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Finding Peace in Uncharted Waters

Ron Reigns:

Welcome. And thank you for joining us on Birth Mother Matters in Adoption with Kelly Rourke-Scarry and me, Ron Reigns, 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 will not be able to take care of that kid, and that’s not fair.

Speaker 3:

And I know 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 the Building Arizona Families adoption agency, the Donna K. Evans Foundation, and the creator of the You Before Me campaign. I have a bachelor’s degree in family studies and human development and a master’s degree in education with an emphasis in 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:

Today, we will discuss finding peace and uncharted waters and researching the acceptance stage. Right now, in all of our lives across the United States, our whole continent probably at this point, and globally, we’re all surrounded by uncharted territory. And we’re learning to navigate and forge new paths; we have to create new lifestyles rather than the ones we were previously used to. I don’t know about Iran. I don’t really like change; I’m a creature of habit. I like to be on autopilot because I can accomplish what needs to be accomplished, and I’m la-la land.

Ron Reigns:

I’m the same. And that’s what we keep hearing now everywhere somebody starts talking: “The new normal,” and that’s what we’re entering.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Right. I think, though, that the way that I fund solace in that is it may be the new normal for this week, but not a new permanent normal because this has its challenges, just like life presents in other areas and other aspects, but I don’t want to reach the level of acceptance that this is a new normal. I want to call this a season, and I hope it’s a short one.

Ron Reigns:

I think it’s kind of a mixed bag. I think, in some ways, it is the new normal. I believe that we will start seeing masks, for instance, regularly. And I don’t know if shaking hands will come back the way it used to, or hugging, or any of the affectionate-

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

I’m okay with that, though.

Ron Reigns:

Things we’re used to. I think it’ll change forever.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

I’m okay with the lack of physical contact with strangers. I mean family and close friends. But with the handshaking, as I said, as a woman, I’ve never really got that. You have to have a firm handshake, so I’m always thinking, “Okay, well, is that firm enough? Should I have shaken his hand harder?” Yeah.

Ron Reigns:

Right. Well, as men, we practice that.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Do you?

Ron Reigns:

Oh, yeah. Absolutely.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

With your other hand?

Ron Reigns:

Yeah, or just you practice holding your hand firmly, you know what I mean? And getting that grip ready, so you practice it and then go dead fish when you shake somebody’s hand.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

That’s funny.

Ron Reigns:

But we were at a funeral just the other day, and it was extraordinary because Lisa and I showed up, and we had the masks on, and we had the gloves, and everybody was almost six feet apart. The chairs were a little closer than that but close enough. And halfway through, we were both crying, it’s going down into the mask, and I just gave up on it. And then afterward, everybody was hugging still, so it was extraordinary. It was like, “How do we approach this?” Because we’re trying to be careful. I mean, this was somebody very close to us, and it was a complex deal, very emotional for us, and we wanted to hug everybody, but it was just a strange new thing for us.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

That would be. I can’t imagine being in that situation because that would be tough. At what point do you put aside the mask? Yeah, I don’t know.

Ron Reigns:

And say, “You know what? I love these people, I’m going to just throw caution to the wind.” What do you do?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Yeah, I get that. I get that. That’s something to ponder because you would have to weigh everything out, and that’s not something you can ever go back and experience again.

Ron Reigns:

Right. Exactly. And you kind [crosstalk 00:05:24] or don’t want to look back on it and go, “I remember that funeral, me having a mask on the whole time and gloves and staying.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

“And I owe you a hug, so come here.” Yeah.

Ron Reigns:

Exactly.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Absolutely. I get it. And I think that COVID-19 has brought us almost nothing but change, fear, and grief. I think this can, in some instances, parallels some situations in the adoption process for the birth mother and, or the adoptive family. We’ve talked before about the
Kubler-Ross’s model of grief teaches us the five stages of grief. The first one is denial, the second one is anger, the third is bargaining, the fourth one is depression, and the fifth one is acceptance. And today, we’re going to talk about reaching the acceptance stage, which is the final stage.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

At some point in the future, I’d like to go back and dedicate a podcast to each one of these stages. I think that although there is so much joy, happiness, solidarity, and love in the adoption process, we can’t ignore the grief because that comes along with it. The happiest day of one person’s life is the saddest day for another. And to ignore that, that wouldn’t be fair.

