“When are we going to get our baby?” young brothers Carson and Reid Coles would often ask their parents.

After all, their cousins had a younger brother join their family. And Carson and Reid felt a bit jealous.

“Well, never,” their mother, Emily, would answer. “I’m sorry, you’re just not going to get one.”

Emily and Jon Coles decided to stick with two children.

That all changed when Emily went in for shoulder surgery on June 22, 2018.

Yes, shoulder surgery.

Before having acromioplasty, a procedure to shave a small piece of bone away from her rotator cuff, Emily underwent a routine precautionary pregnancy test.

Garbed in a hospital gown and with her hair in a net, Emily felt good about the upcoming surgery. She had the same operation on her left shoulder, and now it was time to do her right. Hospital staff prepped her shoulder for the operation, to be performed by orthopedic sports medicine surgeon Melissa DeNiel, MD, at Spectrum Health Big Rapids Hospital.


Surgical nurse Patti Blanchard shared the news of a positive pregnancy test with Emily and her husband, Jon.

At first, they thought the nurse was joking.

But much to what would be Carson and Reid’s delight, a follow-up blood test confirmed that “never” had just arrived.

The news caught Emily, then 35, and Jon, then 41, completely off guard.

“I think we were both in shock,” Jon said. “We didn’t know how to react. After it registered, we were obviously excited and blessed for the opportunity, but it definitely wasn’t on the radar.”

“They were stunned,” Patti said. “It was clearly something unplanned, but they left very happy.”

“It felt like I was floating,” Emily said. “I never imagined that I was pregnant.”

The shoulder surgery had to be cancelled. And a new member of the family would soon be arriving.

And just after mom had gotten rid of all the baby items in the house. Emily likes to stay organized and had just cleared out, sold and given away the last of their baby items the weekend prior to her shoulder surgery.

Just four weeks pregnant, but with the need to explain the surgery cancellation, Jon and Emily decided to tell family and friends–and their boys.

“They were so excited,” Emily said.

Eight months later, baby brother Ari Lowe Coles was born at Big Rapids Hospital Family Birthing Center, arriving on Valentine’s Day.

He’s been showered with love ever since.

Dad’s turn

Looking back, Jon said the timing turned out to be good, as he changed jobs just before the news of the pregnancy.

“From my perspective, it was almost divine timing,” he said.

Jon’s previous job required him to work many nights and weekends. At the same time, optometrist Emily was busier than ever after purchasing Big Rapids Family Eyecare.

“After missing a lot of the older two boys’ events, I said that I’m not going to get these times back and I need to make a lifestyle change,” Jon said.

Jon’s new job as assistant professor of sports management at Grand Valley State University allows him to spend much more time with the boys, including baby Ari.

“I get to teach again, which is something I love,” Jon said. “And it’s giving me more time to be a dad and be a supportive husband of a business owner and practicing doctor, so all that timing just worked out for the best.”

He’s enjoying moments with Ari he didn’t experience with Carson and Reid.

“I never witnessed milestones, as simple as seeing the baby roll over for the first time, which is pretty cool,” Jon said. “It’s something I missed with the first two. It’s a rebirth for me, too.”

Brotherly love

Big brothers Carson, 11, and Reid, 7, love their little brother, who the family calls “Ari B.” The “B” is for the family’s bonus baby.

“The older boys are three years and three months apart and they love each other,” Emily said. “But to see the love they have for the baby is really special.”

Carson agrees.

“It’s cool, but I don’t like it when he cries,” he said.

Ari enjoys the attention, and thinks his big brothers are pretty neat.

“You can see him light up in the mirror when the boys get in the car and he wants to be in the same room with them, to hear their action, to watch them move around,” Jon said. “The bond is already there.”

With Ari’s arrival, the Coles are busier than ever.

“I’m happy that I made that career change for us as a family, so I can be that taxi driver, and be the one in charge of the boys’ schedule,” Jon said. “Emily was doing all that before and it just wasn’t fair.”

As for Emily’s shoulder surgery, it’s back on the schedule, planned for December.

“I’m omitting the pregnancy test this time,” she joked.