Book & Blanket drive in honor of Owen

In a little more than two months, we will celebrate Owen's first birthday. While this is not the type of celebration I had hoped for, we would still like to make it a special day and do something meaningful in honor of our sweet boy. We would like to host a Book & Blanket drive for the babies in the CICU at Egleston, and we'd love for you to join us! 
Books and blankets were two of the most special things to us during Owen's life. Reading to him created memories I will never forget. I remember which books were his favorites, his first, and his last. I love being reminded of Owen when I see his books in a store. 

Having our own personal blankets made the hospital feel so much more like home. I loved choosing which blanket would be his "bottom sheet" and which one he would be wrapped in each day. We were given so many books and blankets at baby showers, so we had plenty in our rotation each day. I would love to give other families memories and a little comfort of home in the midst of such tragedy. 

Blankets can be gently used or new. I will wash all of them before packaging them. If you would like to join us, you can mail items directly to us, and we will package and deliver them to Egleston at the end of February. Email us at if you would like our address. Thanks for the support you have shown us this year. Our hearts are heavy as we have entered the holiday season and approach Owen's birthday without him here. We are thankful for special ways like this one to continue to remember him and spread joy to others since he gave us so much joy in his short time.

**Update: Friends in the Gwinnett area, if you would like to drop items off locally, let me know. I have people who are available to collect items from you locally.

missing the innocence

The other day I was scrolling through my instagram pictures and came across this one from my birthday last year. "Last birthday in my 20's and without a child!" It feels like a harsh reminder of what should have been. Next week, I will be 30, but my child won't be in my arms.
In this picture I was seven months pregnant, excited, and happy. There was an innocence about me that I didn't even know I had until it was gone. When I lost Owen, I lost a part of me. A part I don't know I will ever get back. I long for that innocence and happiness again. I long for the life I thought I would have. The life I spent nine months dreaming of. The life I didn't even know I wanted so badly until it happened. And for some reason, it was taken away all too soon. This year as I approach my birthday, it doesn't feel very happy. I want to take this same picture again this year with my 10 month old in my arms reaching for the cake. I still can't believe Owen isn't here. I long for him with all that I am.  

This holiday/birthday season is just hard. I wasn't sure if I wanted to get a tree this year or decorate for Christmas, but we did anyways. I love to decorate and be creative. I rarely have the energy for it these days, but when I do, I take advantage of it. Part of me is able to escape from reality when I'm focused on being creative and making things beautiful. I didn't have a stocking for Owen before he was born, but I bought one for him two weeks ago. It felt right. I picked out the cutest one for him and stitched his name on ever so carefully. After I hung them on the mantle, I sobbed. I sobbed happy tears for the moments we shared with him during  his life, and I sobbed tears of sorrow for the sadness we feel without him here in our home. I love seeing his name hanging on our mantle, and I love seeing our names together.

I feel an overwhelming feeling of disappointment from God. I'm disappointed in so many things, but ultimately it comes down to the fact that my plans are not his, and that's hard. This holiday season seems to intensify my sadness. I feel like I am constantly surrounded by happy people with happy lives. Just finding a Christmas card that didn't say "Merry & Bright!" or "Happy Holidays!" was quite challenging. When I go to church, all I see are happy people. I would love to get through a Sunday without tears. Where are the other suffering people? Not that I want others to suffer, but this state I'm in can feel so isolating. 

Jealousy is another emotion I've been struggling with. Just last night, I found a blog post from a mother of four who is battling cancer. She is in the midst of severe physical pain and suffering and talked about the jealousy she feels of "normal families." I relate to that completely. I'm jealous others with healthy children, and I'm also jealous of my old self. The person who was energetic and happy, and innocent. I now feel weak, scarred, broken, and unable to be fixed. Last week, a friend sent me this excerpt from her devotion. "Our weakness should be prized as making room for divine strength. We might never have known the power of grace if we had not felt the weakness of nature. Blessed be the Lord for the thorn in the flesh and the messenger of Satan, when they drive us to the strength of God... Let us then, fall back upon our God and his grace. If he does not remove our grief, he will enable us to bear it." I am thankful for this reminder that through my weakness, He is strong. My prayer is that during this season, I will be reminded of God's promises and blessings and that his grace will be enough for me each day.


I've been a little silent lately because I'm in a dark place. My goal in sharing our journey through Owen's life and dealing with is death was to encourage other parents going through the same thing we are. It's important to be real. People keep asking how we're doing, so I thought I'd share... We have a lot to be thankful for. God has provided a new city, a new home, new friends,and secure jobs for both of us. All of those things are important, but none of it seems to compare to the amount of sadness we feel. I want to tell people that I'm doing great and that I see God working in my life like never before, but the truth is I'm having a hard time seeing that right now. My heart is hurting deeply. I want my grief to be redeemed. I know it's possible, but I don't feel like it is.

I'm angry. I'm angry that thousands of people prayed for our son to be healed, and that God didn't answer our prayers. Why does he heal other babies but not ours? I'm angry that Owen's little body went through so much poking and prodding in his 43 days. I'm angry that our first experience of becoming parents was so extremely traumatic. I'm angry that we will go through another Mother's and Father's Day with empty arms. I'm angry that I have a hard time being happy for other people when they experience blessings. I hear stories of God's goodness in other people's lives because of Owen. It's great, but none of it seems worth his life. I'm angry that I feel this way and that it isn't getting any easier.

Every day I'm constantly on the verge of tears. I come home from work at night exhausted from trying to hold it together all day. I've been feeling angrier and sadder than ever before. We have a lot of annual events in the fall. Weekends with friends, birthdays, holidays... All of it is hard. This time last year we thought, "There will be an eight month old with us next year!" I bought cute little flannel shirts, moccasins, puffy vests, and hats last fall for Owen to start wearing now. I hate that he's not here to wear them. Birthdays and celebrations are darkened. It's hard to get excited and celebrate. I can't believe it's almost November. Life keeps moving forward, yet my heart feels scarred and frozen in a state of pain. I long for the innocence I once felt but never appreciated. My whole perspective on every single thing has changed.

I know that anger is one of the stages of grief, but I'm ready for it to pass. I'm angry at God, but then I remember that because of him, Owen has eternal life. It's a constant battle I face every day. My prayer is that Owen's life and death, and all of the trauma we faced during his life will make me a better. I don't want to be bitter. 

