They are the brothers melting hearts across the world – gorgeous, ginger-haired Mikey and his premmie brother Jake.
The video of these two having their first cuddle had us blinking back tears and the story of these special siblings simply lifted our spirits.
‘I just want my baby brother’
Mum Jessica Morotta says Mikey had been asking for a baby brother since he was three – and she thought she’d have no trouble giving him his wish.
“In a matter of a year, we had gotten married, had a baby and bought a house. We thought we had plenty of time. After all, Mikey was a surprise for us a month after we had gotten engaged and we did not think we would have any trouble the second time around,” Jessica explained to Love What Matters.
“Month after month passed and we got more and more discouraged every time we saw the negative sign on the pregnancy test. My heart would sink when Mikey would ask, ‘when am I going to get my baby brother?’ It made us so sad for him when he would follow up with, ‘I just want my baby brother.’”
Jessica and her husband consulted a fertility specialist and she was treated for fibroids in her uterus. Finally, in 2016, the family got the positive pregnancy test they’d been hoping for.
“On December 27th I went to my OB and the heartbeat was there and strong. We had no reason to be concerned and felt like that heartbeat was a sign that all would be okay. We felt comfortable and safe enough to share the news with our siblings and spent that Christmas watching Mikey open his presents imagining what it would be like with two the next year. On January 12, 2017, I started bleeding at work. I called the OBs office immediately and the nurse assured me that there is a chance that things would be okay and asked me to come in first thing the next morning.
“I left work immediately and the next morning, we went for an ultrasound. As soon as I saw the baby’s image, my heart sunk – I just knew. I looked at my husband and shook my head through tears. Our hearts were broken. I was 11 weeks and we thought we were just a week away from being able to safely share the news with the others in our lives.”
The couple decided for testing to find out what had happened to their precious baby, and found out it was a condition that would have been fatal even if the bub had been born at full term.
“Before the OB hung up, I had to know … ‘Did you find out the sex?,’ I asked. She kindly answered, ‘yes, it was a male.’ It took my breath away. Mikey had gotten his baby brother, except now he was our angel baby.”
The family moved house, getting rid of all their baby things for fear of being haunted by memories.
“Soon after we moved into our new home and got settled in the spring of 2017, we had a heart to heart conversation and late one night came to the decision that we were perfectly 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.”
Later that year, Mikey started kinder and Jessica found herself sobbing like other mums waving their little ones off into the world.
“But I found myself more emotional than I expected, and quite 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. The next seven weeks were hard. I found myself bleeding every week and each time my heart would drop and our excitement would turn to sadness.
“However, every follow-up appointment showed a strong heartbeat and a normal pregnancy. On Halloween we got the results of testing that the risk for disorders such as trisomy 13 were low and that we were having a boy. We were beyond thrilled and recorded a video of Mikey saying in May he was going to get a baby brother and sent it to our loved ones.”
The family of three enjoyed an uneventful pregnancy, up until Jessica’s 18-week scan, where bub measured a week smaller.
“The OB was not super concerned but scheduled us to come back in three weeks to check the baby’s growth. On January 10th during our ultrasound, we discovered that the baby was measuring far smaller than the OB was comfortable with. We were so scared. The ultrasound we received at the hospital allowed the doctors to get precise measurements of our baby.
“The doctor shared with us a grim diagnosis, severe Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR) and there was a high risk of uterine demise (their words, not ours). I was 23 weeks pregnant, but our baby was measuring about five weeks behind in size. Legally, the doctor had to give us the option to terminate the pregnancy. My husband was in shock and just kept saying, ‘I don’t understand what is going on.’”
Becoming a family of four
The couple was determined to fight for their baby and underwent weekly ultrasounds in the hopes of getting to 28 weeks. After three weeks Jessica was admitted to hospital for the rest of her pregnancy, so she could be monitored and have regular steroid shots to help bub’s lungs develop.
“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.
“A few hours later I was in the OR for a C-section that quickly turned into an emergency C-section because the baby’s heart rate was failing due to the anesthesia. Our baby, Jake Eric, came out quickly and was born at 11:06 a.m. on March 6th with lots of people to greet him in the OR, including the NICU team. I got to see his teeny face for a moment before he was whisked to the NICU. Jake was 1 pound, 12 ounces and only 12 inches long. He was the size of a 25 weeker. 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!’”
The family adjusted to life with Jake in hospital, as he battled for his life.
“As a NICU mum you get used to all the beeping and alarms. The first few ‘spells’ Jake had pushed me to tears. It is when his heart rate would drop significantly, and he would often require stimulation to come out of it. In the early days, he would have as many as eight in a day. At three weeks we had quite the scare and Jake was really struggling to breathe 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 7 weeks. I lived for the couple of hours a day I got to hold him skin to skin. I would sit in the recliner by his isolette anxiously awaiting the nurse and respiratory therapist to take him out and adjust all his tubes. It was the moment of the day when I felt most calm.”
Big brother Mikey bravely stepped into his new role, but he longed to hold his tiny sibling.
“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 was the first sibling at the Beth Israel NICU in Boston to do skin to skin. It was amazing and emotional, and I truly believe 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.”
The brothers start every day with cuddles in bed, and their gorgeous bond is being documented on their own Instagram account, The Marotta Brothers.
“It is as if the two of them were destined to be each other’s brother. There is no question that Mikey was born to be Jake’s big brother and Jake was born to be the baby brother Mikey had always wished for.”
If this sibling story has your heart aflutter, make sure you read about the 12-year-old who helped deliver her baby brother.