Royce Young, who said goodbye to his second child, daughter Eva, with his wife Keri last week, recounted the agonizing decision to bring the child to term knowing she would not live.
“We spent months bracing and preparing for the death of our daughter,” he writes on Medium. “But guess what? We weren’t ready.”
Royce and Keri discovered in December that their daughter had Anencephaly, a rare condition in which an infant is missing the cortex of their brain. However, Keri planned to carry the child to term and donate the baby’s organs to children in need.
The couple’s story made headlines after Royce, a writer for ESPN, officially opened up about the situation in a Facebook post in February.
Royce writes he and Keri worked with a team of doctors in Oklahoma to make sure their daughter was capable of donating her organs, in the hope that she could give life to others.
“We decided to continue, and chose the name Eva for our girl, which means ‘giver of life,'” Royce writes. “The mission was simple: Get Eva to full-term, welcome her into this world to die, and let her give the gift of life to some other hurting family.”
Despite the pregnancy’s difficulties (Royce writes that part of the difficulty in carrying on was the “mental burden” of knowing their daughter would die), the Youngs found joy in their pregnancy, talking happily about their daughter and loving her every day.
“We got excited to be her parents,” Royce writes. “I think a big part of that was connected to the decision we made to continue on, which was empowering. She had a name, an identity, and a purpose.”
The Oklahoma couple decided to have a C-Section on May 2, even though their first-born, Harrison, was born vaginally, Royce writes.
“We wanted to maximize our chances of seeing Eva alive, and be able to control as many variables as possible. That way there wouldn’t be any surprise labor in the middle of the night, and we could have Harrison there to meet his sister, and grandparents ready to hold their granddaughter even if she was only alive for an hour or so,” he writes. “It was something Keri had to grieve as well, giving up a vaginal birth for our next child.”
Even though they’d planned their delivery, Eva came early after Keri felt minimal movement from her. When they rushed to the hospital, they were told Keri needed to prepare for an immediate C-Section. Eva’s heartbeat had stopped.
“Keri rolled onto her side and put both hands over her face and let out one of those raw, visceral sobbing bursts,” Royce writes. “I stood silently shaking my head. We had tried to do everything right, tried to think of others, tried to take every possible step to make this work, and it didn’t. No organ donation. Not even for the failsafe, research. We felt cheated.”
Before the Youngs could hold their daughter and say goodbye, they were informed by LifeShare Oklahoma that they found a recipient for Eva’s eyes. It was all the Youngs needed to hear.
“The timing of it all is just something I can’t explain. It wasn’t what we planned or hoped for, but it was everything we needed in that moment,” Royce writes.
When they finally had the chance to hold their daughter for the first and last time — doctors ultimately decided to induce labor rather than have a C-section — Royce explains he’ll always wonder what his daughter’s hair color would have been, if she’d have her brother’s nose or dimples like her mother, or what color her eyes would be.
“In the time we spent with her, one was always just a little bit open, and I fought the temptation to peek. I can’t ever hold my daughter again. I can’t ever talk to her or hear her giggle,” he writes. “But I can dream about looking into her eyes for the first time one day, and finding out what color they are.”