Nothing can prepare you for the loss of a child.
Often it is a sudden occurrence, taking you completely off guard and shocking you to your very core.
But for Keri and Royce Young that was something they had months to come to terms with.
“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,” Royce said in a Facebook post.
In December, the Young family went for their 19-week anatomy scan of their second child. Excited to find out the gender, the appointment turned into a moment of heartbreak. Their daughter was diagnosed with a rare birth defect which causes the frontal lobe of the fetus not to develop.
Chance of survival was literally zero percent according to Royce Young. “So we sat in a doctor’s office, five months before our daughter was set to be born, knowing she would die”
The family then made the amazing decision to carry their baby to term, with the intention of donating her organs and potentially saving the life of others.
They named their growing daughter Eva, which means “giver of life”.
“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,” Royce wrote.
Keri was able to experience kicks and punches to her bladder like any other pregnancy and the couple grew to love the joy that brought them.
They decided to have a planned C-Section on May 2, even though their son Harrison was born vaginally. This would maximize the chances of seeing Eva alive and controlling 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,” Royce wrote.
The couple had meeting after meeting with the people from LifeShare, NICU nurses and doctors creating various plans for multiple situations.
“It was made clear to us over and over and over again how if Eva’s kidneys or liver didn’t go directly for transplant, they would go to research, and infant organ research is incredibly valuable,” Royce wrote. “But I wanted a tangible outcome. I wanted to be able to meet and hug and shake the hand of the person my daughter saved.”
Eva needed to be 5 pounds in order to be eligible for organ donation for transplant so Keri drank tons of water trying to increase their chances.
“On Sunday, April 16, the day Keri officially hit full-term at 37 weeks, suddenly, we were in the two-week window. In two weeks, we’d be prepping to welcome our baby girl into the world, and preparing to say goodbye to her. I planned on sitting down that day to write Eva a letter, like I did before Harrison was born, to give him on his 18th birthday. She’d never read it, but I was going to read it to her,” Royce wrote.
That morning Keri notice Eva was especially quiet. After coming back from lunch she sat in her favorite spot and prodded Eva to move. After no reaction, she got up and walked around, drank cold water and at some sugary stuff. Still nothing. That’s when they decided to go to the hospital.
In the car, Royce asked “This is going to be bad, isn’t it?” he said. Keri erupted into tears and her body shook. He had his answer.
After searching for a heartbeat using a doppler, and verifying on an ultrasound machine, it was confirmed that Eva was gone.
“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,” Royce wrote.
Since there was no reason to control variables anymore, the doctors induced Keri into labor.
“The rest of Sunday and into Monday morning were the darkest, most painful hours of our lives. Not that grief needs to be ranked, but compared to even when we found out Eva’s diagnosis, this was so much worse,” Royce wrote.
“I longed for just five minutes with her, heck, five seconds with her. All of that practical stuff about organ donation was irrelevant to me now. I just wanted to hold my baby girl and see her chest move up and down. I just wanted to be her daddy, if only for a few seconds,” Royce wrote.
At 12:37, Eva Grace Young was born weighing 3lbs 4oz. Royce cut the umbilical cord officially separating Keri from Eva at 12:38.
At 12:40 a call from LifeShare came in.
“Hey Royce, it’s Laurie — will you give me a call when you get a chance? I think I have some good news for you.”
Dr. Pinard returned the call on behalf of the couple who were holding eachother and crying as the nurses cleaned up Eva.
“I’m on the phone with LifeShare,” she said, a smile cracking through on her face. “They have a recipient for Eva’s eyes.”
“It’s a weird thing to say that in probably the worst experience of my life was also maybe the best moment of my life, but I think it was the best moment of my life,” Royce wrote.
It wasn’t what the couple was planning for, but in that moment, it was exactly what they needed to hear.
“I buried my head in my arms and sobbed harder than I ever have. Keri put her hands over her face and did the same. Happy tears,” Royce wrote.
“A few feet away the nurses finished cleaning Eva up and wrapped her, putting the hat Keri had knitted on her head. As they handed her to us for the first time, much of the dread and fear was lifted off us, and replaced with some hope and joy again. Here comes Eva Grace Young, the superhero she was always meant to be,” Royce wrote.
“We always wondered things about Eva, like what color her hair would be, if she’d have Harrison’s nose, if she’d have dimples like her mama, or what color those 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. But I can dream about looking into her eyes for the first time one day, and finding out what color they are,” Royce concluded.
See the beautiful memorial video the family put together, don’t forget the tissues because this won’t leave a dry eye in the house.