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Misunderstanding Surrounding Adoption

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 6:

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

Speaker 7:

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 creator of the ‘You Before Me’ campaign. I have a bachelor’s degree in family studies in 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 Raines. 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. Who’s an adoption attorney? I can combine these two great passions and share them on this podcast.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

One topic we have visited more than a few times, but I still feel it is relevant and needs to be addressed, is common misunderstandings surrounding adoption. And this is important because one of the podcast’s goals is to educate society and understand what’s true about adoption and what’s not. And other than you and I go over and reinforce what is actual versus what is a myth. We’re like the myth busters, and that was a great show, by the way.

Ron Reigns:

I love that show.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

I think that this is a way that we can get information out. And I know that I can remember facts the most easily when I can relate them to something else. And so, I thought we would intermix many of these facts with stories. What we can do is hope as people are listening and learning, they will be able to remember some of these because when you hear things they say, you have to hear something, read something. Then there must be more than one avenue or venue to internalize it.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And so we’re going to try and do that this way. So, as we’ve talked about, birth mothers love their babies, and a common misconception is, why would somebody be able to give away a baby and nobody is giving away a baby. When my mom placed me for adoption, she wasn’t giving me away.

Ron Reigns:

As we’ve said before, we like to use the word place. We’re lovingly placing those babies. And so often, I’ll go back to this again when talking to some of these birth mothers. So many of them say, “I gave up my baby. I gave my baby away”. They use that terminology all the time, but the fact is, they’re not giving that baby away. They’re placing it in a home. That’s able to care for the child more than they can in their current circumstances.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Because this is such a loving decision on their behalf, they must understand that they face fear factors. And then that immediately makes me think of the show fear factor, which was also great, that society may not realize. So there may be little support from friends or family and members. So when my mother had me, and she was pregnant, she found out three weeks before I was born. And only two of her sisters knew, and her mother knew I was coming. Maybe one of her older brothers has passed, but I’m not sure. And when I was born, and she was in the hospital, and then she came back home, I wasn’t spoken of for years and years and years. So there were a lot of family members that had no idea that I existed. And so there wasn’t somebody she could talk to and confide in about her feelings or anything.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

So she had no support. Drug use and homelessness are principal reasons for adoption. In my mother’s case, that wasn’t the reason. It was the fact that she had just turned 16 when I was born. And my mother was the third youngest of nine. My biological grandmother was a single mom then, and she didn’t want or want to raise another baby. And that’s understandable. She was working all the time. It wasn’t feasible. And on top of it, they knew less than three weeks before I was born.

Ron Reigns:

Wow. Do you think that has changed over the years? I mean, I’m sure even back then, you were somewhat of an outlier kind of case because your birth mother was so much younger, and by and large, the birth mothers that you see and that I see coming through are in their mid-twenties and older. And it is more like the prevalence of drugs is higher nowadays, or at least in your case. Obviously. Do you think that has been a societal change? And do you think that with the more open adoptions, there’s a little more support for the birth mothers? Or am I wrong about that? I mean, is it still?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

No, no. You’re not wrong. I think I was more of an outlier-ish type case because even today, less than 1% of teenagers choose adoption. I don’t know that if my mother had made the sole decision that she would’ve chosen adoption, this was more of my grandmother’s decision. And during this timeframe, in the seventies, many women in the middle to upper class were sent away when they were pregnant. They would go to those maternity homes to have the baby’s place, the baby, and then come back, and nobody would ever know that they had a baby and placed a baby. And that’s what happened with these teenagers. My mother hid it and said she didn’t know, but, at that time, they were wearing a lot of those like smock dresses and

Ron Reigns:

That kind of hide the pregnancy a little bit. Certainly.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

She said that she just didn’t know, which I teased her about before she passed away a lot that she didn’t know.

Ron Reigns:

Sure, ma. Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

So I think that it is very different. I think today we see a lot of women in their twenties and thirties, and some, even in their forties. And we do see some teenagers, but that’s not what we see. I would say less than 10% of what we see in drug use and homelessness. Yes, those are very prevalent. Now, you’ll see homelessness much more 18 and up because 16-year-olds are still primarily residing with their family members. So yes, you are correct. Drug use, I think now I think one, it is more, in my opinion, it is more prevalent in that there are more types of drugs that people are abusing; they are affecting all levels of society. Growing up, if you hear somebody was on drugs, it was like, whoa, oh, my gosh. And back in that day, you’d think, oh, they’re on drugs. Do they have HIV? That was big.

