In the Shade of Ava's Tree

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In 2011, Melissa Krawecki and her husband Matthew, were happily expecting their first baby.  Late in her pregnancy, Melissa began to feel unwell.  Unknown to both Melissa and her care providers, she had HELLP syndrome, a life-threatening complication of pregnancy.  HELLP led to the loss of her first child, Ava, and almost the loss of her own life. In this gripping memoir, Melissa describes her  experience and the lessons she learned along the way. 


From the first sentence, I was gripped by the power of Melissa’s narrative tone, and her ability to pull me inside an experience no one willingly wants to enter. As a birth worker and counselor, I’ve witnessed the experience of loss in the lives of pregnant and parenting people, but never have I felt as close to the vantage point of a grieving mother as Melissa was able to provide me.

Swept along with Melissa through the heart-wrenching medical processes she endured in addition to the death of dear Ava, evoked in me feelings of anger, pain, grief, violation, and unexpectedly, hope. As the narrative unfolds, Melissa’s story teaches invaluable lessons to partners, families and caregivers about how to truly hold space during a time when survival for the grieving parents after the death of their child seems rather unlikely nor surmountable or desirable. I connected as a woman, mother, birth worker, and as a fellow human being to the unspeakable pain caused by the injustice of ripped-away-dreams, and yet was able to find peace in the remarkable notion that in time, we may make sense of a new normal, under the shade of our own “Ava’s Tree.”

—Dr. Jodi Hall, birth worker, founder A Safe Passage: Supporting Survivors of Trauma through the Transition to Parenting

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