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This is part 2 of 2 of Ollie’s story….to read part 1, click here.




“Will, he’s not breathing!”

Those lines began the hardest day of our lives. 6:43am – Sunday, June 25th, 2017. 

Will jumped up from his bed and, with only a glance to our son, hit the call button for the nurses. In the few seconds before they rushed in, time was suspended in silence as we held our lifeless baby in our hands and prayed for a miracle. We had both just woken up, and we had no idea what had happened. The very little life we’d had with him flashed before our eyes. Only a couple hours earlier, Oliver had passed his 48-hour check with flying colors. Up until that moment, he’d been peacefully breastfeeding; nestled in my arms; taking deep, care-free breaths. Our baby is so perfect and healthy. Healthy babies don’t just die out of the blue.

Two nurses ran into our room and immediately placed him in his bassinet to see what was wrong. They were followed a split second later by a third nurse. She reached for some gloves, but with one look at Ollie and a desperate “God! God, no!”, she threw them to the ground as she scooped him up in her arms and ran to the NICU emergency room. Will and I were left sitting there, holding onto each other, and begging God to save our baby. We couldn’t even cry right then–we had woken up to our worst nightmare and the shock was overwhelming. Will called our midwife and asked her to come, and texted his family to ask them to pray. We had to tell ourselves it was going to be ok because we weren’t going to believe the worst until there was no other option. The worst couldn’t possibly happen, right?

A few minutes later, a fourth nurse came and had us follow her to the NICU. We walked into the brightly-lit, sterile room and saw a group of over 20 people working to try and save Oliver. She let a few people know that the parents were in the room. We were handed a box of tissues. Will held me as I tried desperately to keep breathing and watching in case our little man showed any signs of life. The group of nurses worked quickly and with skill, but we could feel the weight in the room–it was going to be a miracle if he made it. The doctor came over and explained to us what they were doing, but informed us that even if they were able to get him to begin breathing again, there was no guarantee that he would be more than a vegetable since his brain’s blood supply had been cut off for an unknown amount of time now. Will squeezed my hand as we watched Ollie’s vitals monitor flash numbers that rose and plummeted as the epi took a momentary effect in his unresponsive body. Up, down…up, up, down….to 0.

He was truly gone. 

Some nurses simply hung their heads and walked out of the room, some looked up at us with an expression of hopelessness or said they were so sorry. One by one, they left.

Ollie’s little shell was swaddled and handed to me as we were escorted to a tiny room to spend some time with him. A social worker came in and let us know she would be available later; the chaplain came in and prayed, but lacked the gift of presence, so I was thankful when a phone call summoned her. I’m sure a few other people came in and out, but it was all such a blur. Here we were–after a rollercoaster of a labor experience and two precious days of being in awe of this little person we had made–holding a body that was no longer our son. We rocked him, kissed him, and held him close in this vain effort to make reality go away.

Our midwife, Mary Helen, was the first of our people to arrive. She prayed with us, cried with us, and simply was with us as we took in Oliver’s every feature for one of the last times. She helped us get moved back to our room so that we would be ready as family and friends started arriving. I called my parents. My dad answered the phone excitedly and asked what was up. “Ollie….is with Jesus,” was all I managed to say. I heard him cry out and weep, then tell my mom in the background. She yelled “No!” and began to cry also. Another piece of my heart broke. I couldn’t even catch my breath between sobs, so I handed to phone to Mary Helen and she let them know what had happened.

Before long, Will’s family arrived. Their faces mirrored what we felt–pain that only people who have been through this once before would know. As soon as they walked in, we all broke down and wept our hearts out yet again.

Friends kept pouring into the small room for next few hours as we probably broke any kind of room capacity regulations. Everyone took turns holding Oliver’s little earthly shell, kissing his sweet forehead, stroking his soft hair. Praying, crying, and hugging us. We were supported so well. Words weren’t necessary–presence was enough.

The bereavement coordinator came in and, through some tears of her own, took our last set of pictures of Ollie. She got his footprints and molds of his hand and foot. We tried smiling for some pictures with him, but they were weak, heartbroken smiles.

Somewhere in that morning, the coroner came and told us he had to take our child soon. We talked with child protective services. Some cops stepped into our sacred space and, clearly unsure as to why they were there, promptly left. The protocol was rote, but we were supposed to be signing papers to leave the hospital with our child, not for them to be taking our child for an autopsy.

We all took our last pictures, our last whiff of his sweet baby smell, gave him our last hugs. I swaddled him one last time, just the way he loved being tightly wrapped when he was alive. Will and I held him together one more time, cried, and handed him to be taken. It was all so final.

We were released from the hospital that held all of the living, out-of-the-womb memories we had of our child, and as we drove home that afternoon, emptiness, shock, and comfort all collided. There was no question that God was present, that we were not, in fact, alone. But it was also held in tension with the fact that this was not how we envisioned our story going. We felt assaulted by our worst nightmare.

The afternoon was a steady flow of people coming and going, crying with us, saying nice things that I honestly can’t remember, and lots of heart-healing hugs. We alternated between tears and laughter, and sometimes both happened at the same time.

In the evening, one of our dear friends came and led our family in a time of worship, and it was one of the most timely gifts of that day. Praising through the pain involves wrestling your words into submission of what you know is true, even if it goes against everything you feel. Tears poured from our eyes as we consciously turned our focus wholly onto the One who was still good. It was hard. But in that time, we finally felt the peace that we needed to close out such a heart-wrecking day. We hadn’t left our baby in the hands of a coroner; our baby had drifted from my arms right into Jesus’ and he was in true safety.


There is nothing in nine months of marriage that can prepare you for the heartbreak of losing a child. Shoot–I’d argue that there’s nothing in 99 years of it that could prepare you either. Nothing except God.

The death of a little person–your little person–just isn’t something you prepare for. You will your brain to not even go there. Older people have things happen to them, they live a good and full life, and then they die. There’s a measure of grace in that that is more-or-less expected. But not a newborn. Not my perfectly healthy boy for no good reason at all.

There are lots of things you will likely take from reading our story, but if there is one thing I want you to hear, it is this: God is good. Nothing takes him by surprise.

It is so hard to write that and even harder to believe it at times. But I have also never known something to be truer than that. I have never felt God closer than I have in these weeks of heart-exposing sadness and pain. In the moments when I can’t sing that I want more of him because more of him means handing over the things I hold closest to my heart–even there he is present and comforting.

Somehow, I cannot help but see all of the ways he has been merciful to us. God has given us more than we can handle. But he is still good.

Take heart. Sorrow may endure for the night….and sometimes it starts in the morning and lasts all of the livelong day. But joy will come. {Psalm 30:5b}

-Joylily, for Team Young

Special thanks to our Aunt Natalie for so beautifully capturing Oliver’s little memorial service. Check out her work here.



  1. Melissa Ottney says:

    I sat here and read your story with tears streaming down my face. I admire your strength and courage knowing your heart is broken and parts of it will never heal. Oliver was loved and will continue to be loved throughout your life. He will always remain in your heart and always tug at mine. You guys are awesome and the few days you were able to love on that precious baby, he knew it and felt it. God bless you and keep you in His care, love you, Melissa Ottney


  2. Sandra Kimzey Wimbish says:

    Thank you for sharing your heart and your pain and your hope.


  3. Elise Hurst says:

    Thank you for sharing your story! I know this wasn’t easy. We grieve with you and celebrate his life and your family of three fully! Continued prayers for peace


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