The One With the Snow Falling on the 600th Day

Dear Ava,

I’ve started this letter many times little one but I wasn’t sure how it would go.

There were many times in this past 20 months where we were certain the end of our time with you in our home was wrapping up and the letter started as a goodbye.

I remember one specific moment when your daddy and I were in the parking lot in between heated court meetings. We couldn’t catch our breath we were crying so hard. Horrible, aching, gut-wrenching cries. That day was hard, sweet one but you and your sisters didn’t know anything had ever happened. We came home to kiss your heads, give you a bath, and put you to bed. We’ve had to be strong, predictable, and safe. We absorbed a lot of uncertainty, doubt, and fear. And it was worth it. Every second.

Sweet one, today’s letter isn’t a good-bye. It’s a forever hello.

Today marks 600 days since we met you and brought you home.

My heart is filled with joy but I’m also broken with sadness of how we got here. And one day you will read this and my heart hopes that you can hold both things as I have and we can walk this broken halleljuah together.

I woke up today, March 14, 2018 to snow falling…in Charlotte, NC. That’s basically impossible and yet, here they are. These big snowflakes, enough for you to make a snow ball and dodge the ones your sisters sent your way.

Almost impossible it seems and yet here we are.

What a metaphor for a day that we will always remember.

Today we sign the papers that will then get sealed with a new last name. I think it’ll still be a few weeks until it’s official but…

You are becoming a Santoro.

Oh what a privilege it is to watch you grow and call you ours forever.

I have a lot I want to tell you but you’re too young to hear it right now. So here will do for now. Here’s what I know to be true.

Your birth daddy and mommy love you in the way they knew how but as parents they weren’t capable of overcoming the tragedies that led us to picking you up 600 days ago. They’ve never stopped loving you and they never will.

You suffered some hard trauma. Some day I’ll tell you more if you need me to but it’s a hard story to hold. But guess what baby girl? We have an army of family and friends ready to hold it with you and process as you get older if you need more answers of how we got there. This doesn’t shape your identity except one of being an overcomer, fully loved and known.

People make mistakes when they can’t move past their pain. This had nothing to do with your worth.

Did you hear that?

This had nothing to do with your worth. 

Your birth daddy spent time with you over the past year. He brought you baby dolls and even gave your sisters presents sometimes. He called us family and he thanked us for the ways we love you. A few days after Christmas he gave us the best present I will ever receive. He made a very adult decision. He made a sacrifice because he loves you very much. He said he trusted us and that we are your parents. We will always be grateful for your birth daddy.

You have a baby brother and we were able to hold and love on him for a few weeks when he was in the hospital. Ava, daddy and I fought hard to bring him home but in the end it wasn’t up to us. We grieve that for you but he is safe, dearly loved, and happy where he is and some day I believe you’ll meet him and your extended family that have the honor of watching him grow. I know there might be a time where you wonder why you didn’t go with him. We’ll walk that road and answer all the questions. I’m going to keep trying for healing and redemption with this side of the family, I promise.

Baby girl, you are bright, silly, playful, careful, fearless, feisty, lovely, and vocal. You came in like a wrecking ball as they say. Fiercely clingy but equally smiley. You’ve grown and blossomed. You love your sisters so much and we are all better for you in our world. You are fully their sister. You are fully our daughter. We honor the tension adoption holds but you have belonging here always.

You are becoming a Santoro.

We thought for a long time about how to arrange your name as a way to honor your birth parents and also breathe new hope into your identity as a Santoro. Your first name is the name they gave you and the second middle name is your former last name. Wear it proudly. We’ll keep choosing forgiveness and hope together.

Do you know what Ava means?


I can’t help but think of your parents naming you in the hospital, seeing your little newborn face. What an honor that must have been.That’s you sweet one. You’re birth parents got it absolutely right. You’re a bird, soaring in the air free to be YOU. We’ll teach you to fly if you need a reminder but you’ve already taught us more than we could teach you.

Hazel is the first middle name we are giving you.


Truthly, I needed this powerful name to be healing for your heart but also mine.

I’ve wrestled with where God is when life is hard, when trauma is present in a baby, when I’ve seen things I can’t unsee in the brokenness around me. I often still hold on to a picture of a God that I don’t actually believe in anymore. One who is out there somehow or even one that if I pray hard enough He can swoop in. That God isn’t a God who sees and does nothing. That’s not a God I hold to anymore.

There’s a lot I don’t know about spirituality these days (funny coming from a pastor right?) but what I believe to be true, is that the Divine was there, is there, and has been there all along in your last two and half years of life. The spirit was there when times weren’t safe, when our hearts blended with yours, when our uncertainty caused restless nights, when we watched you reach milestones, and in the courtrooms.

The Jesus that wept in full humanity in the garden and on the cross embraced the human experience of pain, grief, and messy redemption.

I believe the Divine sees, weeps, holds us close, and challenges our souls to do the hard work of embraces the core of ourselves. The light within. And when all of us show up and put in the hard work, the God within, around, fully present, is active and alive.

So yes, God sees. We all see. The brutiful life and the light we have to change it.

You are becoming a Santoro.

God sees the bird that is free to soar.

Fly baby girl.

I’ll keep you safe
Try hard to concentrate
Hold out your hand
Can you feel the weight of it
The whole world at your fingertips
Don’t be, don’t be afraid
Our mistakes they were bound to be made
But I promise you I’ll keep you safe
You’ll be an architect
So pull up your sleeves
And build a new silhouette
In the skylines up ahead
And darkness will be rewritten
Into a work of fiction, you’ll see
As you pull on every ribbon
You’ll find every secret it keeps
The sound of the branches breaking under your feet
The smell of the falling and burning leaves
The bitterness of winter or the sweetness of spring
You are an artist
And your heart is your masterpiece
And I’ll keep it safe
Dismiss the invisible
By giving it shape
Like a clockmaker fixes time
By keeping the gears in line
As you build up your collection
Of pearls that you pulled from the deep
A landscape more beautiful
Than anything that I’ve ever seen
The sound of the branches breaking under your feet
The smell of the falling and burning leaves
The bitterness of winter or the sweetness of spring
You are an artist
And your heart is your masterpiece
And I’ll keep it safe


I’ll Keep You Safe, Sleeping At Last

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