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.