Love and Basketball: Emotional journey leads UB women’s coach Becky Burke and her wife into parenthood

WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. (WIVB) – As UB women’s basketball head coach Becky Burke looks at her wife holding their 1-month-old son, she’s filled with a sense of joy and peace.

“Having him, going through everything we went through, having your person, it’s just like what more do you want out of your life?” Burke said.

While the couple cherishes these moments with their young child dearly, the road to experiencing them was a beautiful, emotional and, sometimes, arduous one.

The IVF journey

Burke and her wife, Savannah, knew it would be a long process for them to have a baby.

“We wanted to get started as soon as we decided that we did want to have a family and we knew that we were ready both mentally and financially and all of those things and in a great place in our marriage,” Becky said.

In April 2022, Becky’s work life was altered significantly when she was named the new head coach of the UB women’s basketball program.

It wasn’t long after that her home life also fell into place perfectly.

Becky and Savannah got married in March 2023, and soon decided to explore their options to have a baby, specifically in vitro fertilization. It was the offseason between Becky’s first and second seasons with the Bulls when the couple started the IVF process.

“We both wanted to be really, really involved in the process and feel like we were a part of the pregnancy and a part of him and so I did an egg retrieval where she carried my egg and then obviously we got a donor,” Becky said.

The physical and mental challenges of going through an egg retrieval procedure are a lot for one person to deal with at once, let alone with a busy work life to worry about. While Becky was hoping for success in her personal life, she was also investing time and energy for wins on the court.

“Yeah it’s really funny, because my staff had no idea, our players had no idea that we were trying or that we were going through any of this,” Becky said.

Savannah (left) and Becky (right).

To get an idea of the taxing process, start with the physical side of what Becky went through.

“It’s definitely not comfortable,” Becky explained.

“Your ovaries become like the size of softballs and you’re trying to generate as many eggs as possible to retrieve. And from there they kind of narrow it down to the healthy eggs, the eggs they test to make sure there’s nothing genetically wrong with, the eggs that are gonna fertilize best so you really want to get as many as possible for them to pick the best quality egg.”

On top of that, Savannah had to give Becky rounds and rounds of shots leading up to the procedure, getting them done whenever, and wherever, even in a car if needed.

Then there’s the emotional aspect knowing anything could go wrong.

“They test everything, they go through every precaution,” Becky explained.

“You do bloodwork every single time you go to your appointment so anything could be wrong at any moment. You might have to supplement with some pills, you might have to get your levels up in this area and lower in this area. Everything has to be really aligned perfectly by the time that you get your egg retrieval done and the transfer done so we just knew that at any point along the way there could be a hiccup, there could be a bump in the road.”

After Becky’s egg retrieval was successful, Savannah prepared for the embryo transfer as the couple hoped she would get pregnant on the first try.

“I had to do eight weeks of shots, progesterone shots, and those started getting a little painful, Becky had to give them to me. I had to take a lot of different medications just different hormones,” Savannah said. “She was so positive throughout the whole thing and so great, reassuring me that what we’re doing it for and being such a great partner.”

You’re pregnant!

That positive mindset led to the result they had been praying for: a positive pregnancy test.

Last summer they got the phone call that changed their lives, as the doctor said Savannah was pregnant. A baby boy was on the way.

Savannah holding ultrasound photos.

Next came the fun part, sharing the good news with their family and friends, including the team.

“We set it up perfectly, we got them in the film room and I acted like it was strictly business and Savannah ended up being in there because she’s around a lot,” Becky said with a smile. “So they didn’t think anything of it when she was in the room with us and she came up to the front and we pulled out our ultrasound and it was probably one of the most memorable, obviously with our engagement that was phenomenal but this was right up there with their reaction for sure.”

As Becky alluded to, this wasn’t the first time they shared a life-changing moment with the team. In December 2022, Becky proposed to Savannah on the court after practice surrounded by players, coaches and staff.

“Everything about our story has included our team as we definitely weren’t gonna stop with the great news,” Becky said.

That was back in August. The couple had a lot to look forward to as Becky was starting her second season as UB head coach, while Savannah was going through her pregnancy. The two were counting down the days until March 23, Savannah’s due date, which came much earlier than expected.

Surprise delivery

Fast forward to the first week of March as the Bulls’ regular season was winding down. Becky was getting ready for a road game at Kent State on March 2, when Savannah started having some difficulties with her pregnancy.

“She was obviously having some complications with high blood pressure and some things a few weeks before he was born and the OB was always like just be ready if anything gets worse or if we need you to go in at any moment like you guys just need to be ready for it,” Becky said.

