Updated August 15, 2022 - 3:41 pm
He’s usually cranky in the mornings. Doesn’t seem to like waking up prematurely. But on a sweltering Friday afternoon in early July, Elijah Russell Sieg rests peacefully in his father’s arms — or in his mother’s lap — occasionally breaking his slumber to coo or cry.
He’s dressed in a white onesie, framing a Bible verse printed in bold black text: 1 Samuel 1:27.
For this child we have prayed.
Sieg’s parents, Raiders long snapper Trent and his wife, Carly, maintained their faith that he would eventually arrive. They persevered despite miscarriages that occurred during the 2020 NFL season and subsequent offseason.
Only 1 percent of women have repeated miscarriages, according to research compiled by the Mayo Clinic. Count Carly among the 1 percent — and among the happiest women in the world after birthing Elijah, or Eli, at 6:45 a.m. on May 21.
Trent, too, is happy as he prepares for his fifth year with the Raiders — and second of a three-year contract extension that helps support the family he’d always hoped to have. Football was always fun for Trent, who began playing as a 5-year-old in a tiny Colorado farm town.
But fatherhood is a greater and more rewarding challenge for the former walk-on from Colorado State.
“He’s definitely amazing,” Sieg said of his son. “He’s such a blessing.”
Building a bond
Sieg and Carly drove with Eli to their hometown of Eaton, Colorado — population 5,646 and, as of 2011, home to a McDonald’s restaurant — last month before training camp, allowing family and friends to finally meet the baby. The 13-hour drive was “tough on Eli,” but the trip marked his first visit to the place where his parents forged their bond.
They met as first-graders and their 20 years together emerged throughout a 95-minute conversation, usually by finishing each other’s sentences or through the recanting of playful stories that highlight their bond.
“She was actually my first girlfriend in middle school, but she broke my heart,” Sieg said stoically while cradling Eli, showcasing his dry sense of humor.
The comment garnered a chuckle from Carly, who admitted she ended the youthful relationship through text message.
But they would remain friendly and rekindle the romance during their senior year of 2012-13 at Eaton High School, where he’d play football, basketball and baseball as she watched from the bleachers.
In football, his favorite sport, Sieg fashioned himself a tight end but was taught to long snap as a middle schooler by his father, Tim, who played Division II football in Minnesota. Tulsa recruited Sieg as an athlete and Colorado State recruited him as a walk-on, inviting him to try out for tight end.
“It just felt right,” Sieg said of Colorado State, where he’d also study engineering.
Plus, Colorado State’s campus in Fort Collins was a mere 24 miles away from Eaton and 31 from Northern Colorado, where Carly pursued a teaching degree as a freshman in 2013-14.
The short commute preceded Carly’s transfer to Colorado State before her sophomore year, the same year Sieg debuted as the redshirt freshman long snapper who would maintain his role the ensuing three years. Long snapping, Sieg said, provided a clearer pathway toward a scholarship.
And the NFL.
With the Rams, Sieg snapped to All-American punter Hayden Hunt, through whom he developed a network of contacts that prepares specialists for professional football. One of those contacts, former NFL special teams coordinator Gary Zauner, hosts a version of the league’s annual Scouting Combine — designed specifically for specialists.
Upon the conclusion of his college career, Sieg attended Zauner’s camp.
“If I didn’t have a perfect day that day, I might be doing engineering consulting right now,” Sieg said. “I had a plan to keep trying, because a lot of the specialists have to keep trying for a couple years to get in.”
Representatives from the Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins and Raiders reached out to Sieg, who signed with the Ravens in 2018 in part because they played in the preseason Hall of Fame Game — allowing him to secure additional repetitions. He was cut before the regular season, but Raiders long snapper Andrew DePaola sustained a season-ending injury in the season opener, paving a pathway for Sieg to sign with Oakland.
Carly remained in Colorado after securing a job teaching and Sieg moved to California, creating real distance between the two for the first time. He returned though during Oakland’s bye week, this time with an engagement ring in hand and a plan to propose after a hike in Fort Collins.
“As we’re driving up there she starts to be like ‘So, can we say we’re going to be engaged in the next year or so,’” Sieg said, drawing more laughter from Carly. “Of course I had to throw her off the scent. ‘I don’t really want to put a timetable on it.’ That was the wrong answer.”