When Owen was alive, I posted updates on his caringbridge site. At the end of each post, I always listed blessings no matter how difficult the day was. God was present in our lives during Owen's life and cared for us in unexpected ways. He continues to bless us in unexpected ways. A friend encouraged me to continue to continue to write down all of the blessings I experience so I can see where God is in my grief. I know he's there to walk through this with me if I let him. 

Infant Loss Remembrance Day

Our incredible tears of joy turned into deep tears of sadness far too soon. Missing Owen with all my heart and longing for the day when we are reunited. With heavy hearts we honor Infant Loss Remembrance Day - a day we wanted nothing to do with. The pain is immense, yet worth it for every second of Owen's precious life. I am trying so very hard to see God's goodness. I'm thankful for our Father in heaven who has the whole world in His hands. He is strong and mighty and is holding my precious Owen in the same hands he holds me. I'm thankful for that. My heart is heavy for every parent who is experiencing the same ache. I pray that you feel hope and peace in the midst of your sadness. Today we remember all the babies who have left this world far to soon. 

a few more changes

I haven't written about our recent changes because in the grand scheme of everything, they seem so insignificant. We are thankful that a new home and  a new job for me has fallen into place.

In June, I was hired as an SLP at a multidisciplinary pediatric clinic that is very reputable here in Charlotte. I feel honored to be a part of their team. I spent the last six years working in the schools full time and additionally part time at a small private practice. This is a bit of a change, and it has kept me quite busy. It feels good to work again and get back in a routine, although I grew quite accustomed to staying at home and having time for more things than I usually do. I have met some great people at my new job which I am thankful for. Because of Owen, I look at my work in a different way. I am able to relate to the families I work with so closely without them even knowing it. I also have a new compassion for my patients after all all we went through during Owen's life that I wouldn't have had otherwise. 

On August 28th, we closed on our first home. The home buying process wasn't necessarily smooth, but now that we're in our new home, it's all a blur. Maybe it's similar to childbirth on a much lesser scale... You forget the pain when you see your precious baby's face for the first time.

We moved in from the apartment we were living in temporarily (which is five minutes from the house) with the help of some very dear friends. 

We love this home so much. It is an older house with lots of charm, and it's in a great location. On our first night moving in, seven people came by to introduce themselves and welcome us to the neighborhood. I visited forty-three houses in Charlotte with our sweet realtor, but none of them compared to this one. It was meant to be, and we are thankful to start our family memories here. 

Even in this new home it feels like someone is missing. Someone is missing. He will always be missing for the rest of our earthly lives. One of the bedrooms in our house feels like it should be Owen's. Most of the baby items were taken to Brian's parents a few weeks after he died, but I kept a few special items that I wasn't able to part with. And then there were random items like bibs and a puj tub that were mixed in with miscellaneous items in boxes when we moved. Unpacking those items was so strange. I unpacked the chalkboard that I used to count the weeks of my pregnancy. It still says "Baby Owen - 40 weeks!" It's hard to believe that there should be an almost seven month old baby here. I see pictures of other babies born around Owen's birthday, and they all look so big. They're sitting up and smiling and interacting... I wonder what Owen would look like at that age and wish for those moments and memories we never had with him. 

I'm waiting for the day when the shades of my "darkened glasses" are clear again. I long for my heart to be made whole and for the emptiness I feel to go away. Sometimes I get discouraged that it still hurts so badly, but other days I'm truly amazed at how well I'm doing. I know we all live every day by the grace of God, but for the first time in my life, I can truly say that it is only by God's grace and strength that I am able to live and move forward in life. Missing him, loving him with all my heart. Sweet baby boy. 

six months

It was so wonderful to start a new tradition today honoring Owen by random acts of kindness. His six month birthday was the perfect time to start. Instead of waking up with a heavy heart, I woke up excited about doing something out of the ordinary to celebrate Owen. I know so many people continue to pray for us. Today I felt your prayers. Right before my run this morning, I saw this post on instagram.
This sweet woman (who lost her son Aaden a few years ago), is praying for specific women by name who have also lost babies while she trains for a half marathon, which happens to fall on Aaden's sixth birthday. I saw my name written on her arm, and got chills. I'm so thankful for her heart and her prayers. As I was running, I relived my favorite moments of Owen's life in mind. I completely zoned out which made for a very fast first two miles. :)

Later this afternoon I decided to browse an antique mall. When I was checking out, I overheard an employee telling someone that she just lost her granddaughter. I looked over at her, made eye contact with her, and told her that I just lost a baby too. She came over, gave me a hug, and we both started to cry. It was one of those moments that caught me off guard- my tears wouldn't stop. She told me about her granddaughter and how she only lived for two weeks, yet she fulfilled her purpose in those two weeks more than anyone else could have. I told her about Owen and how he did the same in his six weeks. I told her he would have been six months old today, and how we were planing on celebrating his life. It was a short but meaningful few minutes with a stranger that I felt such a huge connection with. I left the store in tears. A mixture of happy and sad tears. I'm thankful for the blessings I continue to experience throughout my grief. 

Thanks so much to everyone who participated in random acts of kindness! I loved seeing pictures flood social media and getting texts through out the day of things people were doing in his honor. There were some great posts! Leaving flowers on someone's doorstep, making a cake for a friend, paying for some's Redbox movie, leaving an extra tip at a restaurant, making breakfast for coworkers, buying a new mom a Starbucks gift card, giving "The Little Engine That Could" (Owen's last book) to a fiend's daughter, leaving money taped on a vending  machine, making granola for another family, buying someone's coffee or breakfast in the drive through, leaving a Duncan Donuts gift card for the employees at the pool shop, passing out cold drinks to people at a hot bus stop, buying a Walmart gift card for an employee who was having a hard day, serving a meal to a large group of people, making a donation to a chapel for parents who have lost children, donating clothes to  a foster child... I'm sure there are more that I'm missing.  

Earlier this week I got a message from a friend. She told me she was talking about heaven with her four-year-old. He was saying that he didn't want to go to heaven because he likes this world just fine. She started telling him all the great things about heaven and why it will be better than here. He then said, "Oh and I can meet baby Owen and see how big and strong he is." It totally made my day. It warms my heart to know that people still remember my sweet boy. 

