Ava Jane Mentink was born on March 14, 2012. I was diagnosed with the HELP syndrome and had to have an emergency c-section when Ava was just 27 weeks in order for myself and Ava to live. Ava was mine and my husbands first child which we had tried to have for just under 2 years and experienced 2 miscarriages. So when we were faced with our Ava being born early our whole world was turned upside down. Ava was born and continued to be a fighter in the NICU. Her strength to fight gave me and my husband the strength we needed to through such a tragic time! The NICU was always one step forward and 3 streps back day to day living. Being a nurse myself made my reality even more frightening and at times it was hard to remain positive and strong. Ava endured a collapsed lung having her to have a chest tube for a while, she needed medicine for a under developed heart, and her lungs needed much support! I remember days of feeling so hopeless and alone as everyone’s life went on but mine had stopped... except for the piece that involved my daily trips to the NICU to be with Ava. I wasnt released from the hospital until a week after Ava was born because I was so sick. For the next 7 weeks after that I started my morning drive at 7:30am for 45 minutes to see my little girl in the NICU. I wouldn’t leave until 9:00pm that night. My husband had to go back to work after 2 weeks and so I had to do these trips alone. I remember hoping on my drive in that I would be told Ava had a good night... I would kangaroo Ava all day as I was told this could be a big benefit for her survival. I took breaks to pump milk for her, go to the bathroom, and to eat good for my milk that went to her. i remember most times packing my lunch and dinners to keep down expenses. I often cried sitting in my car eating my food trying to understand why this had to happen to us... to my baby! I had to do this until I had to go back to work M-F 8-4, in which I would go to work at 8am and leave at 4pm and stay at the hospital until 9pm and then be back home around 10pm to go to bed to start it all over again the next day. I did this for 4 weeks. The nurses and doctors were absolutely the most amazing people and I trusted them with my daughters life... after all.. they helped save hers and mine! But my Ava was not going to go a day without hearing my voice and feeling my touch.. as i was told that would help her thrive and so as a mom you do whatever is necessary to help your child! Along that time I endured such heartache wondering if my beautiful girl was going to live. We met some parents during our stay that never got to take their babies home... and there are no words to describe that experience and then to wonder if you will be experiencing the same. But my Ava was born feisty and when she she wasn’t that cued her doctors and nurses in to make life saving interventions as simple as a blood transfusion. I never imagined having my first baby or any baby would be like I experienced, but I would not change it for the world. When most moms get together and talk about the happy times of their naturally born child and natural/normal expectation of that delivery...I am a bit sad as my experience was very different and my pictures of my daughter as a newborn are very different; however, I suddenly understand and remember what I, my husband, and Ava and the rest of our family experienced is very rare, and life changing! And we understand that our story can help inspire other families experiencing the same thing. We try to do that every chance we get especially since when we were going through Ava being in the NICU, some of our strength and hope also came from being able to hear stories of hope. Back then I always hoped Our story would turn out to be one of those stories of hope that gave me strength... and it’s awesome now to be able to say that our story... Ava’s story is one of those can give strength to all the blessed NICU families!