FARGO — Ava Bakken marked her first birthday recently, a few days earlier than the actual date.

Her family, including her dad, Alin Bakken, thought it would be much too difficult to celebrate — and mourn — on the same day.

A year ago, on July 13, 2020, Bakken’s wife Alexandra or “Allie” died at age 27 due to a rare and sudden complication while giving birth.

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“It’s been really tough. We’re all thankful that one year is over with, to get all the firsts out of the way,” said Alin Bakken, now 31.

Since his wife’s death, Bakken and daughter Ava have been living at his parents’ place in Pelican Rapids, Minn.

He said it’s hard not having his “better half” around, but he’s grateful for his parents’ help with raising Ava. “It’s a blessing that they're here,” he said. “I couldn’t do it on my own.”

They invited family and a few friends for Ava’s birthday party on July 10.

Alin Bakken, right, watches newborn daughter, Ava, at Essentia Health in Fargo on July 23, 2020. Bakken's wife, Alexandra "Allie" Bakken, who worked there on the pediatrics floor, died July 13, 2020, during labor just before her baby was delivered. Essentia receptionist Sarah Stark, who is Allie Bakken's aunt, holds Ava, while nurse Beth Cline, a longtime family friend, waits to do a well-child check on the baby. David Samson / The Forum
Alin Bakken, right, watches newborn daughter, Ava, at Essentia Health in Fargo on July 23, 2020. Bakken's wife, Alexandra "Allie" Bakken, who worked there on the pediatrics floor, died July 13, 2020, during labor just before her baby was delivered. Essentia receptionist Sarah Stark, who is Allie Bakken's aunt, holds Ava, while nurse Beth Cline, a longtime family friend, waits to do a well-child check on the baby. David Samson / The Forum

On July 13, Allie’s two brothers, her parents and grandparents, along with Alin’s parents, visited Allie’s gravesite at Grove Lake Lutheran Church Cemetery in Pelican Rapids.

There, they played a slideshow set to music and released purple and white balloons in her honor. “We cried a lot, definitely,” Bakken said.

Allie Bakken’s death during labor at Essentia Hospital in Fargo was attributed to an amniotic fluid embolism. It’s a rare, life-threatening condition where fluid surrounding the baby in the womb enters the mother's bloodstream, according to the Mayo Clinic.

As doctors tried in vain to save Allie’s life, other doctors scrambled to deliver her baby. Ava survived due to the quick medical interventions that occurred after her mother’s heart stopped.

Allie Bakken was a receptionist on the Essentia Clinic pediatrics floor, where she was known for her friendly demeanor.

Her husband is soldiering on without her, trying to raise their daughter and work a landscaping job. He said he’s looking for a child care center for Ava, so she can get a little more time socializing with other children.

Bakken said there’s no right or wrong way to handle the kind of grief he’s still going through.

“Hang in there, take it day by day,” he said.

Alin and Allie Bakken are shown in late June 2020. Allie died during labor on July 13, 2020, while her baby, Ava, survived and is doing well. Special to The Forum
Alin and Allie Bakken are shown in late June 2020. Allie died during labor on July 13, 2020, while her baby, Ava, survived and is doing well. Special to The Forum