Happy six months sweet Owen! We love you and miss you every moment of every day. We can't wait to see how big and strong you are in heaven one day! 

random acts of kindness

I'm constantly trying to think of new ways to incorporate Owen into our daily lives. Even though he's not here, he is a huge part of our family. I love when he comes up in conversation. Last week at church, a lady noticed my necklace and asked if it had my children's names on it. I smiled and told her about being Owen's mom. I think about him all the time. I miss him more than words can describe, but I also feel such gratitude for being able to be his mother. The twenty-third day of the month is always a hard one for me, but I'd love to turn those days into days of happiness. We decided to honor Owen's life through random acts of kindness, and we'd love it if you would join us in this! Our plan is to do one random act of kindness on the twenty-third of each month, but you could do it any day you like! Pinterest is full of ideas. It could be paying for someone's meal or coffee behind you in the drive through, making a donation to a charity, doing someone's yard work, leaving quarters taped to a vending machine, dropping off brownies to your neighbors, leaving your mailman a treat, etc. We plan on leaving little notes [link here] so that Owen's story can continue to spread. If you join us with this, take a picture of your random act of kindness and post to #owenthomasparker. We're excited about honoring his life in this new way! 

Join #TeamOwen!

I just wanted to share with everyone that my cousin's husband, Matt Barr is participating in the upcoming American Heart Association Heart Walk in Nashville. Owen is his inspiration for participating in the walk and for raising money for the AHA. His fundraising goal is $1000. If Owen's story has impacted your life, please consider donating to this fundraiser in his honor. Matt's fundraising page can be found hereThanks so much for your support! And a special thanks to Matt for participating in the walk and honoring Owen in this special way.

five months

People often tell me what a strong person I am. How they can't imagine what I'm going through, and that they don't know how they would be able to get through such loss. I hope I don't make myself look stronger than I really am. Because lately, I haven't felt very strong. There isn't a day that goes by without tears at some point in the day. My pain is extraordinary. Maybe it's getting a little easier, I don't know. I think I'm just getting used to what it feels like to live life with part of my heart missing. I still have days where all I can do is cry and cry and cry some more. Owen is gone, and he is never coming back. I feel peace knowing he is in heaven, and I thank God for that. But sometimes it doesn't help ease the pain that I continue to feel.

I was shopping this weekend and saw a new mom holding her infant. Another lady stopped and asked how old her baby was. The mom said she was seven weeks old. My heart sank and my eyes instantly filled with tears as I remembered that I never saw Owen live to seven weeks. At seven weeks, we had already had his funeral. It still doesn't seem real. I go through every single photo of him over and over and let my tears flow. I am still blown away by how beautiful and precious he was. He will always remain little and perfect in my mind.

After Owen died, a sweet friend sent me Nancy Tillman's book, Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You. I love these words she writes...

"I wanted you more than you ever will know, so I sent love to follow you wherever you go.
It's high as you wish it. It's quick as an elf. You'll never outgrow it... it stretches itself!
So climb any mountain... climb up to the sky! My love will find you. My love will fly! 
Make a big splash! Go out on a limb! My love will find you. My love can swim!
It never gets lost, never fades, never ends..." 

My love for Owen is never ending which means the loss I feel is also never ending. Oh how I wish I could hold him and read him this book. It's so easy to wallow in my pain and think about all that I don't have, when really, there is much to be thankful for. 

I met a new friend today who also lost her baby boy around the same time we lost Owen. She was talking about heaven and how she believes her son will welcome her there whenever that day comes. Hearing this brought tears to my eyes as I imagined Owen standing there waiting for me and welcoming me with a huge smile and his arms wide open. I can't wait for that day.

I've really been trying to find where God is in my pain and grief. I need help finding him in it. I know he is "close to the brokenhearted," but I don't always feel it. I'm reading a book right now that reminds me that Jesus has experienced every single feeling I feel right now. In a way, it makes me feel closer to him. In Hearing Jesus Speak Into Your Sorrow, Nancy Guthrie writes, "When we hear Jesus speak into our sorrow, we hear his assurance that he has been here before us and that he has things about himself to reveal to us in this hard place, which we could not have been ready to listen for and learn without the hurt." I'm hurting in a pretty major way right now, so I am certain that God is calling me into a deeper, more real relationship with him than I've ever had before. I have to keep reminding myself of this on my darkest days. Owen's life was for a purpose. My pain and suffering after losing him is for a purpose. The question is whether I will be willing to submit to that purpose and grow from it. I really hope so...

Owen would have been five months old today. I am celebrating him today and all that he has given me. He taught me how to love unconditionally, and he taught me more about God's fatherly love. He gave me a new perspective on hope and where my hope lies. Happy five months, sweet boy! I love you with all my heart!

first anniversaries

First anniversaries. There are so many. The day I found out I was pregnant, the day we first heard his heartbeat, the first ultrasound, when we found out he was a boy, feeling kicks for the first time, baby showers, etc... It's a lot.

Sometimes I close my eyes and imagine holding Owen against my chest with his face next to mine. The weight and warmth of his body, his fresh baby smell, and the softness of his skin. I ache for it. The advice I got from other parents before Owen was born was to let the nurses take care of things while we were at the hospital. It's your only time to get a break before you go home with your newborn and it's never ending chaos. My advice to parents would be the opposite. Never put your baby down. Enjoy every single moment. The good and the bad. You never know what the future holds. Every moment is precious. I can count the times I held Owen on two hands, I can count the number of times I heard him cry on one, but I lost track of the number of kisses we gave him. It was too many to count. I'm so thankful for that.

Looking at these pictures brings back so many memories. I remember what he smelled like and how soft his arms were. I remember telling him, "Don't worry. Mommy's here, and I'll never leave you... You're gonna be just fine." I loved telling him "Good morning sweet boy!" I said it to him every single morning. I say that to Toby in the mornings now and wish so badly I was still saying it to Owen.