Ron Reigns:

Again like this, there are a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings about what drugs do. I think many of us have never been in that world or done many of those things.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

I find that interesting too because I am vanilla. I am much more on the side. I went to college, and I went to ASU, which was considered the third biggest party school in the country at the time. And it’s funny because I never even went to a college party, and I was straight. And so when I’m listening to our clients, talk to me about drug use and how it makes them feel. There is a barrier in some aspects because I can’t relate. I don’t know what it feels like for a birth mother when they say they’re chasing that first high. In theory, you can read about it and all that, but unless you have experienced it, just like unless you’ve experienced placing a baby for adoption, you don’t know the emotions, the angst, the heartache that they do go through when they’re going through their stages of grief.

Ron Reigns:

In a way, you can empathize, but you can’t sympathize. You haven’t walked in those shoes. So you can academically look at it and go, I understand this, but it’s hard to understand it unless you’ve been there genuinely.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

One story that is kind of funny is when I was going through my master’s degree. One of the requirements was that you attend two AA meetings, and I remember thinking, oh, wow, okay. Well, I’m working at the time, and I’m thinking, I wonder if anybody I know that I’m working with is going to be at the AA meetings, and they’re going to wonder why I’m there. And obviously, I can’t say I’m here for a research project because you want to blend in. And so I remember walking in and sitting down, and, of course, it was pretty full. I mean, there were many people there, and I was young. Probably 25 maybe, and I’m sitting there, and I hadn’t researched a lot about the AA meetings, so I’m going through it, and I’m listening.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And the gentleman next to me reeks of alcohol. And so then I think I’m in the AA meeting. I’m not in the NA meeting or co al-anon meeting. And so we go through the meeting, and afterward, I snuck out the back door because I didn’t after everybody held hands and did the whole chant and everything. I mean, I didn’t know what to expect for a firstcomer. I probably should have researched a little bit more going in. So I knew what the whole process was. I remember returning to my teacher and saying so; the gentleman beside me was not sober. And she said, “no, honey, you just have to have the desire to be sober.” Well, I thought, oh, that makes sense. Of course. So you go to the AA meetings. Okay. Got it, got it. Got it. So I had to go to the second one and again, I’m thinking, so if I see somebody I know, do I go up and say hi? Do I like it, what do you you know what I mean?

Ron Reigns:

How do you handle that situation?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Right. I mean, are they going to judge me because birth mothers are afraid of being judged. I’m thinking, are they going to judge me? They’re going to be like, oh, she’s an alcoholic. But I can’t wear a shirt that says I’m here because of class, so I went to the second one, which was different a little bit. I mean, it was the same group but different people. And it was hard to relate because I wasn’t an alcoholic. And I’m watching all these people chanting, telling their stories, and supporting each other. And I think that it was a compelling experience for them, but because I wasn’t in their canoe-

Ron Reigns:

-You weren’t feeling that power.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

-No, I wasn’t. And so I think that is one of the reasons that birth mothers who I’ve talked to have said, “I want to talk to another birth mom,” which is why we have the aftercare program because unless you’ve walked in my shoes, you’re not going to understand.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

So me standing in that AA meeting was awkward and uncomfortable, and it was something that I hope to God I never have to attend again because it was not something that… It wasn’t in my comfort zone whatsoever. So birth mothers are terrified of being judged for their adoption choice. When they are around friends, the friends are like, Hey, let’s throw a baby shower. It’s tough to explain; I’m not keeping the baby. And I’ve had birth mothers that still had a baby shower. And then, they gave all the items and gifts to their adoptive family. But that’s hard, too. And so I think that if we can eliminate that fear of judgment, I think more women would choose adoption over abortion because when women go and have an abortion, I would say the vast majority are not posting on Facebook—hey, going to have my abortion today. Do you know what I mean? This is the baby. This is an ultrasound. They’re not celebrating this, and-

Ron Reigns:

-They’re not putting it out there. Right? Like, Hey, everybody, check it out.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And one of our goals is obviously to promote adoption over abortion. And that being said, I think that if we continued to normalize and make adoption less stigmatized and stereotyped, we would have an increase in adoptions. When a birth mother goes through her adoption journey, it is not all sunshine, rainbows, or roses. It’s not. There are parts of the adoption journey that are difficult. And it’s almost like if you’re traveling on the adoption road and some hills going through it, I don’t know that the general public would know what those hills would look like. It can be anything from attending an OBGYN appointment because when you go to one, they start talking to you about your baby and how excited you are, and let’s measure the baby, listen to the heartbeat.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And sometimes, the birth mothers have not disclosed this to the doctor yet. Hey, I’m placing my baby for adoption. And again, the fear of that judgment, they want to be accepted just like all of us do, and they don’t want to be looked at differently. So, explaining their adoption choice, whether it’s to an OBGYN nurse, a doctor, or a friend who wants to throw them a baby shower, can be challenging. Another time is when they have been given adoption profile books, and they’re seeing the faces of real people; even though they’ve signed preliminary paperwork to work with the agency, seeing the faces of real people that may become the adoptive parents to your baby is really like being in the dark and turning the light on all of a sudden.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

