the story of owen
marriage & flood
Blake and I had been married for two short months when we lost everything we had owned in the August 2016 flood. Living in a travel trailer with one pair of shoes to my name, we found out I was pregnant with Owen. He was our flood baby. He gave both of our families hope through such a time of devastation. Losing all our possessions stung a lot less knowing that new life would enter the word very soon.
birth & learning of down syndrome
On my way to school one day, I got a horrible headache and every mommy instinct in me was telling me that something was wrong. I drove to the hospital and was told that Owen would have to be delivered two days later. At 27 weeks pregnant, I had an emergency C-section and our lives were forever changed—our sweet, two pound, three-ounce reason for living entered the world! Even though he was small, I knew he was a fighter. All the nurses joked about how feisty he was and what a big personality he had at such a young age. I wasn’t able to see Owen for a few days because of my own sickness; so I would ask Blake to tell me EVERY DETAIL each time he went to visit sweet boy. Once I actually got to meet him and hold him, my heart grew a million times bigger. We had created life! We had made that sweet, innocent, tiny baby! He was ours forever!
Late one night when Owen was about a week old, Blake walked into my hospital room after visiting him. He was smiling, but his eyes were red and puffy. I knew he had been crying. Hard. After begging him to tell me what was wrong, he said, “The nurses think Owen has Down syndrome.” I’m sorry, what? MY baby? No. That can’t be right. I was so angry. How dare them say that my child has Down syndrome?! I wanted proof.
The proof came and it was confirmed that Owen had Down syndrome. Everything I had dreamed of was crushed. I felt vacant inside. The images of my son walking in after a fun day of hunting or fishing with Blake was destroyed. We didn’t know the first thing about Down syndrome. We didn’t even know anyone with Down syndrome! Who was supposed to help us?! How were we supposed to figure this thing out?!
After days of feeling like incompetent parents and feeling completely alone, something extraordinary happened. Blake and I got home after visiting with Owen and found a box on our front step. We had no idea where it was from or who sent it… and I mean, it was a big box! We brought it in, unpacked it, and for the first time, we were introduced to Upside Downs. Through some mutual friends, Beau and Michelle had found out about Owen and sent us a new parent box, now called Ella’s Endeavors. It was jam packed full of newborn and Down syndrome goodies! Best of all, it was a celebration package. I felt like Beau and Michelle were speaking—more like yelling—through the package, “YAY! OWEN HAS DOWN SYNDROME!” I was in tears because I felt like I had a family in people I had never even met. They were excited that our baby was born exactly how he was! We felt so much comfort and relief from one simple package.
owen’s passing & scholarship
A few weeks later, at a day shy of being one month old, we lost our precious Owen. He had just hit the three-pound mark, and we called him our heavy weight champ. Beau and Michelle—and all of the Upside Downs family—stayed by our side throughout every moment. Upside Downs is still a huge part of our lives because we know Owen would’ve met his best friends there. Owen may not be here in a physical sense, but we feel him every day. His short life had a purpose and we feel like it’s our job as his parents to fulfill his life’s meaning.
We are so thrilled to share with everyone that we—through Upside Downs—have established the Owen Alexander Olivier Memorial Scholarship, which will allow individuals with Down syndrome the opportunity to participate in hippo therapy and music therapy! In our short time with Owen, we quickly realized that his life would forever consist of numerous types of therapies, which would become extremely expensive. Our hope is that each year, a family can provide their child with a therapy that otherwise, they would not be able to participate in. It is our goal that the scholarship recipients not only progress developmentally through these therapies, but that they have FUN doing it! Blake and I are music and animal lovers to our core, and we know that Owen would have been beside himself to be able to participate in music and hippo therapy.
We’re forever thankful to our Upside Downs family for not only loving and accepting Owen, but giving us—as his parents—a home and a place to not only remember our sweet boy, but to CELEBRATE his life. We are firm believers that ANYTHING is possible with Down syndrome!