We only have a couple of short videos of Owen. The one I go back to over and over again is his first bath after he was born. I love watching it and remembering how it felt to see our son for the first time before we knew anything was wrong. He was perfect. The nurse showed Brian exactly how to bathe him when we were at home. But we never went home. In a way, I feel robbed. We have so much love for him and no one to give it to. Losing a child is difficult period. But when you lose your first child, you don't have other children to love. You're a parent, but you don't have anyone to hold and love. You don't fit in with other parents- you fit in more with people without children. It can feel isolating. I think it's cruel to be given the gift of life and then have it taken away so quickly. How can a loving God allow that to happen? It's a battle I face at times... My mind knows that God is good and sovereign and that he has a plan... All of those things are true! I know that. But it doesn't help my breaking, hurting heart and the knot I feel in the back of my throat so often.

Sundays are especially difficult because they were Owen's week-old birthdays. He would have been nineteen weeks old today. Every month when it becomes the 23rd, I wonder what he would look like and what he would be doing developmentally. I see other babies and wonder how they are so healthy. A healthy baby is truly a miracle. Maybe it's because I lost a baby, but after Owen died, I have heard of so many other babies being born sick and dying. I hate how common it is. My heart breaks for those parents as I can truly feel the weight of their deep sorrow. Before Owen, I took life for granted. I hope I never will again.

I think about Owen every single day. I still feel like someone is missing all the time. In some ways, living in Charlotte has provided a little relief. I'm not constantly reminded of him every single place I go like I was in Atlanta where I was pregnant and imagined our life happening after he was born. It's still painful to see moms with babies in their arms and families with strollers. Today babies were baptized at church, and it took everything inside me to hold it together until after the service. I know it won't always be this way.

I am continually blessed by friends and strangers every single day. I still receive cards in the mail from the hospital notifying us of donations made in Owen's honor. These cards make me so happy. A close friend gave me a beautiful print with Owen's name on it. It was made by a mother who lost her second child when he was just 5 weeks old. She has a shop where she sells beautiful art in honor of lost babies. She wrote me such a sweet and sincere note that I will forever treasure. I have been inspired by her story and am learning so much from her. I love what this print says at the bottom: Never forgotten. Forever loved.
I'm learning the hard lesson that my identity is found only in Christ. Not in being a parent or a wife or a friend or in my career. I have a heavenly father who loves me and carries me every single day. Never in my life have I had to rely on his strength more than now. If it were up to me, I would have chosen for Owen to live and to continue on a slower path of spiritual and personal growth. But for whatever reason, it did not happen that way. I am grateful for a God big enough to handle my questioning and doubt and confusion. I am grateful for his faithfulness and his gift of life. 

a little bit of closure

Our last week in Atlanta was an emotional one for me. There wasn't a day without tears, and some days were filled with lots. Moving to a different state two months after your baby dies probably isn't the wisest decision. A move brings a lot of stress, and stress is harder to handle these days. We knew it was what we needed to do, but we were also aware it could stir things up a bit. The worst part of grieving the loss of Owen is that I never know when it will hit me. It hit hard last week...

We went back to Egleston last week for the first time since Owen died. It was weird to be back. When we stepped off the elevator on the second floor of the hospital, we had mixed emotions. It felt like no time had passed at all, but at the same time it felt like so much had changed. The parking deck, the smells, the bright yellow and orange walls... everything brought back so many emotions. The most intense moments of our lives were spent at this place. When we rang the bell to enter the CICU, we so badly wanted to tell the receptionist that we were there for Owen Parker and that we were his parents, just like we had done so many times before. When we walked in the unit, we were greeted by some of our favorite people. I made a list of people I wanted to personally thank, and I came up with over sixty individuals. I wish we could have seen them all that day, but I'm thankful for those we did get to see. We laughed and joked with everyone like old times. They all wanted to know how we were doing, and we wanted to know the same about them. I think coming back was healing for not just us, but for them as well. Owen's life and death left a lasting impact on their lives too. I kept telling everyone how much we missed them, and how much we missed Egleston. They looked at us like we were crazy, but it's true. All of the doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, social workers, chaplains, therapy dogs, receptionists, cafeteria workers, janitors, etc. will always hold a special place in our hearts. Egleston is a happy place for us because it is where Owen spent his life. That's where most of  our memories with him are.

I remember sitting next to Owen's bed and seeing other families come back to visit with their little ones who were former patients. They all looked so healthy and strong and brought so much joy to the staff in the unit. I wanted SO BADLY for Owen to be one of those success stories. I wanted to bring him back one day and amaze everyone with how well he was doing. I wanted everyone to see him grow big and strong. Even though we weren't able to bring him back with us, it was still good to come back for a visit. Over the past few months, I made a bunch of crotcheted hearts just like the ones I made Owen. When we went back to Egleston, I dropped them off for the nurses to pass out to other babies on the floor. I attached a little note of encouragement for the moms. I know it's not much, but it made me happy to give something to other babies in honor of Owen.

The other highlight from our last week in Atlanta was visiting with the family who we stayed with for six weeks while Owen was in the hospital. We went to their house for dinner, and it was so wonderful to be back. This family was one of the biggest blessings to us during Owen's life. We really clicked with them and became very fast friends. I'm not sure if I ever mentioned before that they also have a son named Owen. We sat around and visited, looked at Owen's baby book, and talked about our upcoming move. They called the cardiologist who lives next door to come over and visit also, so we got to talk to him. He had been on Owen's case since the very beginning, and he was there the day he died. We loved chatting with him and hearing him say that people on the floor are still talking about Owen... It makes us so proud. He really was a special little guy. We all miss him so much.

Leaving Atlanta felt like the end to a chapter in our lives. We have been in Charlotte for a week, and at times it feels like none of that with Owen ever happened. When I look at pictures or videos of him, my heart breaks and longs for him. I never knew how physically draining grief was. It's completely exhausting. Occasionally my arms will physically ache. Like I need to be holding my baby. I can't explain it, but I have heard other parents who have lost babies say the same thing. At my last session with my counselor, he told me that it will get better. He said that my heart will slowly heal. I tearfully told him I don't believe him. I want my heart to heal, and I don't want to be bitter or angry or sad, but I can't imagine it getting any better. Part of me does believe him since he also lost a child....

Overall, our move went well! We ended up subleasing an apartment from some good friends of ours for three months while we look for a house. We had lots of help from friends and family packing, cleaning our house, and unpacking which was great.
Brian drove the truck with Toby who apparently wasn't the best passenger...
The next day, we celebrated Natalie's birthday! We are loving trying out all the fun restaurants that Charlotte has to offer.

