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 the issues of adoption from every angle of the adoption triad.

Deborah:
Do what’s best for your kid and for 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 will 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:
My name is Kelly Rourke-Scarry. I am the executive director, president, and co-founder of Building Arizona Families Adoption Agency, the Donna K. Evans Foundation and 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.

Kelly Rourke:
I was adopted at the age of 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 who’s an adoption attorney, and I’m able to combine these two great passions and share them on this podcast.

Kelly Rourke:
Good afternoon or good morning whenever you are listening to this. Today we’re going to be discussing the lives of birth mothers, what they really look like, why it’s important to understand where they’re coming from, why these women are choosing adoption, and what adoption really means to birth mothers.

Kelly Rourke:
This is a topic that I am very passionate about. When I talk about the life of a birth mother, I get to incorporate the life of my own birth mother. I think this is a platform that I get to share personal experience. And when we lost my birth mother at the age of 59, and my husband promised her that her life’s meaning wasn’t over. And this was just the beginning, this is an opportunity to make good on those words. And working with birth mothers over the past 15 years, I can say that they are all different.

Kelly Rourke:
Every birth mother is special, unique, very much like a snowflake. They all have different reasons. They come, they have different life stories. Nobody’s adoption walk or journey is the same as another woman’s. There are commonalities among birth mothers and we will discuss some of those commonalities, but I really want to emphasize that every single human that walks into our agency with the choice of adoption is different.

Ron Reigns:
They’re all individuals.

Kelly Rourke:
They’re all individuals.

Ron Reigns:
There’s no two that are exactly alike ever.

Kelly Rourke:
Absolutely.

Ron Reigns:
Even twins.

Kelly Rourke:
They all have their own fingerprint, and that’s what we need to remember. When we stereotype or group them together as a whole, it takes away from their individuality, and I think we need to celebrate that aspect.

Kelly Rourke:
Some of the commonalities among birth mothers that we see as an agency are the lack of financial stability, and that’s a big factor when a woman is facing an unplanned pregnancy and is making an adoption choice.

Kelly Rourke:
Some of the women are homeless, and we’ve had women who come into our agency who have been sleeping in the park. They’ve been sleeping behind a air conditioning unit or in the alcove of an apartment complex stairs. Other reasons for choosing adoption rather than parenting are domestic violence. Some of them are involved with Child Protective Services. In Arizona, we now refer to Child Protective Services as the Department of Child Safety.

Kelly Rourke:
And they are choosing to place their baby in a home with a loving adoptive family rather than into the foster care system. Other reasons for choosing adoption would include the inability to parent the way that they want their child parented, drug use.

Ron Reigns:
That’s a huge factor.

Kelly Rourke:
It’s a huge factor.

Ron Reigns:
Drug abuse and addiction and yeah.

Kelly Rourke:
Those are tough ones.

Ron Reigns:
Yeah.

Kelly Rourke:
And they want to break the negative cycle that they’re experiencing in their own lives by placing their daughter or son with a family that can provide the lifestyle that they want to choose for their child. And again, we’ve talked over and over again what a selfless choice that is because that’s not an easy choice on a biological mother.

Ron Reigns:
But I think in the long-term as they watch that child, especially if it’s a semi-open or open adoption, as they watch that child achieve and grow, I think they look back on that decision with pride, and I would hope with just a wonderful feeling.

Kelly Rourke:
Absolutely. And in a semi-open or open adoption that gives them that reassurance of the amazing choice that they made.

Ron Reigns:
They get to see that progress. That’s fantastic.

Kelly Rourke:
The ages of birth mothers that come to our agency are between 13 and 45. The average age, if you were to take all of the ages of the birth mothers I would say are between 22 and 32.

Ron Reigns:
Okay. That’s average.

Kelly Rourke:
That’s average.

Ron Reigns:
That 10-year span. Okay.

Kelly Rourke:
Right. And again, we see them at any age between 13 and 45 but the majority range between 22 and 32. Some of the birth mothers that come to us have placed a baby for adoption prior. Some of them have had an abortion or multiple abortions prior to coming to the agency.

Kelly Rourke:
When we speak with those women that have had abortions, and it could be a singular abortion or multiple abortions, they often will state that they didn’t know about adoption resources and where to go and how to start the adoption process. And so that is something that we do address in other podcasts about the You Before Me Campaign.

Ron Reigns:
Right. And I’ve talked about this before, and I kind of think that’s where I was when I was young, and at the time she was my girlfriend, but my first wife had actually two abortions, and I didn’t search it out and we didn’t have the internet, but that’s not an excuse. It’s not right. I didn’t search out adoption, I didn’t even consider it. I knew that adoption existed, but I didn’t think that that was what you did when you’re 20 years old and facing this decision, the only choices that I thought were there in my mind were abortion or raising the child, which we weren’t prepared for. And so it’s heartbreaking to look back on now.

Kelly Rourke:
When you do look back on that now, do you mind sharing the difference in your thoughts then versus now? And I know you did that a little bit, but is it a loss?