It’s that shock value of jumping in a cold pool, and some birth mothers struggle, some cry, some who are very grounded in their adoption choice and have maybe done this before or have prepped themselves take a long time and go through the books and scrutinize. Moms struggling or becoming very emotional will often go through them very fast and choose.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

It is making an adoption plan. Just going back to the beginning of their adoption journey and saying, “okay, I’m here at the intake, and I’m choosing adoption,” and learning about adoption and asking those preliminary questions. That’s hard; that’s hard. Before they have the baby and go to the hospital, when they are reviewing the adoption paperwork that they’re going to sign after the baby’s born, that also is like seeing, okay, so this is the language that’s in the adoption, and this is what it’s going to look like when the time comes in some aspects. I think it’s fantastic that they see it ahead of time. So they’re not reading it for the first time in those moments when it’s time to sign the final paperwork. But it’s also it’s hard.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

It’s like dipping your foot in a freezing pool before jumping in; it would be 1/10th or 1/1000th of what they’re going to feel—the birth of their baby which is one of the most exciting times in their life. But at the same time, one of the hardest because when a mom is carrying a baby, they’re one, and then when the baby’s born, they become two, and women who parent after the birth of their baby sometimes still struggle, with the postpartum depression, because they’re no longer physically attached to their baby. And so a mother placing her baby for adoption may have that tenfold or 20 fold or 30 fold because again, she’s being physically separated from her baby.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And then again, physically leaving the hospital is always an emotional time. I shouldn’t say always; for many women, it is a tough time because even though that’s not the last time they may see their baby, that’s not the goodbye moment. It still is again that separation.

Ron Reigns:

And it feels genuine at that point. It’s very solidified because of what she’s going through.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

There’s more distance. And then, ultimately, saying goodbye is very difficult as well. I have seen many birth mothers that are our younger birth mothers that come into our agency have aged out of foster care, and they’re making an adoption choice because they don’t want their baby to have the same life. I can’t tell you how often I have seen a 19-year-old or 18-year-old come into our program. And she told me that I was in the foster care system, nobody adopted me, and I aged out, and my caseworker drove me to the shelter and handed me $50. And I got pregnant.

Ron Reigns:

I don’t want to pass that tradition on to me.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Yeah. That’s hard to hear and heartbreaking because you’re looking at her, and she’s so young. Again, she’s alone in the world. She doesn’t have anybody else. And so it’s tough. It’s challenging, and kudos to them because they’re breaking the cycle.

Ron Reigns:

I agree.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

I think that is amazing. Sometimes we have birth mothers who have been placed before and returned and placed again. And it is hard to watch because this isn’t something we would ever want somebody to have to experience once, much less twice. But we understand that it happens; unplanned pregnancies do happen. People who don’t understand adoption or what happens with birth moms will say things like, “wow, she’s coming on two adoptions.” And you look at them and think, okay, if you speak to a woman who has had an abortion, ask her how many she’s had.

Ron Reigns:

That is a good point. Absolutely.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And you might be shocked at the answer. We’ve had women on our show that have had seven or eight abortions. And I think that, again, we are not aware of how much or how many abortions are occurring, yet we’re going to focus on a woman placing two babies for adoption. So you just have to look at the context and understand what is going on rather than turning a blind eye and focusing on another.

Ron Reigns:

Right. And we need to change that societally too, to where people, again, celebrate this decision instead of looking down on it. And I think most people do, but sometimes that initial reaction of, oh my gosh, this is your second, third baby that you’re placing. And just maybe even that surprise is kind of hurtful to the birth mother. That’s going through it, and I think we need to change. We need to educate.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Very much so. We had a birth mother that came back to us, and she said, “I almost didn’t come back to your agency because I was so embarrassed that I had already placed a baby,” and I thought, first of all, don’t ever be embarrassed because you’re making an attractive choice. And second of all, things happen, and we’re not here to judge. We’re here to help. I was grateful that she chose us to come back to. So some bittersweet moments are challenging but also unique. Some of those would include the ultrasound. So some birth moms hate going to ultrasounds because it’s too hard. They don’t want to see the baby. They want to distance themselves. And other birth moms want to see the baby, and it’s hard. And it’s exciting because when birth mothers have an ultrasound, they often give you the pictures. They’ll give you the pictures of the baby-

Ron Reigns:

-The strip of Right, right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Yeah. And sometimes, we’ll have birth mothers who immediately hand it over to the caseworker. And then we have other birth mothers that will sit there and hold the picture and say, “I want to keep this.” And obviously, they can do what they want to. And then, we have other birth mothers who will take pictures and hand them to the caseworker. So it’s just interesting to see how it is.