Charlotte already feels like the best fresh start we could have asked for. I can't wait to share about our life here in our new city. We really love it. Brian started his new job and loves it, and I'm in the process of looking for work. Thanks for your continued prayers for our family as we continue to try to move forward as best we can. We will never have complete closure on our life with Owen. He does not belong to one chapter of our lives- he will be a part of all the chapters to come, and we are happy to take him with us in our hearts.

in a funk...

I've been in a funk lately. Maybe it's because I've been so consumed by packing for our move and living in a house full of boxes stacked to the ceiling. My environment unfortunately affects my mood. I haven't taken as much time this week to feel. Last week, my grandfather passed away. He was 90 years old, and lived a healthy life up until the very end. It was a hard decision whether or not to go to his funeral. Of course I wanted to go and honor his life, but I wasn't sure I was ready for another funeral. It had only been two months since Owen's... Everything is still so fresh and raw. I decided to go, and I'm glad I went especially since all twelve of his grandchildren were there. We haven't all been together in years. My mom was with him right before he died. She held the phone up to his ear so that I could say goodbye. I told him I loved him, and I told him to give Owen lots of love in heaven. It's a sweet thought to think of my grandparents with Owen in heaven, but it's also extremely painful- a reminder that Owen isn't here for me to hold and kiss and love.

I've found myself feeling angry lately. I'm angry that God took away our perfect gift. I'm angry that my days aren’t consumed with snuggles and crying and napping and dirty diapers. I'm angry that I can't dress Owen up in cute outfits and post pictures. I'm angry that I didn't get to take a picture of Brian holding Owen on Father's Day. I'm angry that I don't know what he would look like now at almost four months old. My anger then turns into jealousy of other families with healthy living children. Yesterday we went to a grocery store we don't usually go to. We pulled into a parking space, but the sign above it said "parents with children." It felt like knives stabbing into our chests. We had to pull out and park two spaces away. I hate it. I hate feeling angry and jealous. And I hate that it is a constant battle throughout every single day. 

Some days I wake up and ask myself if all of that really happened. I have flashbacks from the hospital...Remembering the beeps and the monitors and the tubes. I would trade any of Owen's worst days alive for any day without him. There were moments at the hospital when I didn't think it could get any worse. This is worse. Everyone tells you how having a baby is like nothing else in the world- the love you feel for that child is instantaneous and unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. I felt that love the moment I laid eyes on Owen. I still feel that amount of love for him, but at the same time, I feel that same amount of intensity in sadness.

Ronald Greer writes in his book Markings on the Windowsill, "It has been said that the death of a parent is the loss of one's past; the death of a spouse is the loss of one's present, and the death of a child is the loss of one's future." I had Owen at the age of twenty-nine. He was my future. I most likely have a long life ahead of me, but every single day, I will feel the deep loss for my baby boy.

I discussed the stages of grief with my counselor: shock and numbness, flood and grief, despair, and integration and affirmation. I told him that I have gone through them all, and continue to go through each stage again and again. Sometimes multiple times in a day. He said that is completely normal. It's a cyclical process. A never ending one. He said that for important losses, there is no closure. Mourning is not a task to be completed but a process to be engaged.

I keep trying to remind myself of my determination to gain as much as I can out of all of this. When I'm in a funk like this, I want to ask God "why?" But I know that's not the best question... Instead ask, how am I going to grow from this powerful experience in my life? Sometimes I don’t really see growth. I see ugliness in the forms of anger and jealousy. But I know that God is working even if I don’t feel like he is… He is present even when I don't feel his presence

“I will never leave you or forsake you…” Hebrews 13:5b 
"...I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow."  Jeremiah 30:13b

moving forward

May, 2014. This is when Brian and I decided it would be a good time to start looking for a new job and possibly relocate. Owen would be three months old, I would be finished with my fifth year working at my school, and Brian would be finished with school for computer programming. Moving with a baby wouldn't be ideal, but it would be such an exciting time full of new beginnings.

For over a year, we have had the desire to move to Charlotte. We love North Carolina, and we both felt strongly about settling down there eventually. After Owen died, we felt like we needed a fresh start. We didn't know what that would look like, but we decided to go ahead and start looking for jobs. Charlotte could be our fresh start. We knew it wouldn't fix our problems, in fact, it could make them worse. But we knew ultimately that it was where we wanted to be, and this seemed like the right time to move forward.

It all happened so quickly. Within two days of sending out resumes, Brian had a phone interview with a financial company in Charlotte. Two weeks later, he interviewed in person, and four days after that, he was offered the job. And not just any job... This is a job that he really wants. It's exactly what he wants to do. He accepted the offer, and we will be moving in June. 

We are thankful for the opportunity and excited to be moving back to North Carolina, but our happy emotions are dampened by our sadness. Owen should be here with us for this move. Our grief counselor gave me an analogy that is so true. He told me that I see everything now through dark shaded glasses. Every single thing, even happiness is darkened now. It sounds depressing, but it's just the way it is. Faking it and not feeling these emotions would just make it worse. I don't like to be sad. I'm not normally a sad and emotional person. It takes so much energy to grieve. But it's important. I have moments of happiness and excitement, but those moments are not the same as they used to be. This new job and move should be such celebratory events, and they are. But they are darkened a few shades... 

He went on to say that over time, if I let myself grieve and let my emotions out, the lenses of those glasses will become lighter and lighter. This man lost his two-year-old in a car accident thirty years ago. He knows. Hearing this from someone who has also lost a child has so much more weight than it would from someone who has never experienced this type of tragedy. He said that it will take a lot of time, but it will happen... Slowly, the lenses will get lighter and lighter. I am looking forward to that day when they do. 

Owen has given me a whole new perspective on life. I find myself not stressing about the little things as much as I did before. Big things like packing up our house, finding a place to live, starting a new job, living in a new city, and all the other stressors that come with a move are all so minor in the grand scheme. Owen has also taught me to pray differently. Instead of praying for things to happen because I want them to happen, I ask God to show me if it is what he wants for us, and to make it clear. I think he made Charlotte a pretty clear "yes", and he is already starting to work out all of the details. 

