Dear Marshall: The Birth of a Little Brother
Instead of celebrating Christmas, your dad and I took a vacation. We loaded Austin into the truck with us, and we drove down the coast to Newport Beach, Oregon. We danced in the sand. We raced the waves. We chased the setting sun across what felt like an endless stretch of Heaven.
On Christmas morning, Dad fixed me a cup of tea while I was showering and getting ready for the day. The first sip turned my stomach, and I was sick the rest of the day. Dad said he thought he knew what was wrong with me, so we made a stop at Walgreens. His suspicions were confirmed: two pink lines.
We were scared. Too scared to be excited. You see, you have a big sister and a big brother, but they are both in Heaven. We were scared that you might leave us too, and we knew our hearts couldn’t handle any more pain.
Around 12 weeks, I wanted to buy you a pair of shoes and a book, but I was so afraid that if I bought them, I would somehow jinx things and you would die. I broke down and cried right there in the middle of the store. But then I reminded myself that as your mother, it was my job to love you, no matter how much time I had with you. It didn’t matter if you lived another day or another year or even an entire century. It was my sole purpose to make sure you were loved, and knew you were loved, through every single day you had on this Earth.
As your due date neared, I started getting even more anxious. I felt very prepared for whatever might happen this time. But no matter how much I prepared, the reality was that all I had ever known of pregnancy and babies was death. It was a thought that I couldn’t shake, no matter how alive you were inside my belly.
At our 36 week checkup, I was dilated 3 cm, I lost my mucus, and I was having regular contractions. I thought for sure you were coming! The contractions continued, but you never came. Eventually they eased off, coming only about every hour or so for the next 2 weeks.
On August 27, we were celebrating your Uncle Andy’s birthday. We played some of his music for you, and I sat for hours talking to you about him. Around 10 pm, the contractions came on strong. They were only about 10 minutes apart, so I laid down to get some rest. I woke up around midnight, and they were about 4 minutes apart. I went to wake up your dad, who had just fallen asleep, and then we were on our way. You were really coming this time!
We were quite a sight walking into the hospital. I had pulled on a sundress and my cowboy boots, and I had Uncle Andy’s raggedy old quilt. Your dad was in pajamas and still barely awake. Our doula, Ayla, arrived not long after we did. The nurses laughed a little when we told them we were having a natural birth. I told them I was prepared to deal with the pain and that I would like them to not ask about my pain levels. How did they expect me to not think about the pain if that’s all they asked me about?! Ayla helped me move into different positions that helped with getting comfortable. Then she showed Dad how to do some massage and counter-pressure to help with the contractions.
I had signs of pre-eclampsia, so the nurses made me stay in bed for a while. Ayla and I watched some birth videos on her phone while your dad took a nap. When it got too painful to stay still, Ayla convinced the nurses to let me take the monitor off for a little while so I could move around. As the morning progressed, our doctor stopped in to check on us. She was teaching a class that day, but she was going to be in and out checking on us, and if she made it back in time, she was going to deliver you instead of the doctor who was actually on the floor that day. She knew how important this day was for us, and she wanted to be there.
You were in there sunny side up, which basically means that you were facing the sky instead of my back, and it is a little harder for you to come out that way. We tried changing positions to get you to turn, but you were a stubborn one. You weren’t moving, and it was hurting so bad to lay like that. Ayla told me to listen to my body, to move however my body felt it needed to. Squatting felt the best to me. I started getting the urge to push just as our doctor was coming back from her class. Such perfect timing! The nurses kept trying to count through my pushes, and I kept trying to drown them out. I couldn’t breathe how they were doing it, so I tried to ignore them and just push how my body told me to. I felt like I was pushing and pushing, and you just weren’t moving. It was so exhausting!
On August 28, at 2:11 pm, after 12 hours of hard back labor and 2 even harder hours of pushing, you finally slipped out into the world. You were tiny. You were beautiful. You were perfect. You were alive! (And we showed those nurses up with a natural birth after all!)
You came to my chest and started rooting almost immediately. The nurses checked you out on my chest while the doctor finished up my stitches. When they finally had to pick you up to be weighed, you peed all over them. You weighed 6 pounds 5 ounces, and you were 19 inches long. We moved to a private room, and snuggled down for the night under Uncle Andy’s quilt. I had waited two long years for that feeling of snuggling my living, breathing newborn, and it was as glorious as I had imagined!
Today you are 13 months old. You are a thriving, fearless, rambunctious toddler with a huge smile, a gentle heart, and giant blue eyes. We play, we paint, we explore. We start each morning with cuddles and end each night with bedtime stories and kisses. It hasn’t been an easy year, but it has been worth it. I have tried my best to live up to the promise that you will always know that you are loved so very much.
One day when you are a little older, you will learn more about the brother and sister that came before you. You will know their stories and see their pictures. You will know how their stories are a part of your story. My only regret in the entire world is that you will never know the joys of being the little brother that you really are.
All my love,
Nika Michaels is a mother of three: a lively one year old and 2 babies in Heaven. She recently moved to Wisconsin, where she is a full time college student, studying Human Services and Perinatal Hospice. She is also a Certified Natural Childbirth Educator with Birth Boot Camp. She strongly
believes that education, nutrition, and confidence are paramount, no matter where or how you choose to give birth. You can find her online at
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