Ron Reigns:

Right. It would do a disservice.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

It would be. That’s a good term, a disservice because we must acknowledge that in an adoption process, in that journey, both the birth mother and the adoptive family can grieve. And I thought we would talk a little bit about that and what it looks like when they reach the final acceptance stage. So, a birth mother may encounter grief when she feels like her family and friends don’t support her adoption choice. I have been working with birth moms for almost 16 years, and I’m also the daughter of a birth mother.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And I will tell you that when my mother placed me for adoption, she wasn’t given any aftercare services and was never given an outlet to express her grief. And so, her grief stayed with her because she had no way to learn coping skills, have counseling, and be able to process what had happened. She was 16 years old and found out three weeks before she was pregnant. It was like a whirlwind for her. She couldn’t even comprehend that she had a baby because, as I had mentioned before, it was the knock them out, drag them out. She was asleep when I was born, so it was almost hard for her to conceptualize what happened.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Another instance will be if a birth mother struggles with her adoption choice after placing a baby for adoption. I do see this sometimes. That is why we developed the Aftercare Program. This is not uncommon. It’s something that we work with our birth mothers through and try to prepare them for, assist them with coping skills, and emphasize that this is possibly the most significant decision you’re ever going to make. We want to equip you with as much education and prepare you so that you can make the best choice for you for your child. And to ensure that afterward, you have the support structure you need. And when you struggle, you know how to handle it and where to go for help.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

When a birth mother feels the adoptive family she chose is not following through with their agreed-upon post-adoption communication agreement, this is a big deal because when you have a post-adoption communication agreement, we call them PACAs, something that a birth mother holds onto. It’s like an olive branch she then clings to because that is her link to her baby. And although she has recognized and accepted that she can’t parent her baby, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t still want to be involved in her child’s life; she doesn’t still want to watch her child grow up and have the child know her, even if it’s not in a mother figure role. So those are some things that can cause grief.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Other things that can cause grief are if a birth father disagrees with her adoption choice, causing problems in their relationship. I’ve seen other situations where a family has disowned a birth mother because of her adoption choice. When I see the opposite, I can’t tell you the joy it brings me when I see a woman come in with her mother, who is right there supporting her daughter. I commend her in front of her daughter because I see it so rarely that when I do, I always think that’s the mom I want to be. And hopefully, I am, but that’s the mom I want to be because no matter what happens, whether you agree with a choice that your adult child is making, supporting them and being there for them, I think, is essential.

Ron Reigns:

I believe you would be that type of mother had you been put in that circumstance.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Thank you.

Ron Reigns:

Yes. You’re fantastic with your kids. It’s neat watching.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Thank you. When an adoptive family is going through the adoption process, they may also be going through a grieving process. Sometimes it starts even before they come into our adoption program. They may have tried infertility treatments, and those may not have been successful. And when they come into an adoption program, if they haven’t resolved the infertility issues and they have grief regarding that, it can be challenging for an adoptive mom to go into a doctor’s appointment with a birth mother and see the baby and watch the ultrasound, and watch her going through the very process that she was unable to do. I’ve had a lot of adoptive moms that struggle with that.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And one thing that I recommend is that if you’ve had infertility issues and that route didn’t work out, it’s essential to work through your grief before coming into an adoption situation. Not only for your sake so that you can enjoy it, but for the sake of the birth mother because nobody wants to be somebody’s second choice. And so if you look at adoption as, “Well, IVF failed, so I guess adoptions are the only route.” Then it’s like a second choice, and I think a birth mother deserves to be somebody’s first choice. And the only way that you can get there is if you have reached the acceptance stage and you can learn to become excited about the journey that you’re about to embark on.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Also, adoptive families can grieve if they are in the stack of choices for a birth mother, and they are excited; they feel a connection when they read about her and are not chosen. That’s hard. It’s devastating when a birth mother changes her mind, disrupting an adoptive match between her and the adoptive family. I’ve said before that it’s not only devastating for the adoptive family but also devastating for us as an agency because we’re in this to build families and help women that have unplanned pregnancies and can’t parent. And it’s tough when an adoptive family feels like a birth mother is not following through with their agreed-upon post communication agreement. Some adoptive families get very attached, and they love the birth mother. And they’re looking at the adoption as they’re adopting this baby, but the birth mother is still a part of their lives. And if she drifts away or kind of falls off the radar, it’s hard for them because they feel a loss.