Leaving Georgia is bittersweet. This is where Owen spent his entire life. In my belly in our home and at Northside and at Egleston. Those will always be special places to us. We are also sad to leave our family and friends that we have spent the last five years with. Even though Charlotte is a new city for us, we already have support there. Some of our closest friends are there, and it is the perfect central location to visit other friends and family who live just a few hours away. We are excited about a new adventure. Owen is coming with us in our hearts. He will always be with us wherever we go.

*Photo credit:


Yesterday I had to go back to work.Yesterday also just so happened to be the day Owen would have turned three months old. Before he was born, I was excited about this day. My maternity leave would end right before summer, so I would only have to leave Owen for just a couple of days. It was the perfect time to have a baby. I dreamed about this day before he was born. I wanted to be able to bring Owen to work to introduce him to my friends there. I wanted to pass him around for people to hold. I wanted to talk about how much fun it is to be a mom and have a baby.

It's kind of crazy how much I thought about and anticipated during my pregnancy... I think it's only natural. I tried not to have expectations about what motherhood would be like because that typically sets you up for disappointment, but I really was excited. I was excited to have a baby. My baby. I didn't have unrealistic expectations, but during the second half of my pregnancy when miscarriage is less common, I never considered the possibility of my baby being sick after birth and dying. I pictured Owen in every single part of my life which is part of why it's so sad now. He's not here. I wanted him before he was born, and I still want him so badly.

I had so much anxiety about yesterday before it happened. I have mentioned before that my home is a safe place for me. Every time I leave my house it becomes "unsafe." On these harder days, I really need to be in my safe place. But yesterday, I didn't have a choice. I had to go back to work. Thank goodness it was a teacher workday. Seeing my students would have been wonderful because I missed them, but it would have been way too hard to talk about my sad news with them. They were excited about Owen. I had a group of sixth grade boys who asked me every week how big the baby was... When I started to get really big around 32 weeks, one of them said, "Ms. Parker! When I was in the lunch room, I saw your baby!" I laughed and asked him what the baby looked like. They were so precious.

Kristin and I talked through the day before it happened several times. We would walk in together, and she wouldn't leave me until I was "okay." So that's what we did. Even pulling into the school parking lot for the first time was hard. The last time I was in that parking lot, Owen was alive. I was nine months pregnant, and he was safe inside my belly. I got out of the car, and walked into the school with Kristin. We passed by the cafeteria first, so I decided to go say hello to my favorite lunch ladies, Delores, Jane, and Evie. I saw these women everyday, and they were all so supportive during my pregnancy. When I saw them and hugged them, I lost it. I just started to cry and couldn't really stop. They were so sweet and encouraging. I wanted to stay longer and talk to them, but I needed to pull myself together. It was just the beginning of the day, and I needed to not be a complete mess.

The day got easier as it went on. It was great to see everyone again. My school has been so supportive during Owen's sickness and after he died. I feel so blessed to work there. Every time I turned a corner, someone new was there to give me a hug and chat with. Ms. Long, our school nurse is an amazing and spiritual woman. She pulled me aside, gave me a huge hug and started to basically preach a sermon right there in the hallway. I wish I could remember everything she said. She told me that God chose Brian and I to be Owen's parents for a reason and that we are going to be blessed. She told me that we have hope! But we also have sorrow. And God is right there, holding bottles to collect our tears. She laughed and said that God has some pretty big bottles for her tears. I just cried as as I listened to her beautiful wisdom.

The day wasn't only filled with tears and hugs. There was lots of laughter, just like old times. It was so great to catch up with everyone and hear about what I had missed in the last three months. There were moments when it felt like nothing had happened at all. Everything seemed normal, but it wasn't. I guess it's my new normal. My anxiety went away as the day continued... I was emotionally drained by the end, but I realized that my school is also a safe place with safe people. So many of these people feel like family. It makes it even harder to say goodbye, knowing that I have decided not to come back for the next school year. I need a fresh start. Our school is splitting next year, and with everything that I have gone through in the last few months, it seems like the right time to move on.

Owen would have been three months old yesterday. When I look at pictures of other babies who are three months old, I can't help but to imagine what Owen would look like now. I wonder what size clothes he would wear and if his hair would be thicker and what his cry would sound like and what his favorite activity would be. It's hard to believe that he has been gone for as long as he was alive. I hate that it's been six weeks since I held his hand or rubbed his head or kissed his soft face. And it's just going to get worse... Every passing day is a day longer that I haven't been able to do those things. But each passing day is a day closer until I get to see him again.

We are trying to figure out how not to move on, but to move forward. A big part of me wants time to speed up. I want to be at the next phase of life. I have no idea what that phase looks like, but I imagine it not being so painful. In the meantime, I am trying to allow God to fill the emptiness in my heart, and to soak up every single little thing he wants to teach me. Owen's life was not a waste, and I am determined to gain as much from it as I possibly can.

the story of the arrow

One thing that Brian and I agree on easily is names. Some couples battle it out and take months to finally agree on what to name their child. Not us. We have had names picked out for years. Owen was our top boy name, so when we found out we were having a boy, there really wasn't much of a discussion. We just knew. But naming a person is hard! It's a lot of pressure. I decided we needed to make a final decision because I wanted to paint letters to hang on his wall. And clearly, that's a big deal. But for some reason, we couldn't really call him Owen until he was born. We had to make sure he really was an Owen first. We told people his name, but made sure they knew it could be changed at the last minute if it didn't feel right. But when we saw him, we knew he was definitely an Owen. 

I remember googling the meaning of Owen just to make sure it didn't have some horrible meaning. When I read that it means "strong warrior" I had no idea how significant that would become in his life. 

Most of you know that I make and sell custom onesies. I have sold a ton of them on etsy and have given lots as gifts. When I was five months pregnant, I decided to make an original onesie for Owen... I wanted him to have a special one no other baby had. I had just gotten some new cute fabric that reminded me of arrows, so that's what I made. I only made this one for him because I wanted to meet him first. I needed to know his little personality! 

