At her 19-week ultrasound, Keri Young found out her baby had anencephaly, which affects about 1,206 pregnancies in the U.S. annually. It meant her terminally ill daughter would be born without parts of the brain and skull. The Oklahoma City mom made the tough decision to carry her baby to full term and donate the organs in hopes that they could save another child's life.
"Those first 24 hours were the hardest of our lives. I couldn't eat and when I finally did, I didn't keep it down. We were exhausted but couldn't sleep and when we thought we had no tears left we cried and cried again," Keri wrote on Facebook in December.
(The baby) will donate anything she can and do more in her time on earth than I ever will.
There were times when she second-guessed the decision, but she and her husband, Royce, ultimately shook on it.
"Eva will have life even though it will be short. She'll donate anything she can and do more in her time on earth than I ever will. ... We're not hoping for a miracle. We know she will not live. But someone else is desperately hoping for a miracle. Their kidneys are failing them. Their liver has betrayed them. They deserve life, and they're probably praying for it. Eva can be their answer to it," Keri wrote.
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...
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.
"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 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."
Photograph by Facebook
Royce isn't taking his wife's sacrifices lightly.
"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. ... 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."
The decision to carry Eva to full term wasn't just about the potential to save another baby's life, though that reason in itself is helping the couple to the finish line. Keri and Royce also think their daughter deserves to meet her parents, to be held and kissed.
While some people would say, "I wouldn't change anything," Royce admits there is so much he wishes he could change.
"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," he writes. "But I can't. This is our reality. And there's no stopping it."