Ron Reigns:

All the different reactions to it. And it makes sense because, in one way, it does make it real. You’re looking at a picture of a human life growing inside you. That becomes concrete right at that point. And it’s also that is a human life inside me. That’s a joyous thing. Whether I’m placing my baby or not. I’m sure you get the complete gamut of reactions to these pictures.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

You do. And I have to say, especially the early ultrasounds. When I had four biological children and I had ultrasounds, I remember the ultrasound tech was so excited and pointing out everything, and then she handed it to me, and I thought, no, what is What? Do you know what I mean? I’m not seeing what you’re seeing. I’m grateful that’s my baby, but I’m not seeing.

Ron Reigns:

I don’t see him waving in there at me, or yeah. I mean, that’s interesting because that’s how I felt when we got my son’s ultrasounds because it’s not an actual photograph. It’s hard to make out those details, and somebody’s telling you that that’s his finger sticking up and things like that. And I’m like where, okay, I

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Yeah. And then you kind of go along with it. You’re like, oh yeah. Thinking I have no idea.

Ron Reigns:

And they probably do see that because they’re doctors, techs, and they see this daily. So they learn to spot those things. But looking at it, it’s like looking at a Picasso going, is that an ear? Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Yeah. I still look at them, and I mean, some of them I’ve learned now early on I can spot the fetal pole and the sack and all that. I can do that and then the gummy bear stage and some of it; I just look at it and think.

Ron Reigns:

Yeah, it’s all greek to me. Right. Yeah.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

That is an excellent way to say it. Feeling their baby move. This is a hard one because, speaking from experience, it is like, you know your baby’s okay when you feel your baby move. Sometimes 45 minutes would go by when I was pregnant, and I think the baby hasn’t moved. So you start kind of like touching your stomach, like-

Ron Reigns:

-Is everything okay?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Good, right? You’re good. You’re good. You’re good. And so I think that when they feel the baby move, it’s a constant reminder that the baby’s saying, “Hey, I’m here, I’m here.” And I think that there’s probably some guilt, and it’s bittersweet because these birth mothers want their babies to be okay. When a medical concern or medical scare or something happens to the baby, when they’re carrying the baby, they are devastated, devastated as if they were parenting or going to parent the baby.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And so, they love their babies just as much as a woman who is planning on parenting their baby. So there are a lot of mixed emotions. Attending adoption counseling is another point where it is beneficial, but it’s also hard because it’s like, when you have a wound. When my daughter was in cheerleading, they were running laps around the football field. And I know one of the girls was playing and pushed her shoulder. My daughter is little. So she flew into the rocks and had this tiny black rock debris on her knee. And she came home, and she was crying. And she was probably 15 or 16, and I remember looking at it, and I thought, oh, that’s all going to have to come out. And I called one of my best friends, a nurse, to come over and help.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Because I started to get a little queasy because, I mean, there was a lot, and I knew it was going to hurt because I knew they all had to come out all the little rocks and debris. And I kept thinking, I can’t inflict that pain on her. I know it has to be done. I want to be the one to hold her hand and tell her it’s going to be okay. And so my nurse friend, thank you, Beth came over and cleaned it all out for her. And we got through it, and she was able to heal and move on, and that’s what counseling does. It goes there and hurts for a little while, but then it helps you heal.

Ron Reigns:

You got to dig these rocks out.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

When we have our post-placement counseling sessions, it’s exciting to watch the women will come together. We usually have a topic that we’re going to address, and we’ll start with the topic, and they’ll share. And then inevitably, one of them pulls out their phone because they all have their phones with them and is showing the girl next to her a picture of her baby that she placed. Well, then she’s whipping out her phone, and now phones are being passed all around, and it’s okay because that’s the direction they wanted to go. And so we’re following the direction. It’s for them. There’s so much joy in watching their baby grow up, how happy they are, and how well their baby’s doing. But at the same time that they’re not the ones there to [crosstalk 00:29:09].

Ron Reigns:

They’re growing up in another home with another family. Now there is that relationship between the birth mother and the adoptive family, but it’s different than your child growing up in your own home.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Right. And yet, in looking at all of these downers that we’ve been talking about and all these challenging moments, that’s why I’ve always talked about birth moms as being heroes and how we need to appreciate their sacrifice and their selfless choice because they are creating families for many people who couldn’t have the family that they’ve dreamed of happen. And as society chooses to celebrate adoption as a choice for unplanned pregnancies, this is a positive way for you to show support. Understanding that adoption truths allow facts to surface is vital because facts are what we really should be basing our emotions on and our feelings and not making judgments until we have the facts. It will also help us dissolve our myths. It takes a village to raise a child, but it takes a nation to support adoption.

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 building. In that case, Arizona families is a local Arizona adoption agency 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 get you more information. You can also find more information about building Arizona families on their website at azpregnancyhelp.com. Thanks to Grapes for allowing us to use their song ‘I don’t know’ as 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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