By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - Nine months pregnant, Lauren Spencer drove from her new job in Auburn back home to Texas to have her baby and see her 99-year-old grandfather.
Despite despising surprises, Spencer did not attempt to learn before delivery whether her child was male or female.
"I asked my grandfather when I went back, "What do you think it is?" she says. "And he said, 'Well, I think it's a boy because you've never let me down before.'
"He had two daughters and three granddaughters, so he had never had a boy. So finally, when he came to the hospital when my son was born, he said, 'I've been waiting 99 years to have a boy.'"
Spencer's grandfather passed away several months later. Lauren named her son, Courtney, after her middle sister, who died two years earlier in a car accident, two months before she was to be married.
Lauren, then in her fourth season as head coach at Southern Methodist, began considering opportunities outside of Texas.
"I was the oldest of three, and we were very close," Spencer says. "Certain things in your life make you just think of things differently. I was happy there, but when something tragic like that happens to you, you feel like, 'I still want to do this, but I need something different.'"
The challenge of coaching in the SEC also appealed to Spencer, who became Auburn's women's tennis coach on Oct. 6, 2011.
"I decided to move, then I just happened to get pregnant, which was a miracle," she says. "Courtney came and basically saved my life."
'By the grace of God'
For more than five years, Spencer had tried to have children.
"I went through, I don't know how many years of fertility drugs," she says. "We had a couple attempts of IVF. That did not go well. For a long time, I didn't think I was going to have kids. I was actually okay with that, because these [members of her tennis team] are my children. These are my daughters.
"I told [Auburn Director of Athletics] Jay [Jacobs] that I accepted the job on a Monday. I found out I was pregnant on Tuesday. One minute, I'm having a conversation with my parents, 'Oh, we're moving to Alabama,' from Texas, where I'm born and raised. They were shocked. Then the next phone call the next day, 'Ah, so I'm pregnant.' It was by the grace of God."
Last fall, Courtney became a big brother when Atticus joined the family.
"I'm not one who can just get pregnant, so you go through all this stuff," Spencer says. "So it's kind of been a long road for me."
Friends ask if Lauren and her husband, Stephen, would like to add to their family.
"'Do you want to have a girl? Do you want to try for another one?' No, I have 10 girls, what are you talking about?" Spencer says. "I've had daughters since I was 25 years old. I'm completely fine with having sons at home."
Courtney celebrates his fifth birthday this month, coinciding with Auburn's second straight year of hosting and winning an NCAA Regional to advance to the Sweet 16.
"The only thing I feel terrible about is my sons' wives," Lauren says. "I feel bad for them, because my two children literally were born into an environment where they are surrounded by beautiful college women, all day every day.
"Not only that, they're telling them how beautiful and wonderful they are. 'You're so cute.' So my son's ego is sky high. His poor wife has no chance. Because you've been told how great you are by all of these college girls all of your life."
When Spencer recruits, she tells parents she will treat their child as if she were her own.
"When they leave here, I want them to not just be good tennis players, but I want them to be really independent women," she says.
"My three goals I have are for them to be a better tennis player, to be set up academically for them to get any job they want, and third, 'I don't want to send them back to you.' I don't want them to rely on their parents and I don't want them to rely on a man.
"I want them to be able to take care of themselves, and if that means I have to teach them how to wash their own clothes or finances or something like that, I want them to be independent. I tell the girls, 'Your parents don't want you to come home to live, they really don't. They want to go on vacations.'"
Organization and communication, Spencer says, are the keys to balancing career and family.
"My husband is like a saint," she says. "To be a coaches' wife or husband, is extremely difficult. There's a lot of stress put on you when it comes to the parenting side of it. If you have a partner who is in it with you, and is like, 'Listen, this is when my season is, it's not forever, it's just for right now.'
"Just like any job, there are going to be sacrifices, but I do think that Auburn is an amazing place to raise a family. That makes it so much easier for me. If I was telling someone, 'Can you do this? Yes, you can.' If you don't like organized chaos, I wouldn't do it. I run a circus every day. I don't really know any other life besides that."
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer