TAMPA - Olivia Rodriguez, wife of former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Evan Rodriguez, is due to have the couple’s first child together in December. They’ve already given her the name Layla Sky. “It’s because I always zone out and look at the sky and wonder what else is out there,” Evan said.
The couple is already completely in love with their unborn child, after having to make the toughest decision of their lives. “I prayed to God that I want to make the right decisions,” Evan said.
Doctors told the couple early in the pregnancy that Layla Sky will be born with the rare and severe birth defect anencephaly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in every 4,859 babies is born with anencephaly in the U.S each year.
Doctors told the couple Layla Sky will likely be born missing parts of her brain and skull and could only live for days, if not hours.
“From that moment on, I’m like what can we do? He was like, either terminate it or move forward with the process,” Evan said about speaking to doctors.
Evan and Olivia said they pray together each morning, but it was in these times while making this decision that they leaned on their faith more than ever before. Olivia prayed, “God, show me what it is that you want to do through all of this. What’s the good to come out of it?”
After about a week of wrestling with the decision, Evan and Olivia came to a shared decision to move forward with the pregnancy. “We decided to continue with the process because we felt like who are we to determine a baby’s life. So, we are going to leave it in God’s hands,” Evan said.
The couple is now raising awareness about anencephaly, something they’d never heard of before now.
Evan donned a Layla Sky towel at each practice while he played for the Bucs. He was released from the team this week.
The hashtag “The Fight for Layla Sky” is spreading on social media and telling women how to reduce the risk of having a baby with birth defects, like taking a daily multivitamin containing folic acid. They’re also working with Duke University to study anencephaly.
“It felt like it was our job to let other people know about this,” Evan said.
Evan and Olivia vow to make the most of every minute they have with Layla Sky. Evan said he knows he’ll shower her with unconditional love again someday. “She’ll be waiting up there saying daddy. So, there’s a time and place for everything,” Evan said.
Olivia told ABC Action News that her husband is looking to be picked up by another team and already has good interest. She said if he plays for another team, she’ll move with him right away and find new doctors to ensure Layla Sky has the very best care.