you angry at your birth mother for placing you for adoption? Of course not. She was not in a place where she could parent me the way she wanted to or provide the life that she wanted me to have. Why would I be angry with somebody who made a selfless choice?

Ron Reigns:

Do you think your biological brothers had wished at all that they had been adopted out as well?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

They have referred to me with no disrespect to my mom as the lucky one.

Ron Reigns:

Because you got out.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Because I had opportunities that they didn’t. We all loved my mom, and I don’t think they would’ve traded a moment with her, but the lifestyle they lived with her was not ideal compared to the lifestyle that I lived. Best way to say it.

Ron Reigns:

Okay.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Another question was, was your adoptive family upset when you wanted to find your birth mother? Not at all. They gave me the information they had, and they were very supportive.

Ron Reigns:

Now you didn’t tell them immediately when you met your birth mother?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

That I did not. And thank you for pointing that out. I did not tell them immediately. I told them when I found her, but I found her on a Friday and left on a Wednesday. I did not tell them that I was leaving to go to Ohio. And I think I was worried it would hurt their feelings. I wasn’t ready to answer questions. And I felt like I was walking in quicksand in a specific aspect because I didn’t know what I was getting into. I was jumping down the rabbit hole, and I didn’t know what it would look like. Are your adoptive family and biological family similar? This is actually probably the funniest one. No, they couldn’t be more opposite. So my adoptive parents are upper-middle class. They’re both college-educated. They’re very proper, manners are a huge thing. You wouldn’t know it by these podcasts with me, but they’re very proper. My birth mother was not as fortunate in her finances. She dropped out of school after I was born in the 10th grade. And she’s from the Hills of West Virginia. So polar opposite would be an understatement.

Ron Reigns:

Okay, fair enough.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Yeah. But that doesn’t mean that one is better than the other.

Ron Reigns:

No.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

It means that I am like the two worlds colliding. I’m like the overlap of two things smashed into each other. I’m like the middle smash.

Ron Reigns:

But I think that can be just a massive blessing for somebody to see two 

different sides of life that aren’t similar at all. I mean, you could go to a fancy ball and do all the things and eat from the right plate and use the proper utensils and everything at any given time.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Correct.

Ron Reigns:

But you could kick back with a beer and sit on the front porch. I think that’s a good thing. Watch life pass you by.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

No, I agree, and I can. The other thing is people will say, well, which of the families do you relate more to? And it’s really a mixture of nature and nurture. I can go either way. I can walk through an art museum just as quickly as I can kick my feet up. And I think that some of my responses are refined by my adoption, and other times, what first wants to come out of my mouth, I think it’s been trained not to.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Because your birth mother would say anything at any time.

Speaker 3:

And my biological brother, Mike Clarence, and I’m saying Clarence’s name because he would say this as well. He will call it how it is, and that’s just who he is. And he prides himself on that. He’s genuine, he’s sincere, very open. And he means what he says, and if you don’t like it, then that’s not his problem. And so my mother was very much the same way, and she wouldn’t hold back for anybody because that wasn’t who she was. She was a survivor, and she was going to fight her way through the world. And if people didn’t like it, then they could get out of the way, or she would just go right through them. That was their choice. So I think that some of my behaviors result from the modeling I watched of my adoptive parents. Still, some of my responses are my DNA.

Ron Reigns:

That’s cool. That’s a good mix.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

It is a good mix most of the time. So I think the best way to describe this is because this is something that many adoptive parents talk to me about. Your kin is from West Virginia and the mountains and Appalachian people and all of that. Yet, you were raised for the last, when we moved to LA Jolla, California, I was raised there. The only analogy I could come up with is sometimes when you’re at the zoo. You’re looking through the glass at a gorilla. They’re looking back at you; it’s almost like you make a connection, but when you’re adopted, and you’re trying to decipher which side, it’s like you don’t know which side of the glass you’re really on. You’re thinking, okay, am I a product of this upper echelon upbringing, educated and so forth? Or am I on the other side? And I’m just a girl placed with a family that should be running barefoot through the fields of the mountains in West Virginia. Do you know what I mean? Is that really what this is?

Ron Reigns:

And you’re lucky you can be both.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

I can be both. So I think overall, as an adult adoptee, I think we grow, and we learn our experiences are what shape us, and viewpoints can change with education. But being adopted doesn’t make us special or unique.

Ron Reigns:

We have a pregnancy crisis hotline available twenty-four-seven phones or text at (623) 695-4112, or you can call our toll-free number +1 800-340-9665. We can make an immediate appointment with you to get you to a safe place, provide food and clothing and start on creating an Arizona adoption plan or give you more information. You can check out our blogs on our website at AZpregnancyhelp.com. Thank you for joining us on Birth Mother Matters and Adoption, written and produced by Kelly Rourke-Scarry and edited by Ron Reigns. If you enjoyed this podcast, rate and review us wherever you listen to podcasts, and as always, thanks to Grapes for letting us use their song. I Dunno as our theme song; join us next time for Birth Mother Matters in Adoption for Kelly Rourke-Scarry. I’m Ron Reigns, and we’ll see you then.

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