The Lessons Learned From Our Adoption Loss

I’m trying to find sense in all that we have been through in the past week. It has not been easy. I have struggled, I’ve been sad and I’ve been angry but slowly as my emotions have started to settle, I’m starting to find some sense in the haze of the grief, sadness and crushing disappointments we have experienced.

Mostly, I’m realizing that there have been some valuable lesson’s learned in the past week.

The Value Of The 60 Day Consent Period:

The South African Child Act is not well written, there are many grey area’s and loop holes which leaves it’s interpretation & implementation wide open. One of the grey area’s in the act states that the child placed for adoption should go into a place of safety for the 60 days. It does, however, not state that the  potential adoptive parents cannot be the child’s place of safety. It is for this reason that some social workers choose to place children in kangaroo care for the period of the 60 days, while others choose to place the child directly with his/her intended adoptive parents. There are pro’s and con’s to both. Having your baby immediately means that you can start the bonding process straight away and there is less confusion for the child as they are not past from one set of caregivers to another. Being present at Ava’s birth was a huge part of my bonding experience with her. It is the reason, in my opinion, why I felt such an immediate and intense connection with her, while other adoptive parents often feel that connection grow over time as they weren’t there during such a defining moment in their child’s life.

It’s also risky because it means that at any time during the 60 days the birth parents can retract consent and the adoptive parents have no legal recourse but to return the child to his/her parents.

My feelings about the 60 days placement have always been ambiguous, until now. I can never place my heart on the line like that ever again, even more so, I can never put Ava at such risk for hurt like that ever again.

While Baby K’s placement with us was fully legal and we received a freeing order from the courts to take him from his place of safety and to return home to Jozi immediately, coping with the fallout after consent was retracted was painful, especially because we already have a child to consider and I’m not sure I’d be willing to put myself or my family through that again.

Ava will make an amazing big sister:

From the second we walked through the door carrying baby K, she was completely taken with him. The look on her precious little face was priceless. She could not believe that this was her little brother. As soon as he was out of the baby carrier, she went to fetch all her toys for him to play with, talking animatedly to him and explaining how each of the toys worked. She kissed his chubby cheeks constantly, stroked his hair and kept commenting on how cute he was and how much she loved him. She stroked his face, made him laugh with her circus Charlie antics, she held him and she loved him for the short time that he was with us. She wanted him to bath with her and when I said I was going to change his nappy, she ran to fetch one of her night time nappies for him to wear. I was touched but the unconditional and pure love she showed towards him from the moment he arrived with us.

And I was confused when he left. She kept asking where we were taking her baby brother and the following morning she wanted to know where he was. It broke my heart. I’m not sure what has been the worst part of this experience, loosing Baby K or exposing Ava to the situation and seeing her confusion when it ended so abruptly and quickly.

Walter & I are an amazing match:

While I’m all emotion and determination, he is the voice of reason and together that makes us the perfect match. While my determination is often what gets us what we want, it’s Walter’s reasoning that keeps us out of trouble. When things started falling apart this week and there were other big decisions to be made surrounding a potential placement of a another baby, he was the one who was able to reign me in and get me to see reason.

We have also together made a decision that going forward, our SW’s will need to make THE CALL to him and not to me, I forget all reason and get swept up too quickly in the emotion of the situation while he is capable of being reasonable and finding out all the facts and making an informed decision for us both.

We want an ethical adoption:

This is a fact we’ve known since before Ava’s placement and it was reaffirmed for us again this week. Neither of us wants to enter into an adoption agreement where the birth parents have been coerced or are acting against their will. We do not want to keep a child from their natural parents, no matter what we stand to loose. When we got the call stating that Baby K’s birth mother wanted him back, neither of us thought for one second about trying to fight it, our immediate reaction was to prepare to return him. I cannot, on good conscience, raise a child knowing that I’d fought against their birth parents to take them. I cannot bare the thought of raising a child that way and knowing that one day they may well find out that I was the reason they were not raised by their birth parents.

We want another adoption like we had with Ava’s birth mother. One that is based on mutual love and respect and one where we can be confident that the birth parents are acting in what they feel is the best interests of their child and NOT because they feel forced or pressured to place their child.

We want a loving adoption triad. Ava’s placement was all about love. Her birth mother made her choice and her only motivator was love for her unborn child, we loved her and she loved us, our adoption was love and not one of regret, coercion or fighting, I want that again.  And while I know every adoption experience is different and I don’t expect to experience the same the second time around, the fundamentals need to be the same.

There are so many blog postings bumping around in my head after this past week and slowly as I start to find sense in it all, I’ll be blogging about our experience. But for now, while this week has been horrible and one I never wish to repeat, I have to admit that there have been many valuable lessons learned too.


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  • Reply CalT

    You show so much maturity and unselfishness in such an awful situation. I pray that as your heart heals you will once again be blessed with an adoption that was like Ava’s. Sending lots of love and prayers your way. xxx

    August 26, 2012 at 8:38 am
  • Reply Sally-Jane

    I am so sorry it did not work out. This is such a brave honest post but one that finds the good too. Sharing your story will help others

    August 26, 2012 at 8:50 am
  • Reply Tracy

    You are a remarkable human being to find so many positive lessons from an awful experience.