“And we went to Kent State and I felt bad leaving her behind, it got to the point where she couldn’t even travel and come to our games or anything just because if at any moment they needed her to go in and have the baby she had to be ready. So went to Kent State, I knew at any moment she could probably be going in, I didn’t feel great going to Kent knowing I was leaving her.”

It was an extremely tough decision for Becky to make. But, she had a plan in place to get home if Savannah went into labor. Luckily, they didn’t need it.

Savannah kept monitoring her blood pressure at home while Becky was on the road but her levels stayed at a point where she did not need to be induced. However, just days later, Savannah got the call from her doctor saying it was time.

Savannah at the hospital before giving birth.

“I was sitting right here on the couch, I was literally about to go get my nails done, like, I grabbed my car keys and was about to walk out the door and my OB calls me and is like ‘So you’re going to the hospital and you’re going to be induced, like it’s time to have the baby,'” Savannah said.

Meanwhile, Becky was with her team prepping for an upcoming home game against Central Michigan when her associate head coach, Jacey Brooks, broke the news.

“Literally I’m in the middle of film, and I’m very locked in during film, and we’re all focused and Jacey starts walking towards the front of the film room and I’m like ‘What’s up coach? Like what do you need?” Becky said. “And she’s like ‘You need to take a call,’ and I knew in that moment, the whole team knew in that moment, so I literally hopped out of my seat, (Jacey) takes over film, I leave and the team does not see me until tipoff of the Central Michigan game.”.

“It kind of all hit me in the moment,” Savannah said with a smile. “I was like we are having the baby, like today. So it was super crazy but I’m excited to be able to tell him that because I feel like a lot of people it’s just planned … or your water breaks, whatever, but he was a little whirlwind but he’s perfect.”

On March 5, 2024, Banks Allen Burke was born.

Becky and Savannah with Banks after his birth.

“When he came out, to see him and then for him to put him on top of her and have those moments and have those pictures and videos — I mean we watch them all the time,” Becky said. “It was like, indescribable. Everybody always says that and then how you feel when he’s actually born, the love and new purpose you have it really is indescribable. But it was incredible.”

“He’s absolutely perfect, I know we’re biased but we’re also not because he really is,” Savannah laughed.

“Just seeing what our love for each other can create and just the whole IVF experience that brought us really close together because we kept it a secret from everyone, her family and our friends. So it was a very intimate time for us to grow and learn more about what we’re going to be like as parents and then whenever he came just seeing how natural she was with him. I couldn’t be any more happier and he makes the sleepless nights worth it.”

Baby Banks and Buffalo basketball

Since Banks came almost three weeks early, the couple was adjusting to life as new parents while things were ramping up at work for Becky.

The Bulls had two home games left in the regular season after he was born, and they played the day after he arrived against Central Michigan before facing Ball State a few days later.

The postseason was also right around the corner, as Becky and UB headed to Cleveland for the MAC tournament the week after. Savannah made the trip and brought Banks as the couple tried to balance taking care of a baby during the biggest moments of Becky’s career.

“I mean we were there for four, five days and what an hour of sleep a night? It was wild,” Becky said.

Like I’m trying to be at my A game coaching in the Mid-American Conference tournament and he’s in the hotel room and we’re all just there hunkered down and it’s like I’m prepping all day or coaching a game and then I come home and it’s like now we gotta take care of him all night so we were in the trenches, like we really, really were.”

While it may have been difficult, the Bulls’ performance made the sleepless nights worth it.

UB upset No. 1 seed Toledo in the MAC semifinals, a monumental win for Becky in her sophomore season at the helm. While the Bulls fell short of winning a championship in the conference title game, the real victory was at home.

“We talk about winning and having success with basketball and all those things and that used to be the only thing I cared about and now this puts it in a total different perspective for me,” Becky smiled.

Becky’s eyes now turn to the offseason, when she is in full recruiting mode while also embracing life as a new mom to a 1-month-old. And along the way, Banks has gotten to meet some new friends: Becky’s players. She said fifth-year guard Chellia Watson was the first to hold him.

UB’s Chellia Watson shares special bond with head coach Becky Burke

“(Chellia) has been the biggest cheerleader for this since day one,” Becky said. “‘How’s my baby, how’s my baby?’ Every time Savannah comes to practice she’s rubbing all on her belly even when there was no belly. So from day one, Chellia has been super invested, super bought in.”

And Becky might be able to use that to her advantage in the future.

“We got a team of probably 15 built-in babysitters if we ever need a date night or something like that. Actually, not 15 because we said there’s gonna be a yes list and a no list and we told them that too,” Becky laughed.

Becky and Savannah with Banks.

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Heather Prusak is a sports reporter who joined the News 4 team in 2020. See more of her work here.

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