Ron Reigns:
When I look back on it?

Kelly Rourke:
Is there somebody in your mind that’s missing? Like when you look at-

Ron Reigns:
Yes.

Kelly Rourke:
… the picture, is somebody missing?

Ron Reigns:
Yeah, I was talking about it just this morning, and it was weird in my mind because that’s always a baby. And I said that John could have had a little brother, but no, honestly John would have had an older brother to help guide him like an older brother does or an older sister, look out for him and take care of him. But I still in my head always think of it as younger than John because it had the potential, but it was never realized. And so yeah, I look back a lot about that. It’s affected my life.

Kelly Rourke:
And had-

Ron Reigns:
It’s not just a short-term thing.

Kelly Rourke:
Right. It wasn’t a short term thing.

Ron Reigns:
It was expedient at the time, but it’s not.

Kelly Rourke:
And had you had the information and the knowledge about adoption, even if the child had been a girl or a boy, and they hadn’t been raised together, they could have had a relationship later in life-

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly Rourke:
… like I do with my biological siblings-

Ron Reigns:
Certainly.

Kelly Rourke:
… and I reunited with them and have a relationship with them to this day. And so I think that’s really hard. And I think that you sharing your story is brave. And I think that you are helping not only our listeners who are hearing the story, but oftentimes birth fathers go unrecognized, and their value is not, it’s not given the importance and the attention that it deserves.

Ron Reigns:
Right. And we often hear about the woman’s choice, the woman. And I’m not degrading that at all, I think that both of the people involved as the birth parents are effected in the long-term. It’s not only the mother who’s affected, it’s not only the father, it’s both of them. And obviously, a life potential that’s not realized is affected.

Ron Reigns:
And yeah, I hope that what we’re doing now is getting the information out there about adoption to people who are in the situation. I just really want them to know there are three choices, and I think two of them are more proper than one. I’m not trying to push my views on anybody, but I truly think that this has affected me-

Kelly Rourke:
Well, I think because you’ve-

Ron Reigns:
… a lot.

Kelly Rourke:
… had the experience, I think that it is fair for you to be able to state your opinion-

Ron Reigns:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Thank you.

Kelly Rourke:
… because both of us, I think I can say believe that it’s a baby at conception, and that in essence makes you a birth father to that child. And so with you being open and willing to share your feelings, you are in essence reaching back your hand to other birth fathers who are faced with the predicament that you were in. You’re giving them the long-term feelings because right now they’re in short-term.

Ron Reigns:
Yeah. They’re like, “Okay, this is a quick fix,” but that’s not all it is. There’s more to it, and there are longer-term consequences to decisions.

Kelly Rourke:
And you are somebody who can speak from experience and that’s what’s so powerful and that’s why your voice is so important when we’re talking about adoption and abortion. I can’t look somebody in the face and say, “I can experience those feelings.” I can say that, “I have held my birth mother’s hand and have had her talk to me about what adoption was like for her. I have held other birth mothers’ hands and have walked with them through their adoption journey, and I’ve held birth mothers’ hands as they described what an abortion was like, and how hard it was on them.” But you are able to, as a birth father, describe the aftermath.

Ron Reigns:
I think it’s interesting to compare, for instance, your story. I think your birth mother through the years, especially when you got to know her and she got to see what you’ve become, I think she has good feelings about the decision she made.

Kelly Rourke:
I wish I could-

Ron Reigns:
Whereas, as I look back, I regret what we did and yeah, so-

Kelly Rourke:
It’s hard.

Ron Reigns:
It is very hard. But when you contrast the two long-term effects, I think it’s a drastic difference, and it’s important to look at.

Kelly Rourke:
I absolutely agree, and I do think it’s a drastic difference. And I want to state publicly that my birth mother, I don’t think really looked back during her lifetime at adoption as a positive experience as a whole.

Ron Reigns:
Really?

Kelly Rourke:
… aspects.

Ron Reigns:
Oh, okay.

Kelly Rourke:
… that she was very proud of. She was very proud of who I became and who I was and what I’ve done with my life. But because she had a closed adoption and she didn’t have aftercare services, she was never able to recover from the traumatic experience of never been able to see her baby. Never being able to say goodbye, not understanding where her baby went, who was raising her baby. Back in 1973, those were not options that were common.

Ron Reigns:
It was closed adoption and she didn’t get to, unfortunately, take advantage of the Donna K. Evans Foundation, and many of the other things that are available now.

Kelly Rourke:
Absolutely. She wasn’t provided with counseling; she wasn’t provided with a support system. In that day and age, women were sent away to homes to have babies and come back and she wasn’t sent away to a home to come back because again, there wasn’t knowledge that I existed until three weeks before I was born.

Kelly Rourke:
A funny story on that note is she was a 15-year-old that had me at 16. She was 15 when she was pregnant. The majority of her pregnancy was at-

Ron Reigns:
When she was 15 years old.

Kelly Rourke:
… at the age of 15.

Ron Reigns:
Correct.