On Owen's second night at Egleston, Ginger, one of the night nurses, made him this sign. She wasn't Owen's nurse that night, but she still made it, and he drew an arrow on it! She had no idea about the onesie I had made him. No other babies in the unit had an arrow on their signs, just Owen.
The next morning I remembered the meaning of Owen's name and how significant it was in his life already. I also realized how appropriate an arrow was for the meaning of his name. At just a few days old, he already was a strong warrior. 

The arrow really became the symbol that represented Owen. Friends and family showed their support during his life by taking pictures holding Team Owen signs with arrows on them and posted them on facebook. We had them all hanging on the wall next to his bed, and people at the hospital would come by and comment on how many fans he had. Team Owen tee shirts were made with arrows on them to raise money for his medical bills. Arrows were popping up all over the place. Every day, we told Owen how strong and how brave he was. We told him he was a warrior and a fighter. 
After he died I received several pieces of jewelry with arrows on them. One bracelet came with a card that quoted Proverbs 35:6. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." After the verse, the card said, "Like an arrow, straight and true, God guides our lives. Submit yourself to the one who knows where each path leads."  We included this on the program at his funeral. 

During Owen's life, I didn't know where God was going to lead his path. I didn't know if he was going to allow him to live for hours, days, weeks, months, or years. I wrestled with the fact that by trusting God fully, I had to accept the fact that he may choose to take Owen from me. I didn't want to pray for God's will to be done. I wanted to pray for Owen's body to be healed and for him to live a long healthy life. I can't tell you how painful it was to be faced with the possibility of my newborn baby dying. I knew that God's ways may not be my ways. 

It was an hourly struggle for me... to trust God knowing that He might allow my worst fear to come true. It was gut wrenching. The fact that I had no control over anything was completely thrown in my face minute by minute as I watched my precious baby literally fight for his life, knowing there was nothing I could do to help. 

I felt helpless, but not hopeless.  

I trusted God, but I also prayed boldly for a miracle. We all asked for a miracle. God chose to heal Owen's body in heaven. And yet, we are still trusting... In Holding On To Hope, Nancy Guthrie writes:  

"Trusting God when the miracle does not come, when urgent prayer gets no answer, when there is only darkness-- this is the kind of faith God values perhaps most of all. This is the kind of faith that can be developed and displayed only in the midst of difficult circumstances. This is the kind of faith that cannot be shaken because it is the result of having been shaken."

This is such an encouragement to me. The reality is that I'm sad. Most things are just hard. Everything takes so much energy. I'm living many hours of my days in darkness, but knowing that my faith cannot be shaken anymore than it already has been is a comfort. I am trying so hard to trust God in the midst of my worst nightmare. My discomfort and moments of darkness have awakened me from my routine and remind me that I am not in control. I can be angry at God about my circumstances, or I can draw closer to Him.

On a walk with my friend Kristin last week, we noticed stones on the ground in the shape of an arrow, and we thought of Owen. I see arrows everywhere and they make me smile. Just as I was working on this blog post, I received a package at my door with this framed print inside. It's not a coincidence. It's God's work in everything, even the little things. 
Not only do arrows remind me of Owen, but they remind me that God is loving and that he has a purpose for Owen's life and for our suffering. I have come to terms with the fact that I will never know why all of this happened until I get to heaven. In Holding On To Hope, Nancy Guthrie encourages us to stop asking God "Why"?" but instead "For what purpose?" She challenges us to "look beyond this life and embrace the Redeemer, who will take the pieces of your life and transform them into something beautiful if you invite him to do so.


Mother's Day weekend was hard. It was a harsh reminder that I was supposed to be a mom. I am a mom. Owen made me one, and no other person will ever be able to do that. But it's completely different. My reality is that my baby died. Saying those words isn't getting any easier. People say that time will heal, but I'm not convinced... When does it get easier? I can't imagine anything ever hurting as bad as this. Knowing that the pain will never stop is difficult. I will never stop missing him.

I find that doing new things (or things for the first time since having Owen) are really hard. Going for a jog was hard at first... I should be using my jogging stroller. Running errands is hard. I feel like I'm surrounded by moms with baby boys whenever I go out. Last week I went to visit my parents for a few days in Florida. Flying on a plane was hard. I thought that the next time I would be on a plane, I would have a baby with me. Going to the beach for the first time was really hard. I pictured holding Owen close, feeling the ocean breeze, seeing him in his cute bathing suit, and taking a million pictures of his first beach trip. Eating at restaurants surrounded by families, grocery shopping, you name it. It's all hard.

Brian and I spent Mother's Day weekend in the mountains for a little get away. We stayed at a cute bed & breakfast in Asheville. While sitting on the front porch for cocktail hour, visiting with other couples, we were asked if we had any children. It caught me off guard, and I answered "no." I felt sick to my stomach saying it out loud. It just wasn't the time to go into it. These other couples were celebrating honeymoons and anniversaries. We didn't want to dampen the mood. We seemed happy and normal on the outside, but we were hurting so badly on the inside. It made me realize for the first time that this simple and frequently asked question will forever be a painful one.

We spent several hours on Sunday at the spa. The perfect way to try to relax... When I went in for my massage, the massage therapist asked if I had been pregnant in the past year. I told her I had a baby in February. I started to say, "he..." but I stopped. I wasn't going into it with her. She asked if I was nursing, and I said no. I felt instantly judged. She asked if I had a boy or a girl, and I said a boy. She then said, "Aren't little boys the best? I just love my son..." I fought back tears, smiled, and agreed. Thank goodness the questions stopped after that. She then gave me a mimosa and a rose in celebration of Mother's Day. I was flooded with so many mixed emotions. I was glad to be recognized as a mother, and I feel so honored to be Owen's mom, but I'm also filled with such sadness.

When asked what the occasion was for our trip, we said it was just a little getaway... That was partly true. But the other part was that we were there to finally spread Owen's ashes. On our drive up, to NC, I turned around to grab something out of my purse and noticed his ashes in the back. I had a quick moment where I felt like I couldn't breathe out of disbelief because of what were were about to do. I wanted so badly for Owen to be riding in his car seat, looking out the window, on his way to the mountains for the first time for a fun little trip as a family of three.

