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A Purpose in the Pain: Family Turns Their Grief Into a Cause

Jamie Parker and her family at the Baby Steps Memorial 5K

A Purpose in the Pain: Family Turns Their Grief Into a Cause

Fourteen weeks into her pregnancy, doctors told Jamie Parker and her husband, Nat, that something was wrong with one of the twins she was carrying. They expected the twin, who was a boy, not to survive the second trimester.


He did, though. And so at 30 weeks, the couple met with the staff of the neonatal intensive care unit about what to expect in labor and delivery; one of the phrases Jamie remembers was to “manage our expectations.” The twin, whose name was Wyatt, would likely not survive birth, the specialists said, or if he did, it would be only for a few moments.


For the second time, Wyatt defied doctors’ expectations. In October 2013, Jamie gave birth to Wyatt and his twin, a girl name Makayla. Wyatt survived a few days, giving his parents a chance to know him.


“Little man was a fighter,” Jamie says.


Something positive to work toward


Still, their joy at having a healthy daughter became inextricably mixed with their grief over losing an infant son. A month later, Jamie had an idea.


A Purpose in the Pain: Family Turns Their Grief Into a Cause

“I was on maternity leave, sitting on the couch with Makayla, and as soon as my husband walked in the door from work I said, ‘Hey, I want to put on a 5K to raise money for the Brookwood auxiliary and also to honor Wyatt.’ He just looked at me, smiled and said OK.”


The event gave the couple something positive to work toward. Jamie is an anti-money laundering risk manager at Cadence Bank, and Nat is a police officer; it was the first time either of them had organized such an event. Nonetheless, the first Little Warrior Run took place just six months after Wyatt died.


“The day of the run was a blur,” Jamie says. “We were up at 3:30 a.m. putting out signs with flashlights, setting up. I remember actually physically holding the starting line sign.

“We had no clue what we were doing, but it was amazing.”


First event raises $10K+


Their efforts and enthusiasm paid off. Jamie had hoped for 50 runners, but 250 showed up. By the end of the day the event had raised more than $10,000 for the Brookwood Auxiliary in Birmingham, Alabama, a hospital-affiliated group that helps people after the loss of a child. Eighteen months later, Jamie and Nat put on the second Little Warrior Run, and again raised nearly $10,000 to benefit the auxiliary. The group used the funds to sponsor training for doctors, nurses, social workers and others on how to assist families after a loss.


The auxiliary was there in many ways for the Parkers when they lost Wyatt. Despite the help, however, the couple would soon learn that even professionals sometimes have a difficult time knowing what to say or how to act.


“I went to a random doctor about three months after our loss and he asked me how many kids I had,” Jamie says. I told him, ‘Well, I have a three-month-old and one in heaven.’ He completely skipped over my response and went on to the next question. I had another situation at work where an old co-worker walked up to me and told me God just knew I couldn’t handle twins.”


Jamie uses the examples not to shame others—she believes those people were giving the best response they knew to give—but to show why education is so important.


Looking forward


“Doing these events made us feel like there was purpose in our pain,” Jamie says. “Like we went through all of this for a reason and came out stronger, ready to be a blessing to others in some way.” Whenever Jamie and Nat are made aware of a situation in which someone has lost a child, they make themselves available to help. But even now, talking about Wyatt to someone new can be difficult.


“It’s been almost five years and I still get shaky when telling our story,” Jamie says. “I still shy away from telling it when I do not want to answer questions, and I still have to pray through the nerves when I do want to share and let others know what we have been through and how it has transformed our lives and marriage.”


In 2015, Jamie and Nat had another son, Liam. The couple decided to step back from organizing their own events, and Jamie joined the committee of the Baby Steps Memorial 5K, an annual run benefiting the Amelia Center in Birmingham, which provides free counseling to those who have lost a child, a sibling, a grandchild or a parent. This year the run was at Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park on September 29.


Jamie feels that her work keeps her close to Wyatt’s spirit.


“Running makes me feel closer to him. I pray when I run— partially praying to ensure I don’t pass out— but mostly just normal, everyday prayers. While I have my conversations with God, I talk to Wyatt too.”


A Purpose in the Pain: Family Turns Their Grief Into a CauseThis year Makayla, who is almost five, was “training” for the Baby Steps one-mile Fun Run; Jamie crossed the finish line with her while Nat ran in the 5K. The name “Makayla” comes from a character in the first “Transformers” movie; Jamie and Nat loved it the first time they heard it.


And Wyatt’s name?


“We had a lot of trouble picking a boy name. But around 20 weeks, while at the high-risk doctor, we were looking for names that meant something special, since he was still with us at 20 weeks. We chose Wyatt because it means ‘Little Warrior – Gift of God.’ Hence the name of our first two runs—The Little Warrior Run.”


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