    I didn’t realise there were ambiguities about where a child is placed for the 60 days. I’ve only known the sws who place the baby in emergency care for that time – not with potential adoptive parents . I agree with you that a placement after the 60 days would be the best choice next time for your sakes and Ava’s. It is one thing to knowingly take the risk of consent being withdrawn as adults but quite another when there is already a child involved.

    Sending you love and light.

    August 26, 2012 at 9:04 am
  • Reply Jeanette

    So sorry that you went through this… and that Ava had to experience this loss 🙁

    August 26, 2012 at 9:37 am
  • Reply Andrea

    To write so honestly and openly after so few days shows what an incredible person you are! Your hubby and precious daughter are fortunate to have you in their lives. Wishing you strength and courage through tough times x

    August 26, 2012 at 9:40 am
  • Reply Wynette

    Beautiful post and I fully agree with your view on birthmom. As sore as it is if she is not ready to realease hes not really an adoptable child – a bit like some of the american adoptive stories we have blogged about in the past. I wanted to meet our birht mom and asked her directly if she was sure – I needed this peace. We adopted at 90 days and I bonded the very minute she placed him in my arms.

    I do have a sense your child is coming – this is not the end just a part of your story.

    August 26, 2012 at 10:41 am
  • Reply Katherine

    I would imagine that adopting from birth is ideal when you have a situation like with Ava. We have friends that have adopted twice, their little girl they took home at 7 months(but knew her from birth at the baby home my friend volunteered at) and their son they fetched at 4 months. I am glad you had the experience you did with Ava but agree that waiting till the 60 days is over would be a better option now that Ava is involved. I know that a loss is a loss no matter when it happens but mostly for Ava’s sake I’m glad the withdrawal of consent happened quite soon. Such a tough situation to go through made all the more difficult by having another child to consider.

    August 26, 2012 at 4:48 pm
  • Reply Mrs FF

    Sending you, Walter and Ava lots of love, understanding, wisdom and hugs as you go through this difficult time.

    I pray that all things work together for the good of your family even though it might be difficult to see things from that perspective right now. Believe that there is a silver lining in “your” grey sky


    August 26, 2012 at 4:50 pm
  • Reply Robyn

    Through all the hurt that you have been through in the last few days, the thing that really stands out for me is what a precious, beautiful little person you are raising. You are truly doing a remarkable job, and another baby will be blessed to come into your home. Stay strong Shari. Sending much love.

    August 26, 2012 at 6:26 pm
  • Reply Wilna

    Dearest Walter, Sharon and precious Ava

    Know that I am thinking of you all the time. I love you for who you are. Lots of love. W

    August 26, 2012 at 10:05 pm
  • Reply cat@jugglingact

    I just love how you set this all out – I still have no words that can console, but I do know once again that you are the very best any child could get.

    August 27, 2012 at 1:48 pm
  • Reply Julia

    “Neither of us wants to enter into an adoption agreement where the birth parents have been coerced or are acting against their will. We do not want to keep a child from their natural parents, no matter what we stand to loose”.

    This says EVERYTHING to me about you and Walter. So much integrity. So much class. So much love.

    I wish you all the very best while you heal from this. Know that I am thinking about you a lot.

    ps..I am curious about your SW’s take on the events that transpired. Would love if (when you are ready) you could share that.

    August 27, 2012 at 8:21 pm
  • Reply Lisa-Marie

    Shaz – after our 2 chats, I am relieved to hear that you have put some of that noise in your head to rest. I know that you already know how to proceed from here.
    I’ll be thinking of you on Friday.

    August 28, 2012 at 2:15 pm
  • Reply Sharon

    I’m so sorry you (collective) had to go through all this. I have no doubt that the decision to let your baby be adopted is a HUGE decision for the BM. But honestly, I want to give that mom a real proper “snot klap” for retracting consent. She is toying with an innocent life and depriving him of the opportunity to bond properly, never mind the trauma she put your family through. I really hope that you get another call soon and that this time the 60 days has passed and you can go and collect your precious bundle. Huge hugs and loves

    August 28, 2012 at 8:03 pm
  • Reply Pandora

    Sharon, I was devastated to read about this on twitter last week, as I had not been online while on holiday. I am so sorry you all had to go through this.

    As you know, we only heard about our daughter when she was 2 months old, and the BM had signed the consent. So from the beginning, she was ours. I cannot describe the relief at not having the 60 day wait hanging over our heads. I know the stress and anguish others, including you, have gone through during that time.

    Although we have not decided whether to adopt again or not, your experience here has made me think. So now, knowing how fast we both fell in love with our daughter, and how fast even my in-laws fell in love with her, if we were to adopt again, I would choose to wait until the 60 days are up before we brought a baby home. Before, I thought it would depend on the situation, now it would be the only option.
    I could deal with the devastation if consent was withdrawn for myself (with difficulty obviously) but I would also be putting 4 other hearts on the line, and I don’t think I could do that, or deal with the fall-out if things went wrong.
    There are no guarantees in life, and not evey situation ends well, but if we can possibly try to minimize the damage that could occur, that would be my choice. Of course others may choose differently, I am not saying mine would be the only choice, just the only choice for me.

    So I totally understand the lessons you learned and the changes you are making in the process.

    August 29, 2012 at 9:20 pm
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