When Owen died, we knew we didn't want his body buried in some random cemetery in Atlanta that had no meaning to us. We aren't from Georgia, and we don't really have any ties here. It is our home for now, and it is special because this is where Owen lived, but burying him here didn't feel right. When Brian suggested spreading his ashes on top of Bald Mountain, I knew that was what we should do. His family has had a cabin on the mountain for years, and he grew up going to the Bald as a child. His grandfather's ashes were spread there, and it's a special place to both of us We have many memories visiting over the years. Even though it felt right, it was something I was completely dreading... I can't even begin to tell you how emotional it was. It was like he had died all over again. It felt so final.
It was a beautiful day though. I imagined Owen looking down from heaven at us with his big eyes and dimple chin, smiling.

This is yet another place where we will be reminded of Owen. Hiking up to the Bald has a whole new meaning to us now.
Owen has made me realize how comfortable I've been in my life this side of heaven. I have experienced pain, loss, and disappointment, but nothing to this effect. Not only was I comfortable here, but when I thought of heaven, it gave me great anxiety. The concept of "forever" was too much for me to comprehend. Heaven has become a much more real place now that Owen is there. I long for it. I long for my heartache and emptiness to go away. And I know it will when I get there. I relate so much to what Nancy Guthrie writes in her book Holding On To Hope"I have come to the place where I believe a yearning for heaven is one of the purposes and one of the privileges of suffering and of losing someone you love. I never had that yearning, before, but I do now. You see, a piece of me is there... I now see in a much fuller way that this life is just a shadow of our real life-- of eternal life in the presence of God."

Owen's Story: Part Six

...continued from Parts One, Two, Three, Four, & Five

Our drive home that night was strange. The last time we had driven on the interstate was one of the most exciting drives of our lives. We were going to meet our baby boy that day. This drive home was one of of the hardest. Did all of that really happen? Did we really just spend six weeks in a hospital? Did Owen really just die?

It feels like Brian and I aged twenty years in those six weeks. We are different people now. We didn't want to be those people who lost their newborn baby, but we are.

Coming home and seeing Toby again was comforting. He was so happy to see us- it had been so long! It was emotional being home. We left our house before with Owen in my belly, and now he wasn't with us. I sat in his nursery because I felt closer to him in there. It was all ready for him. We had everything we needed, but we didn't have him. Brian and I were just so sad. I cried myself to sleep that night. 

The next morning, I had a hard time getting out of bed. It was easier to just sleep... I let myself just lay there for a long time. I was numb. I had no desire to do anything. It felt so strange not to rush out in a hurry to get to Owen. That had been my life for the last six weeks. But that life was now over. I didn't have an appetite. I had to force myself just to drink water. People kept telling me I needed to eat. They told me that at the hospital too. I knew they meant well, but it really made me angry. I could only do so much. 

We had to plan his funeral. How in the world do you go about doing such a thing? How do you make decisions when your heart is torn in two and you can't think clearly? Our parents, my sister and Brian's sister really helped make everything happen. We wanted Owen's funeral to be personal, and a celebration of his life, and it was just that.

We printed pictures to display with some of his favorite things. All of his beads that he got in the hospital were there too. He had so many.
Mr. Frog, his crotched hearts, and his favorite books.

Our favorite verse which hung on his crib while we were at Egleston.

Natalie and Joy Lynne read testimonies from people who commented on Owen's caring bridge site. My uncle Vann preached a powerful message on hope. He included an incredible testimony that was posted online by someone we've never even met. It was beautiful.

"I would not have thought that I, an almost 70 year old man, could learn anything from an infant child. I would not have thought that an infant child could have opened my eyes so wide that I could see the glory of God so vividly. I would never have believed that an infant child could show me what it truly meant to have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.

Some of you know that over the past several weeks, thanks to sister Tami Dillard, I along with literally hundreds of others, have been praying for an infant child who since birth (six weeks) has been fighting an incredible race for his life. The group called "Team Owen" have for the most part been praying for this child whose name is Owen Parker along with his parents. As always in these situations we pray for God to give us a miracle and heal the person giving them a full life here on earth as well as comfort for them and their parents. Well I have to report that late last night my brother in Christ finally yielded to our Heavenly Fathers' will and passed to be with the Heavenly saints. Owen is totally well now and will be for eternity.

I never personally met Owen nor do I know his parents. I never met but only a couple of the people on Team Owen. However I can tell you that I have never felt so close to anyone or anybody than I have over the past few weeks than Owen. I have never felt such a camaraderie with a group of people as Team Owen. What did I learn. Through Owen my eyes were opened wide to the true love of God. Owen was like a magnet tearing at my heart saying that this is what real love is in the eyes of God. So innocent yet so powerful in its meaning. This child showed me through his trials and tribulation what it truly means to have an "intimate" relationship with someone you have never seen or touched.

My friends, God has used this child to bring literally hundreds of adults closer to Him. He used Owen to bring us all to our knees in humble prayer to God in Heaven asking for a miracle, but all things in accordance to His will. We were asking for the miracle of healing of Owen. But for me, God gave the miracle of Owen Parker for my healing. No I never got to meet Owen, but I got the opportunity to "feel" him in my heart. I now truly know what the Lord meant when he responded to Thomas saying "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." Thank you Father for using Owen in my life as reawakening as to how it feels to have this intimate relationship with my Lord Jesus. I look forward to meeting Owen in heaven."

God was glorified at Owen's funeral, and Owen's life was honored by many. I felt peace from the Lord that day. When I went to sleep that night, instead of replaying traumatic scenes from the hospital over and over in my mind like I had done before, I remembered his funeral and how much I loved everything about it. It was a happy memory even though it was a sad day.

Owen was so full of life. We couldn't have imagined a more perfect baby than our sweet Owen. He was fearfully and wonderfully made, and God knew the days of his life before any of them came to be. Owen has renewed our faith and taught us to take nothing for granted. He has given us hope. Hope in things eternal. There is a deep ache we feel since our arms are empty. We miss him so much. We never knew we could love someone as much as we love him. It is unfathomable to imagine how much more God loves him and all of us, as we are His children.

On our second day at Egleston, I tearfully told our nurse Amanda that my prayer was that others would draw closer to Christ because of Owen. That people who do not know the Lord will find salvation because of Owen's story. God is already answering that prayer.

I feel so honored to be Owen's mom, and I will never stop telling his story. He will be in my heart forever.

"We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you." 
Psalm 33:20-22