Ron Reigns:

Right. And we’ve discussed this before, the mother’s kind of drifting away and the adoptive parents feeling betrayed. But the thing is, we all go through things in our lives, sometimes good, sometimes wrong, and you got to trust that it’s not about them or the child. She needs to come back around and get back in that place.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

She may need to heal. She may need to heal. She may need to find herself again and distance herself from the adoption process.

Ron Reigns:

Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Yes, absolutely. She may need to learn how to live again. I think that that is possibly challenging if you are still… It’s like trying to move on with your life. Like if you’re a mermaid, I’ll use a mermaid. You’re a mermaid, and you’ve been in the water your whole life, and you are done being a mermaid, but you can’t get your tail out of the water, so that may be a little bit of a stretch, but that is how a birth mother may feel. Do you know what I mean? If she needs some space. It’s a mermaid in the water.

Ron Reigns:

That was a fantastic analogy. I loved it.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Not one of my finest, but

Ron Reigns:

I hope everybody at home listens and says, “A mermaid, I like it.”

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

In my head, I’m thinking of The Little Mermaid. I’m thinking about how she grew feet. That’s what I was thinking.

Ron Reigns:

Very good.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Remember how would she came out, and she was able to.

Ron Reigns:

No, that was smart.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Yeah. All right. With these five stages of grief, not everybody goes through each stage in the same order. And these stages can be repeated, cycled through, and triggered again even after you’ve gone through them. So it’s not like you’re, “Okay, I’m on stage three.” It’s like, “I’m heading for home.” It’s not like that.

Ron Reigns:

And it’s not even like, “Okay, I’ve reached acceptance. I’m done with that.”

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

No, it’s like, “Why are you back here.”

Ron Reigns:

It could be like, “Okay, I’m back at the beginning again. What happened?”

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

As we experience grief brought on by anything from COVID-19 to an unfortunate occurrence in your adoption journey, it’s essential to be reminded that we all want the need and desire to reach the acceptance stage anytime somebody is faced with grief. Whether it’s you experiencing grief or somebody you love, we all want that person to be in the acceptance stage, but grieving hurts, and people can, and they do grieve differently. You can’t rush somebody through the grief process because it’s too painful to watch them.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

I had a close friend whose significant other was in a car accident. And he had to take some time away from the relationship afterward because of the guilt that was felt over the accident and seeing her in pain, so he could not watch her grieve and struggle through this. And it is hard when you love somebody to watch that. Feelings of loss or anxiety may never wholly go away, but when you reach the acceptance stage, you are retaking ownership of your life, you’re taking positive actions, and you’re beginning to find your joy. You do not have to remind yourself, “Okay, today, I need to get up, and I need to get out of bed, and I have to move a little bit, so I’m going to shower.” When you’re grieving, those things feel like climbing up Mount Everest. And as you reach the acceptance stage, there may be a morning where you wake up, and you’re in the shower, and then you realize, “Oh my gosh, wow. I’m here.” Do you know what I mean?

Ron Reigns:

“I made it.”

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Like, “I’m doing this. I’m open again.”

Ron Reigns:

“I didn’t have to think about the hurdle it was to get out of bed and get in the shower, I’m just in the shower. Look at that.” Yeah.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Right. One of the things in society is that we’re such a fast-paced society. We like fast food and want to do things as quickly as possible, and I’m one of them. I mean, I’m all about speed through. I mean, now that you can do virtual doctor’s offices, I’m all about it. You don’t have to go anywhere. Let’s do this; get it done. I don’t have to wait in the waiting room. Let’s go. But grief, you can’t rush. It comes in ways, and people don’t allow themselves, or sometimes their loved ones, enough time to process the loss. And reaching the acceptance stage is essential, vital, and the best for your mental health, but at the same time, cut yourself some slack.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And if you have a day that you have to stay in bed all day, it’s one day. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Know that this is the time that you’re taking for yourself, and who knows where your mind’s going to go in that day and who knows what you’re going to learn about yourself or how you’re going to change and become the person that you’ve always wanted to be by just taking that time out? I think acceptance is learning to live again and finding joy in the things you have found joy in before.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

When people cannot stay in the acceptance stage, they’re not finding joy in the things that used to make them so happy, and they used to look forward to, which adds to your grief. Before, if you loved watching your favorite TV show with a big bag of chips and a Dr. Pepper, and you’re sitting there, and you’re watching your show, and the Dr. Pepper’s flat and the chips don’t taste excellent, and it’s like, “What happened? What happened? I loved this. This was my thing.” And that’s where you can start to think, “Okay, I need to get back to good.”

