By Nick McGeehon, Everly’s Dad
When my wife was pregnant with our first child, we made the conscious decision not to find out the gender of the baby. Our logic was this – you do not get many real joyful surprises in this life and this was a perfect opportunity to experience something truly joyful.
We prepared our gender neutral clothing and decorations for the nursery. We prepared all our possible names for both girls and boys. And we waited for that exciting day we would meet our new addition.
I remember being chided by a lady of an older generation about how they never were able to find out the gender of their children and how she thought we were crazy for NOT finding out.
I remember people asking me, “You want a boy, right?” I never really leaned towards one side or the other. I was really excited about the adventure ahead and what amazing things would happen either way.
When our child arrived, I remember the chaos of the delivery room and the anticipation of finding out if a little boy or a little girl would join us. Mid-afternoon of August 5, 2015, a sweet little girl joined our world, and my life has never been the same.
When Martha was pregnant again, we enjoyed the experience of waiting for the real time gender reveal. We had no idea which way things would go. Of course everyone had their guesses and their old wives tales about what was going to happen, but we had no clue.
Again, I wasn’t set either way. Sure, I’d had the experience of having a beautiful baby girl and the adventure of having a little boy was enticing. What I had set in my mind though was that 2 children was our limit. This was the last time we were going through this experience.
Regardless of the baby’s gender, this was how our family would be set. We would either have a boy and a girl or I was going to be outnumbered 3 -1.
On April 23, 2018, Everly Ann was born. I was a full fledged girl dad, and I LOVED IT.
Needless to say, just 4 months later when Everly died, my world was devastated. All of our “plans” went out the window and my world was turned upside down. Our careful preparation, our perfect family of 4 was shattered. Where would we go from here?
As we traveled our grief journey, we knew that while our first girl Campbell would never truly be an only child, we didn’t want her to grow up without the joy of a sibling. But how could we put ourselves through everything again. Would it be alright? Would we have to face this living hell again? Was it even a smart or healthy thing to do?
We sought the counsel of others that had also lived our horror story. One of the most moving conversations was with our friends Genny & Matt Jessee. You can read more about their story and about their daughter June at junejesse.org. Over dinner, I poured out my fears to them. I asked Genny how after they went through so much difficulty and pain, how did they decide to have more children? I hear her answer in my head almost every day. Genny explained that sure things could go wrong again, however those odds were very small. The odds of everything going right were way greater. I remember her saying, “even if the odds of something going terribly wrong are 25%, that’s a 75% chance everything will be just fine. Why not choose to live in the joy of the 75%?” Her words hit me hard and gave me hope that maybe we could have another child.
So with having our minds at ease, we consulted with Martha’s OBGYN on the health concerns and after much consideration we decided that regardless of the risks, we were going to have another child.
The third pregnancy was no cake walk. It started smooth, and we were given extra attention given the trauma we had gone through with Everly. Martha’s doctor made sure she had the care she needed, and we received sonograms every few weeks to make sure that the baby was progressing.
When the time came to find out the gender, I was adamant that I needed to know in order to prepare myself. Should another beautiful little girl enter our world, I needed time to process my thoughts, feelings and emotions about how this human was not replacing another little girl and how we would raise this girl in her own light without the shadow of the girl that could have been.
We didn’t want to endure this stressful moment in a doctor’s office, so we decided to have the gender results mailed to us. They arrived in a small white envelope, and Martha and I opened it together.
There on that piece of paper, coincidently written in blue, was the word “boy.”
In that moment so many feelings washed over me from relief, guilt, anger, excitement. Looking back, I don’t remember one emotion winning in the moment. I felt them all equally. Then it was time to wrestle with myself and my feelings around this little boy that was soon to enter our world.
I felt excitement around the relationship that he and I would have, while at the same time, the sorrow of knowing that I’m missing out on a relationship with another child. And on top of that, he too will miss out on a relationship with his big sister, Everly.
To this day I cannot reconcile this wonderful little boy that is in my world. In my head he was never meant to be mine. I cannot balance the idea that had his sister not died, he would not be here. Is that really the bigger plan or the plan of the universe? I’ll never know. What I do know is I get to choose how I show up in his life, and my entire family’s life every day.
Life isn’t always what you plan it. Sometimes it is not even what you thought it could be in your wildest imaginations. And what life is, is a journey and a choice in how you live it. Every day we are faced with incredible odds that things will go wrong, the “you-know-what” will hit the fan, or tragedy may be waiting around the corner. Yet we get to choose what percentage we want to live in no matter what we have thrown at us. For me, I’ll choose to live in the joy.