A couple of weeks ago, we introduced a new project we're working on here at Le Papier Studio, and we've been truly humbled by the response, kind words, and messages of encouragement we've received as we embark on honoring the memories of parents who have suffered the unimaginable tragedy of losing a child.
We're beyond honored to share the story of Avelyn as our first in this new series of blog features. Her mother, Somer, was gracious enough to share how her sweet daughter's life continues to inspire and encourage her, and we're forever grateful to be able to share it here with you.
We found out before Avelyn was born that she had severe congenital heart defects (CHD). Shortly thereafter, we picked up our lives & relocated nearly 6 hours from home to a city with a renowned children’s hospital to provide her a shot at life. We had every hope that with multiple open heart surgeries, we would see her grow into adulthood.
On December 17, 2015 she was pulled from my womb limp & gray, but still fought to announce her presence. Her soft wail was actually her battle cry. It was her asserting our fight for her survival, was now also her fight—& fight she would until her last breath 18 months later.
Our daughter endured horrors alongside miracles. She experienced nearly every complication in the book & some still not classified. Yet to know her & her spirit—you’d never imagine it. Even after 4.5 months of intubation & 4 open heart surgeries, she was the sweetest most affectionate soul. She inspired everyone around her to be better & do better.
She gave us strength to accomplish what we all believed impossible. We fought by her side day & night, not only to keep her alive, but to provide every bit of normalcy possible in her 450 consecutive days of hospitalization (much of which was spent within the ICU). When she woke, she knew her mama or daddy would be there to scoop her up.
I still dream of those street chubby hands reaching for me in expectation. She loved, trusted, & interacted with those around her just like any other infant. She made sure her daddy & I knew she loved us (something we cling to since we’ve lost her). She was the absolute light of our lives. Close to the end of her life she was doing better than she ever had, & better than most providers ever expected. I cannot describe the feeling of finally bringing our daughter home after 17 months of living the unimaginable (5+ hours from home). Feelings of joy & fear mingled indistinguishable from another. And yet we clung to our baby, rejoicing in her & all she had accomplished. Sadly just weeks later more complications arose & back to the hospital we traveled via emergency transport. She never saw the outside of hospital walls again after that admission.
Coming home without the light that was our daughter wrecked us. We couldn’t function without her & often didn’t want to. She was the absolute best of us; the world lost its vibrancy the day she died. We began to seek the quietness of nature early on, & soon learned that we feel her presence most in beautiful natural spaces.
(photo by Forever June Weddings)
Somehow, the wilder the place, the more solace we find. I can’t say that every parent would find exploring wilds until utterly exhausted as an adequate coping mechanism for child loss. But for us, it’s when we feel our beautiful girl’s spirit closest. Even so, for months I felt a nagging desire to have a tangible declaration of motherhood for all to see. A fellow CHD mom suggested LPS & I immediately emailed begging for a silhouette of my precious Avie. Unfortunately, I had no proper profile photos, but Vana worked miracles in building a composite from over a dozen images. She captured my beautiful girl & her precious curls. I haven’t taken the necklace off since the day it arrived at my door. Now, more than a year later, I’m in the final weeks of pregnancy with Avie’s little sister. My only birthing request is to wear the silhouette necklace. Having Avie’s likeness physically close to my heart reminds me that she was here, she loved, & our love for her shall never fade.
All images of Avie are @w.o.b.h