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

There are coping strategies that can help somebody struggling with grief or somebody who’s watching a loved one struggle with grief. And when you do reach the acceptance stage, just know that that doesn’t mean that you’re good with the loss; you’re okay with it. It just means that you have come to the place where you can acknowledge it, and you can learn how to live your life with the grief that you will carry. When I lost my birth mother in 2016, I will say that the pain of the grief isn’t any less today than it was in 2016, but I’ve learned how to live with it. Even with that, have I reached the acceptance stage? I don’t know that I have. I have tried to reach it, but I think that I still go through the stages myself at times with triggers. Sometimes I used to call my mom on the way to work and going into the office. And so I will still, years later, find myself reaching for the phone as I get in the car to call her, and that will trigger, you know what I mean? Like, “Oh, awesome.”

Ron Reigns:

I do, and weirdly. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because of the death that we just recently had, the family friend that passed away, and I’ve thought I never even noticed it happening. But with my mom, when she passed away, the one thing that was hardest for me was I would see something on TV, whether it was the news or a movie that was something she enjoyed or whatever, and my immediate thought was, “I want to call mom, and I’m going to call mom. I’m going to talk to her about this. She’s going to love this.”

Ron Reigns:

And I always got that little, just for a split second, thinking, “Okay, I can call her anytime.” And I don’t know when it happened, but at some point in my life now, I have gotten to the point where instead of thinking, “Mom’s going to love this.” I think, “Mom would’ve loved this.” And I smile. I think maybe I’ve finally reached that point of acceptance. I don’t know when it happened or how. I just got to the point where I just have the good memories and not as much the pain.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Yeah, but it doesn’t take away your loss though.

Ron Reigns:

No, absolutely. And it is still stuff that I wish I could share with her.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Of course.

Ron Reigns:

But I don’t feel like that split second of, “Oh, I can share this.” It’s that gone.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

The gut punch. Yeah, when you realize. Yeah. I call it the gut punch, that moment where you realize…

Ron Reigns:

There is no more talking to her or whatever it is, right?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Oh, that’s not. I still talk to her. She just doesn’t talk back.

Ron Reigns:

Right, right. At least not out loud.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Suppose you had to force her. In my head, yeah. Yeah. No, but I get it. And I think it sounds like you’ve reached the acceptance stage. Some people can get there quicker, and for others, it can take longer. And I think there are lots of mitigating circumstances that impact how long it can take. The loss of my birth mother was also the first death I experienced with somebody very close to me. And so I had lost other people, but nobody that was that close, so it was just a new experience. And I had only had ten years with her, and so I think I was grieving over last time as well.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Whether we’re grieving over the coronavirus pandemic, an unfortunate adoption experience, or the death of a loved one, grief is still grief. The stages of grief are vital to learning how to live again and finding joy in life. When you’re going about your day, thinking about something that you’ve been pondering a lot in your head, and struggling with something, give yourself some time. Sometimes people say, “Well, just don’t think about it. Don’t think about it.” I would encourage you to think about it because I have found that the best way to deal with grief is to ride those waves like a surfer. They’re going to come in waves. There are times when it’s going to strike you, and then there are other times where maybe not so much.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

I can finally get to a place where I can tell her the jokes she used to say, and I can laugh along with everybody else, so that’s a good thing, as I said, because nobody can ever take away your feelings when you are grieving, and nobody should rush you as well. Hopefully, as a nation and an adoption agency, the coronavirus pandemic and the unfortunate adoption experiences that some people have to endure will listen.

Ron Reigns:

Thank you for joining us on Birth Mother Matters in Adoption. Suppose you’re listening and dealing with an unplanned pregnancy and want more information about adoption. In that case, Building Arizona Families is a local Arizona adoption agency and is available 24-7 by phone or text at (623) 695-4112. That’s (623) 695-4112. We can make an immediate appointment with you to start creating an Arizona adoption plan or just get you more information.

Ron Reigns:

You can also find more information about Building Arizona Families on their website at azpregnancyhelp.com. Thanks also to Grapes for allowing us to use their song, I Don’t Know, like our theme song. Birth Mother Matters in Adoption was written and produced by Kelly Rourke-Scarry and edited by me. Please rate and review this podcast wherever you’re listening to us. We’d appreciate it. We also now have a website at birthmothermatterspodcast.com. Tune in next time on Birth Mother Matters in Adoption for Kelly Rourke-Scarry. I’m Ron Reigns.

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