“Her hair was soft, light colored fuzz - strawberry blonde we think,” Nikki smiled and recalled. “She was this perfect, tiny baby.”
“My mom said she had my nose. And she had my feet for sure, with the second toe longer. And her tiny little hands had ten perfect, tiny little fingers.
“She was a beautiful baby,” Nikki said, describing her daugher.
Micaela Nicole was born sleeping on Oct. 6, 2016.
Nikki and her husband spent that day with their daughter, but it would be the only day they ever held their baby girl.
“She was supposed to be our rainbow baby,” Nikki said. “And it’s hard knowing her name won’t be called out on earth.”
Now, Micaela looks over her little brother. Her urn sits in his room.
“We had already had a miscarriage - and it took me by complete surprise,” Nikki said. “But with Micaela, it’s almost as if I knew something was wrong all along, as crazy as that sounds. I just had a sense.”
She said she told her mom not to buy anything.
“I remember saying ‘just wait until the 20-week ultrasound.’ I’m not sure why, because everything had been completely normal, but there was just this sense,” she said.
It was that day, the day of her 20-week ultrasound, that Nikki’s word turned upside down. Her husband was deployed, so her mom was with her, but even then, she told her to stay in the waiting room and went back alone.
“It’s almost like I was sparing her, like I knew what was coming,” Nikki said. It was during that exam she learned that Micaela was measuring three weeks behind and there was something wrong with her heart. It would be another week before she had any answers.
The next step was drawing amniotic fluid and testing it. It was then Nikki was told that her baby had a chromosomal abnormality. It was a rare form of Triploidy. And it was what the doctors described as “incompatible with life.”
They told Nikki she needed to terminate the pregnancy.
“They didn’t even offer any other options at first,” Nikki said. “I had to ask if there was anything else I could do. It just didn’t feel right.”
The doctors told her she either had to terminate the baby via a D&E (dilation and evacuation) or induce and give birth by 24-weeks, or she had to carry the the baby as long as the baby lived, given the abortion laws.
“It was an impossible choice,” Nikki said. She was told it was dangerous to continue her pregnancy. They said that her life was at risk and her ability to have children in the future could be compromised.
“They terrified my husband, my father,” Nikki said. “I felt so much pressure by everyone, but I just felt Micaela deserved to be born. To be held.”
“Had I not been a medical professional, I don’t think I could have made that decision,” she said. “And I don’t blame anyone for making a different choice.”
Against everything, Nikki continued the pregnancy.
“But it was a dark, dark time,” she said.
Nikki had to go in every few days for ultrasounds to check on Micaela.
“The biggest risk was that if she died, and wasn’t birthed within a short time period, there was the possibility of infection,” Nikki explained. The pressure she felt, she recalled, was immense.
“They were all concerned about me, I know it came from a good place, but it was the most difficult thing I’ve ever been through.”
Ultimately, Nikki didn’t have to face the 24-week cut off. During one of the ultrasounds, Nikki learned her daughter had passed at 22 1/2 weeks, and Nikki was scheduled for an induction.
Even up to the night before the induction, the doctors tried to convince Nikki to have the D&E.
“They told me she may not even look like a baby, that she may look like some sort of monster. That it was still risky,” she said. “But I felt she deserved the dignity of birth.”
Nikki was induced, labored and gave birth to her perfect, tiny baby. A day she recalled as peaceful.
“I was really at peace that day. The staff was amazing. And my doula was so wonderful,” she said. “The entire time they cheered me on, calling me mom. That meant a lot. It really validated me as a mom. Hearing it out loud it made it real.”
Nikki said the period after was a blur. She was sore. Her milk came in. She was bleeding. Placed on limited activity. But unlike other moms, she didn’t have her baby to hold.
“My husband was home for a month. We just stayed at the house. There was definitely a lot of ordering takeout and watching Netflix. It wasn’t pretty,” Nikki said.
“I’ll be honest - it was hard to face other pregnant women,” and she said she felt people just didn’t understand.
“I was angry for a long time.”
Nikki and her husband had a hard time finding a balance. “We grieved very differently. Micaela’s birth helped me, but he held everything inside for a long time.”
“Ultimately he thanked me for making the decision I did,” Nikki said. “But it’s been a journey. We went to counseling and had to work to get to where we are now.”
Nikki’s life was forever changed. She couldn’t go back to her job. It was just too hard to work in women’s health after everything that happened. She tried to just move on, but she wasn’t the same person.
It’s not something you can really explain, she said.
“It’s one of those things you don’t really talk about,” she said. Even now, more than two years later, this is the first time she’s recounted all the details of Micaela’s short life, in hopes of possibly helping others.
“I know it’s not an easy situation and people don’t know what to say, but I guess if I had any advice to others, it’s just to acknowledge she was a person and it did happen,” Nikki said. “Say her name. Acknowledge her instead of pretending she didn’t exist.”
“To other moms, I would say that it’s okay not to be okay,” Nikki said. “You can grieve. You don’t have to move on right away. You don’t have to be the same.”
As a part of her grieving journey, Nikki’s mom helped her pick out a symbol for Micaela. Nikki now wears an opal necklace everyday, her daughter’s birthstone. And every year at Christmas, her and her husband pick an angel that would be Micaela’s age to give a gift.
It was about nine months later when Nikki found out she was pregnant with her son Caleb. Immediately things felt very different.
“I told people right away,” she said. “I wasn’t worried. It’s as though I knew he was okay.”
Caleb is now an 11-month-old, happy and active little boy.
“It’s hard to think that had Micaela been full term, Caleb wouldn’t be Caleb,” Nikki says. “He’s such a blessing. One thing losing a baby will do is make you incredibly grateful for what you have.”
Even since, Nikki and her husband have faced more disappointment, having yet another miscarriage.
“We have accepted it’s our journey. For someone else, it may not be worth the heartbreak,” Nikki said.
“But we have decided it’s worth the pain to try, whatever the outcome.”