Kelly Rourke:
And when they found out that she was pregnant with me, they had thought that I may be born on Christmas day.

Ron Reigns:
Oh.

Kelly Rourke:
And she told me years later, she said, “As proud as could be, had you been born on Christmas day, I was going to name you Jesus,” and I didn’t really know what to think when she said that. I think-

Ron Reigns:
I’m a little taken back.

Kelly Rourke:
… I only smiled.

Ron Reigns:
I could be doing a podcast with Jesus.

Kelly Rourke:
You could, yeah. And it’s no disrespect, it was-

Ron Reigns:
Heartfelt.

Kelly Rourke:
… in the mind… It was. It was definitely something that I found endearing.

Ron Reigns:
You lightened it up a little bit in here because I was getting a little misty. I’m doing better now. Thank you.

Kelly Rourke:
But again, and I’m not trying to preach anything. I think if you weren’t teared up or you weren’t misty about it, then I think that you wouldn’t really be honest with yourself. And you wouldn’t be honest with our listeners because that’s where you are. I think embracing it and being true to who you are and true to what you believe in, that’s where you have to be.

Ron Reigns:
Yeah. And I got to say, I thank you for this podcast because I’ve never been this open about that. I’ve just kept it in.

Kelly Rourke:
It gives you a forum, and I hope it gives you an opportunity to say, “Hey, I did something that I regret. Don’t do-”

Ron Reigns:
And hopefully, somebody will listen.

Kelly Rourke:
Right, “Listen to me, don’t walk the walk that I walked because this is where I am now.” And we’ve talked about Maya Angelou, she says, “Develop enough courage so that you can stand up for yourself, and then stand up for somebody else.” I think you’re doing that in sharing your story because you’re standing up for all the men that don’t have a voice on a podcast.

Ron Reigns:
Well, thank you.

Kelly Rourke:
And they get to hear you and hear your story. I think you should be proud of yourself because you have bravely stepped forward and owned something that you look back at as a mistake, and you’re able to share that.

Ron Reigns:
Well, thank you.

Kelly Rourke:
So I think that’s incredible. Because every birth mother who comes into our program is like a snowflake, I make sure I meet with each and every one of them. I want them to see that I am a real person just like them. They’re not a number when they come to our agency. I have a title in the agency that can be deemed by some as intimidating, and I want them to see that I am me, I’m not my title.

Ron Reigns:
You’re not the man.

Kelly Rourke:
No.

Ron Reigns:
As it is. Right, right, right.

Kelly Rourke:
Or the woman. No, I’m not. I’m just a girl that was the product of a domestic adoption and-

Ron Reigns:
And you’re the positive outcome that they need to see as, “Wow-”

Kelly Rourke:
Absolutely.

Ron Reigns:
“… this child can achieve.”

Kelly Rourke:
Exactly.

Ron Reigns:
Good.

Kelly Rourke:
And I explained that I very well may be sitting on the opposite side of the desk had I not been adopted, we don’t know. I want them to understand that adoption brings hope. I had a great childhood, I had a loving adoptive family and my experience was such that I want to reach out to other women that are being given the choice of adoption.

Kelly Rourke:
I also want every woman that comes into our agency to know that I do care about them, and I want to walk this journey with them. And I am somebody that they can call if they choose to. I still answer the Birth Mother line after 15 years. And I do that because I want to be the first person that talks to them when they are making that incredibly hard phone call and that just makes me real.

Deborah:
My name is Deborah, and I placed my son up for adoption in 2015, and it was with Building Arizona Families. They were amazing. The staff was friendly. They helped me a lot through the transition of going through all this, and I didn’t feel forced ever. They’ve always been beside me, not judgmental, and they helped me a lot because I was ready to turn around and go out the door.

Deborah:
I chose adoption because I was stressed out and wondering what I was going to do, what step I was going to take next because I was in a bad situation. At the time, my son was nine months. I was facing losing him or not being able to care for both the way they needed to be cared for, and I didn’t feel it was fair to take from my son who was already there and not think about how it was going to affect everyone.

Deborah:
If you step out of the box and look at it from an outsider’s view or people walking up and seeing your kids or you in a situation that you’re not ready for or that you’re just not capable of having at that point in time in your life. Just reach out and talk to somebody. Even just talking, coming in and talking to any of the staff here, whatever you’re needing at the time.

Deborah:
And then you have time to think about it if you aren’t really sure but do what’s best for your kid and for 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. What I like best about Building Arizona Families is I was able to relate with my case manager who she was just amazing, and I still love her to this day. That’s what I like best.

Ron Reigns:
Thank you for joining us on Birth Mother Matters in Adoption, written and produced by Kelly Rourke-Scarry and edited by Ron Reigns. We also want to thank Building Arizona Families, the Donna K. Evans Foundation, and the You Before Me Campaign. A special thanks goes out to Grapes for letting us use their song, I Don’t Know, as our theme song. You can check out our blogs on our website at azpregnancyhelp.com. For Kelly Rourke-Scarry, I’m Ron Reigns. We’ll see you then.

 

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