Pregnancy is always exhausting, especially if you have another child already. And if your husband travels for work, that can add in another layer of exhaustion. ESPN writer Royce Young was getting ready to go on a trip for work last week when he snapped this photo of his pregnant wife, Keri, sleeping on the couch.
But it was so much more than just a photo: Young’s post quickly turned into an essay about his love for his wife and her strength as she carried their daughter, Eva, who does not have a brain. He talks about how tough it is to know they’ll never be able to watch their daughter grow up. His words hit me right in my mama heart, so beautiful and HARD. But it’s what Keri said just seconds after their doctor told them their Eva would not live that really got me…and it’s a must-read. Here it is in Royce Young’s own words, which he posted on Facebook.
The other night, before I left for New Orleans, I was watching my beautiful wife sleep peacefully on the couch.
I looked at her laying there, her belly big with our daughter kicking away, a daughter that won’t live more than a few days, and it just overwhelmed me of how incredible this woman is. I’m a writer so when I’m feeling something, I tend to have to write it down. So I pulled out my phone and started writing what I was thinking. And I realized tonight sitting a thousand miles away in a hotel room, especially after meeting this awesome kid named Jarrius that’s been everywhere at All-Star Weekend who needs a liver transplant, that instead of just keeping this one for me like I normally do, I should tell everyone else just how incredible Keri Young is. (I also miss her five seconds after I leave the house for a trip so I’m thinking about her all the time anyway.)
I thought back to the moment where we found out Eva wasn’t perfect, and how literally 30 seconds after our doctor told us our baby doesn’t have a brain, somehow through full body ugly crying, Keri looked up and asked,
“If I carry her full term, can we donate her organs?”
I remember our doctor putting her hand on Keri’s shoulder and saying, “Oh honey, that’s so brave of you to say.” Like, how nice of you, but come on. Keri meant it. There I was, crestfallen and heartbroken, but I momentarily got lifted out of the moment and just stood in awe of her. I was a spectator to my own life, watching a superhero find her superpowers. In literally the worst moment of her life, finding out her baby was going to die, it took her less than a minute to think of someone else and how her selflessness could help. It’s one of the most powerful things I’ve ever experienced. In the eight years we’ve been married (and 15 years together) I’ve had a lot of moments stop me in my tracks where I thought, “holy crap, this woman I’m married to, lucky me.” But this one was different. It hit me that not only am I married to my very best friend, but to a truly remarkable, special human being.
This whole process has been rough, but I say that as someone watching from the bleachers like the rest of you. Keri has been in the trenches the entire time, feeling every little kick, every hiccup and every roll. She’s reminded every moment of every day that she’s carrying a baby that will die. Her back hurts. Her feet are sore. She’s got all the super fun pregnant stuff going on. But the light at the end of her nine-month tunnel will turn into a darkness she’s never felt before a couple hours or days after Eva is born. She’s the one that is going to deal with all that comes with having a baby– her milk coming in, the recovery process, etc, but with no snuggly, soft, beautiful newborn to look at to remind you that it was all worth it.
We made our choice to carry Eva to full term for a lot of reasons, but the first and foremost was to donate her organs. We don’t say that to try and sound like great people or anything. It was just a practical endgame that in our minds, before we came to the realization Eva is alive and our daughter deserves to meet her mama and daddy, gave us a purpose to continue on. Donating was on Keri’s mind from darn near the second we found out and while the experience of holding and kissing our daughter will be something we cherish forever, the gift(s) she’s got inside that little body of hers is what really matters. Keri saw that almost instantly. That kid Jarrius wears a shirt that says “It Takes Lives To Save Lives.” I couldn’t stop thinking about that all day. There’s another family out there hurting and hoping for a miracle for their baby, knowing full well someone else’s baby will need to die first. Eva can be that miracle.
We’re getting closer to the finish line, and while it’s going to be amazing to run through that tape and meet Eva, it comes at a cost. We’ll go to the hospital for a birth, and go home without a baby.
A lot of people say things like, “I wouldn’t change anything” after a trying circumstance, but I’m not about to say that. I would definitely change this if I could. I want my daughter to be perfect. I want her to blow out her candles on her first birthday. I want to watch her bang her head on our coffee table trying to learn to walk. I want her to run up a cell phone bill texting boys. I want to walk her down an aisle. I want to change it all so, so badly. But I can’t. This is our reality. And there’s no stopping it.
Whenever Harrison gets hurt, or has to pull a bandaid off or something, Keri will ask him, “Are you tough? Are you BRAVE?” And that little boy will nod his head and say, “I tough! I brave!” I’m looking at Keri right now and I don’t even have to ask. She’s TOUGH. She’s BRAVE. She’s incredible. She’s remarkable. She’s cut from a different cloth, combining wit, beauty, courage, silliness, character and integrity into one spectacular woman. And somehow, she’s my wife. Not that I needed some awful situation like this to actually see all of that, but what it did was make me want to tell everyone else about it.
Are you CRYING yet? The Youngs’ selflessness and strength in donating their daughter’s organs, in bringing some beauty from this tragedy, is simply amazing. And so too are these words from a husband about his wife — how he just wants to “tell everyone else” how spectacular, remarkable, and brave she is.
God bless this family, and the people who will receive gifts of life from them and little Eva. THANK YOU for sharing your story with us, Young family. You are in our prayers!