Carly was so annoyed that she wanted to ditch the hike altogether, but an hour-long stroll up Horsetooth Mountain concluded with a picturesque proposal by a waterfall. They were wed July 6, 2019, at a country club in nearby Loveland, Colorado, celebrating with a reception at Carly’s grandmother’s farm.
Discussions about parenting began shortly thereafter.
Carly moved to Oakland as Sieg began his second season and the two established some informal parameters about how they wanted to build their family. Intentional efforts began during training camp before the 2020 season with the hope that a prospective child would be born during the ensuing offseason.
The Raiders traveled to New England for a Week 3 tilt with the Patriots, and Sieg returned to Las Vegas to a gift box from Carly with a positive pregnancy test inside.
An ultrasound a few weeks later revealed a heartbeat — and preceded heartbreak.
Sieg and Carly were actually preparing to attend her second ultrasound appointment when her first miscarriage began. Physical symptoms of a miscarriage can overlap with some of the normal side effects of pregnancy, but they weren’t getting better and doctors confirmed their suspicions.
“You’re sort of feeling like the world is moving on, but you’re frozen,” said Carly, a preschool teacher. “Like you’re just stuck, but everyone else is going about their day.”
Sieg said some teammates and coaches shared similar experiences, helping him find comfort amid the sadness. Carly found similar support through social media and the two remained optimistic.
They aligned with a nonprofit organization called The Fletcher Foundation that supports couples that endure miscarriages or stillbirths.
The emotional toll would not deter Sieg or Carly, who became pregnant again last March and believed she would give birth to a girl on her Dec. 21, 2021, due date.
The trauma didn’t totally dissipate, though, and “any little thing that felt off” triggered a sense of worry. But the low probability of multiple miscarriages made having a second miscarriage seem unlikely.
“Now, I’m not a fan of statistics,” Carly said.
‘Hall of Fame long snapper’
Carly’s second pregnancy ended as the Raiders’ 2021 offseason program began, reigniting the trauma that accompanied the first miscarriage.
“There was a couple nights when we were just sitting there crying, thinking ‘We don’t want to go through this again,’” Sieg recalled. But those were few and far between.
He still wanted to be a father and she, too, wanted to be a mother. Fertility tests revealed “no reason that we shouldn’t be able to have a kid.”
So they began trying again, albeit after Carly made a few simple lifestyle changes. She rejiggered her diet, eliminating anything that may have an adverse effect on her estrogen levels and dedicating her life to what Sieg called “holistic wellness.”
She learned she was pregnant in September — almost exactly two years after her first pregnancy.
“It was exciting, but it was even more scary,” Carly said. “We didn’t tell anyone either. … That’s what we emotionally needed. I think it’s just what worked for us at that point.”
Carly’s pregnancy coincided with a stressful season that culminated with a 10-7 record and the Raiders’ first playoff berth since 2016. Its conclusion allowed Sieg to focus on his impending fatherhood.
Carly said she never felt “100 percent comfortable” during the pregnancy, knowing that stillbirth would still be a possibility.
She read enough books about parenting for “five sets of parents,” Sieg said, and opted to give birth Eli at Serenity Birth Center, a clinic that supports and facilitates natural births. Sieg smiled thinking about it and said Eli was born with a conehead “looking like Predator.”
“Is he breathing?” Carly asked upon his arrival.
Though the natural sense of doubt has dissolved over the last three months as Eli continues to grow, the sadness hasn’t. Not completely, anyway, because Sieg and Carly still occasionally wonder “What if?” Sieg cried while reading “The Day God Made You” to Eli because he didn’t get to do that with the two children they lost during the miscarriages.
But those fleeting moments of sadness pale in comparison to the joy that Eli represents.
Carly wants her son to be compassionate. To volunteer and care about helping others. “I think that’s the best feeling. Helping people, being around them and making their lives better. That’s sort of my goal.”
Sieg has another one: “Hall of Fame long snapper.”
Kidding … kidding.
“It’s felt like Carly’s been pregnant for the last two-and-half years straight,” he said. “Sometimes in my mind, I think of it as one big pregnancy. It’s been a long time coming, waiting for this little guy to get here.”