Is Ava Coping With Our Adoption Loss?

Today, a week ago, we’d just arrived in Cape Town and we were excitedly anticipating meeting our son the next day and dreaming about our lives as a family of four. I’m still trying to make sense of everything that has happened, a part of me is numb and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that my emotions have been all over the place in the last week. I’ve been angry, sad, confused but mostly I’ve been worried about the impact of last week’s events on Ava.

She was so excited when we told her she was getting a little brother, whom she was still convinced would be called Sister or Tristan (her cousin and her best friend’s names). I can’t get the image out of my head of Walter and I entering my parents house having just collected Baby K, she came cautiously round the corner holding my mom’s hand and the look of wonder and sheer delight on her little face when she say Baby K in the carrier will stay with me forever. She immediately started excitedly exclaiming that this was her baby brother and that he was so cute. She couldn’t wait for us to put the carrier down so she could get a better look at him, touch him and get to know him.

Ava & Kyle

I remember her running to her room in my parents house and fetching the basked of toys, collected over the last few years of visits to Cape Town. Of her unpacking every toy and showing it to him, shaking the baby rattles and pressing the buttons on the musical toys for him to see. She wanted him to bath with her that night and wanted to help change his nappie, even running and fetching one of her own night time nappies for him to wear. And all she wanted desperately to do was have a chance to hold him.

Ava Holding Kyle

But just a few hours later we were packing up his things and preparing to take him baby to our social worker. Ava was confused. She wanted to know where we were taking her baby brother and when he was coming back? She wanted to know why he couldn’t bath with her and why he was leaving.

It broke my heart to explain to her that he wasn’t her baby brother and that we were only looking after him for a little bit and he was going back to his mommy.

We had friends over for lunch on Sunday because I was desperate to get back to as normal a routine as possible as quickly as possible and Ava’s best friend, Tristan was there. It was a difficult lunch and I’m not sure if it was because she was sick or she was acting out her hurt, anger and confusion, but she spent most of the lunch pushing and smacking Tristan and at one point even scratching him in his face.

She has not mentioned one word about her baby brother since we left with Baby K but this evening, I was downloading the photo’s off my camera from last week and carelessly left the photo viewer open on my lap top and she was a photo of baby K. She immediately said that he was her baby, her baby brother and she wanted to know where he was.

I’m worried that the events of last week are having a bigger impact on her than we realize. Everyone tells me it was for such a short time that I should not worry about it, but it’s hard not to, just because she’s not saying anything or saying much about it, doesn’t mean it hasn’t had an effect on her, doesn’t mean she’s also not angry and confused by the turn of events.

I’m not sure if I’m overreacting but I can’t help wondering if perhaps a session with a play therapist, just for an assessment wouldn’t be a good idea? If they wouldn’t be able to tell us how affected she is by all of this, if at all, and give us some tools to help her cope with her feelings, should she be struggling.

This week has been tough. So very tough and I have a feeling we have a way to go before things return to normal.


  • Cath Jenkin

    August 28, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    Your mommy heart knows best, S. And I think if you believe enough that she needs some therapy, then do it. In the meantime, I’ll be holding a candle for all of you, and especially, Ava, that her baby brother will come soon. X

  • Shayne

    August 28, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    Take her to a playtherapist. You’re hurting, Walter’s hurting – she has to be too. The sooner you get an understanding of what she is going through/feeling, the sooner you can begin the journey to ease her hurt. Which in turn, may just help you and W to ease your hurt too. Much love x

  • Gwen

    August 28, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    Do take her. She’s at an age where trust and emotions are developing very fast and are very open to influence. She may well forget the physical details, but that doesn’t mean that she will necessarily forget “emotionally” – the sense of loss can remain even when the actual event is forgotten.

  • Tarryn

    August 28, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    My friend, I’m sorry to hear that Ava saw the photo of Baby K.
    Trust your gut & take her to a therapist if that’s what you think is necessary.
    I think these little people pick up so much & just because they can’t verbalise their feelings, certainly doesn’t mean the don’t feel!
    Thinking of you & sending you lots of love & strength x

  • Jan

    August 28, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    oh my friend such heartbreaking pictures. I think you must go with your mommy instinct and take- her-she definitely sounds hurt and confused to me.

  • Tracy

    August 28, 2012 at 11:47 pm

    You know what is best for Ava so if you feel she would benefit from play therapy, take her. I don’t know how much Ava understands about being adopted or what was said about adoption in terms of her baby brother but that may be an area of potential confusion for a therapist to explore with her. Wishing you all healing from the hurt.

