Some little boys dream of being a superhero; others hope to be a famous ball player like they watch on TV. Their aspirations are grandeur and adorable at the same time.
Ever since a little boy named Mikey could speak, there is only one thing he has wanted to become. A big brother.
Mikey was an engagement baby for Jessica Marotta and her future hubby. Jessica shared with Love What Matters that for as long as he could talk, he would ask for a baby brother.
The Massachusetts mom and her husband Mike began trying for a second baby when Mikey was three. But month after month… nothing.
Mikey kept asking his mom and dad when he would finally have his baby brother — it was all he could think about. After trying to conceive for a year, the couple sought help from a fertility specialist. Jessica even underwent surgery in the hopes of increasing the odds.
Finally, the pregnancy test showed a plus sign — and it happened on Mikey’s fifth birthday. They sprung the news on family members and everyone was thrilled.
But one month later, Jessica began experiencing complications. An ultrasound showed that at 11 weeks, they heartbreakingly lost the baby.
Testing revealed that the baby had trisomy 13, a condition that would have been fatal to the infant, Jessica said. And if that wasn’t soul crushing enough, the nurse confirmed that the baby was a boy.
“It took my breath away. Mikey had gotten his baby brother, except now he was our angel baby.”
The family of three picked up the pieces of their shattered hearts and resumed living life as best they could. They moved to their forever home and found a terrific school for Mikey to attend.
While cleaning out the garage, they tossed out all of Mikey’s old baby things that they had hung on to for their now angel baby. Those things haunted them every time they laid eyes on the car seat, stroller and crib.
Once they settled into their new home, Jessica and her husband decided they didn’t want to go through that pain ever again. They would be content as a family of three.
“After that, every time Mikey asked for his baby brother, we would explain to him that there may be a chance that he may never get a baby brother. It broke our hearts to say these words to him, but we found a way to settle into a life just the three of us in our new home and enjoy our summer.”
On Mikey’s first day of kindergarten, Jessica bawled, she confessed. But she also was exhausted.
“I knew something was off, but I did not want to get too excited. I waited until the weekend and I had my husband pick up a pregnancy test. I took the test and waited in the bathroom alone for the result. My husband could hardly believe it and made me take two more tests just to be sure. We were excited but cautious.”
They were pregnant again! But every time Jessica experienced complications, she panicked. She constantly researched online the risk of miscarriage as every week passed by. She clung to hope at doctor’s appointments where she saw a strong heartbeat and normal growth.
Testing revealed a low risk for the baby to have trisomy 13. They also learned that Mikey’s dream would be coming true — it was a boy.
The family’s strength was tested again during their 18-week checkup when the baby measured small. Additional testing at 23 weeks’ gestation revealed the baby just wasn’t growing and Jessica was told they could terminate the pregnancy.
In a fog of disbelief and heartache once again, the couple decided there was no way they were giving up on this baby. This was Mikey’s dream and their child.
They knew the baby would arrive early and hoped Jessica would make it to 28 weeks’ gestation. She was admitted to the hosiptal for observation.
“During my one month in antepartum, the baby gave us three scares that he was going to arrive, but we made it to 30 weeks and 6 days. I had a growth ultrasound that day and the baby had only gained two grams in two weeks. The doctor told us, ‘we are going to have a baby today,’ and explained that if we waited any longer we would risk a stillborn.”
The planned cesarean section quickly morphed into an emergency procedure because the baby’s heart rate plummeting due to the anesthesia. But it didn’t take long before Baby Jake Eric arrived weighing one pound, 12 ounces, and measured only 12 inches long.
“Once I recovered a bit, I was wheeled on my stretcher to see him and his smallness took my breath away and my eyes filled with tears. That night my in-laws brought Mikey to see me and we told him he finally had his baby brother, Jake. The first time Mikey saw him, he beamed and said, ‘He has red hair just like me!’”
Once stabilized, Jessica’s husband returned to work, Mikey returned to school and Jessica kept vigil at her baby’s side. It was a tough time, but they managed.
“As a NICU mom, I feel like you go into autopilot and go through the motions without the emotion as much as possible because it is the only way to survive. Living the NICU life was the hardest thing we have ever gone through together. Jake was hooked up to so many wires and tubes and lived in an isolette. We had to leave him alone except for his care times every three hours when you would assist the nurse in diaper changing and taking the temperature. As a NICU mom you get used to all the beeping and alarms.”
When Jake’s heart rate would drop considerably and the alarms would sound, a nurse would have to stimulate him to pull him out of the episode. He experienced as many as eight of these frightening ordeals each day.
“At three weeks, we had quite the scare and Jake was really struggling to breath and was just fighting a lot more than he had been. After a meeting with the nurse practitioner, we decided he would benefit from a blood transfusion to get red blood cells which would allow him to produce more oxygen. Jake was fed via a feeding tube until he was about seven weeks.”
The one thing that pushed the family through this challenging time was when they could snuggle with Jake skin-to-skin. Jessica would sit in the chair next to her baby’s isolette and both she and Jake would calm down.
It also was a beautiful time for Mikey. He was able to touch his baby brother, but couldn’t hold him just yet, which really bothered him.
“He wanted more than anything to hold his baby brother. Mikey was filled with sadness that he could not hold his baby brother. During one of my daily rounds with Jake’s nurses and doctors on day 10, I asked if Mikey could do skin-to-skin with his baby brother, fully expecting them to say no. I was beyond thrilled when they agreed!”
On March 17, 2018, Mikey became the first sibling at the Beth Israel NICU in Boston to be allowed to sit skin-to-skin with his baby. Jessica described it as “amazing and emotional.”
“I truly believe it became the foundation for their brotherly bond. Jake spent 62 days in the NICU and his homecoming was one of the happiest days of our lives. Mikey is an amazing big brother and having Jake has brought a calmness to Mikey’s life, and Mikey has a way of calming Jake when he is upset.”
Every morning, the brothers snuggle together in their mom’s bed. She said she feels honored to witness their love and their strong relationship.
Jessica has no doubt that Mikey and Jake were meant to be brothers. It was destiny.