What better day to write about all the ways we love, remember, and honor Ava than Valentine’s Day?
We were sent home from the hospital with a memory box. I walked into our home, holding the box instead of our baby. I stood in the living room for a while trying to figure out how to decide where to put a memory box. Nowhere felt right. The hospital also gave us a plaster casting of Ava’s tiny little feet. Even though we didn’t choose these items or create them, they are very cherished. I knew at that point that we needed to keep Ava as close to us as possible – as present as possible, I wanted to know without a doubt that any future kids we have will know their older sister. Ava wouldn’t be something discovered like a deep dark secret after we pass.
The first week I spent at home, on bereavement leave instead of maternity leave, I decided I had to finish Ava’s painting. We had created a flip cup pour painting for our gender reveal and had planned to hang the painting in Ava’s room. I had been intending to put a border on it and her name, and maybe a cute quote. Even though we would never get to decorate Ava’s room, I spent a few days making tiny roses and painting them gold to “frame” her painting. I decided against painting her name or a quote over it because, again, nothing seemed right or good enough. We hung it up in our stairway along with our three favorite pictures of Ava. Seeing these every day has helped me because at times, especially in the early weeks, I would question if it really happened – If Ava really happened or if I had just imagined it. I know that sounds crazy, but when everyone else acts like nothing happened, it can feel like we had all pretended I was pregnant and then we just stopped. Ava happened. She is real, and she is an important part of our story.
For Ava’s due date, we are planning on planting a tree. I spent hours and hours looking up flowering trees because I wanted her tree to be as beautiful as possible. I also wanted to be absolutely sure I chose a tree that would be able to thrive in our climate. We agreed on a pink flowering dogwood – it is one of the first to bloom in the spring, has red berries in the summer, bright fall foliage, and pretty bark in the winter. I didn’t at any point take into account how difficult it would be to locate one of these trees this early in the year. We visited a garden center and were told that they just sold their last one and distributors won’t ship those until mid march to late April due to cold weather. Scared that I would fail at the only parenting thing left I can do for Ava, I found a wholesaler online and ordered one and emailed them begging to get it shipped as soon as possible. They responded with kindness, but stated they couldn’t ship until the shipping path is clear from colder weather. I don’t get to parent in the traditional sense; this is how I parent Ava, and it was beginning to look like I wouldn’t be able to get this right either. I called every garden center in the city and was finally able to track down a pink flowering dogwood. My husband and I were able to pay for it so that it would be on hold for us and ready to pick up March 8th. I cannot tell you how relieved I am that we will be able to plant her tree on March 8th.
November 30th every year, we will celebrate Ava’s Day by doing random acts of kindness. We plan on donating to select charities that had helped us in our darkest time so they can continue to help others. We want to pay off someone’s layaway Christmas gifts since we can’t get Ava Christmas presents. I’m excited to see what other things we can come up with to bring others joy on this day, and I would love to have as many friends and family as possible participate in Ava’s Day. Oh, and pie. We will be making Ava’s Day pie a thing.
Love lives on.