  • Wynette

    August 29, 2012 at 7:29 am

    Sharon, as one I would defnitely encourage you to take her. As you blog and talk to get to grips with your feelings about many things, so children need their space to play in a way to process their emotions and in return understand them. It will not only benefit Ava but you will understand where your daughter is at, which will bond you even further.

  • CalT

    August 29, 2012 at 9:13 am

    I would say take her! It can do no harm. A few weeks back we took Josh to a psychologist for a few sessions as we were worried some of his behaviour may be because of subconscious rejection from the pregnancy and his first few weeks of life. Some people thought we were over-reacting but I would have hated for something to be wrong only for us to have left it. Thankfully she couldn’t pick up anything that could stem from rejection/abandonment but I am still glad we took him. Kids are so perceptive of what is going on and no doubt Ava is taking strain, unfortunately they just don’t know how to express it. This is just such a sad and hurtful situation and I am so sorry that you, Walter and Ava are going through this 🙁

  • Jenny

    August 29, 2012 at 10:27 am

    I know you all will be fine and Ava too as she is blessed to be in your family with a mom who cares and loves her so deeply. I just hope and pray that Baby K is safe and happy 🙁

  • Amanda Harrison

    August 29, 2012 at 10:49 am

    Gosh Sharon, it’s always harder with children. They don’t understand the adult world. Try and explain as simply as you can and she will eventually understand. My boys were very when my Sister lost her first baby. They were so excited when she was pregnant and really couldn’t understand what happened. Their hurt and pain was very difficult to deal with. Hope Ava will be ok.

  • Julia

    August 29, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    YES. Take her. I believe that she is hurting. Only difference is that she does not have the skills to express her hurt the way you and Walter can. It’s going to be OK. She will be OK. Hang in there.xx

  • Pandora

    August 29, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    It would be so easy to say ‘she is young, she will get over it’. Yes, she most probably will get over it, but there are 2 reasons why I agree with the other comments above.
    Firstly, having a young child myself, I am often astonished at the things she remembers or gets upset about long after the fact. Just when you think she has forgotten an incident, it will come up again. Just because they don’t yet know how to talk about something signifiant that happened, does not mean they forget.

    Secondly, I have recently seen first hand how unresolved childhood traumas can affect children much later on, especially in the volatile teenage years. If something had been done sooner, much of this could have been avoided. Of course I am talking about more than one incident happening over years, and these incidents wouldn’t even be seen as anything major, but to this child they are major, they have shaped her life so far, and she really is battling now.

    Realistically, we have no idea what other things our children will have to cope with over the years. So if by taking her to play therapy, you manage to equip Ava to better cope with stressful situations in the future, or help her to be able to verbalise her feelings, that can only be a positive thing.

  • Mash

    August 30, 2012 at 9:31 am

    When my dad died, nobody had the heart to tell my two year old niece, especially because of the circumstances. She also somehow seemed to sense that it wasn’t a good question to ask at the time, so we thought that she was too young to understand that he was gone. One whole year later, while my mother was reading her a story, she suddenly asked “Oma, where is Opa?”. She seemed to specifically be picking a safe time to ask the question. She also one day (before she asked the question) walked into my sister’s room, stood in front of a photo of him, and burst out crying. I did some research on it, and found some information that no matter how small a child is, it’s crucially important to tell them everything. They can deal with the truth (no matter how bad it is) better than they can deal with something going on that hasn’t been fully explained. Certainly a session with a play therapist or someone like that would be a great idea, and she could coach you in how to deal with it.

  • Gwen

    August 30, 2012 at 11:13 am

    Sharon, I just wanted to say something further on this. When we were very small (I was perhaps 3 or 4, and my sister 2 or even younger) my mother suffered some kind of pregnancy loss which ended in her having a hysterectomy. I don’t really recall exactly what we were told or what we overheard, but the memory that we took away from the event was that we had a brother who died. It’s never been discussed again, and I have no idea what the actual details were – I don’t know if it was an early or late miscarriage, a stillbirth or something different entirely. I don’t even know if the baby was in fact a boy or if our imaginations supplied this detail. The more I think about it, I’m can’t even say with certainty that there was actually a pregnancy, as opposed to some other gynaecological problem. And yet we grew up believing that we had lost a brother. I wouldn’t say that the experience marked me in any negative long term way. It’s not something that I feel any grief or sense of loss over. But I do think of it sometimes, even 35 years later. So does my sister, who was definitely younger than Ava at the time. These things are not necessarily forgotten by very young children, and if things aren’t discussed with them explicitly then they are quite capable of filling in the details from their own imaginations. Several months after my own daughter died, her half-brother (5 years old at the time) informed me that he had once had a sister (he didn’t seem to make the connection between her and me) but that she’d been eaten by wolves. Don’t let this become a horror story inside Ava’s head.


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