Dreaming of Marshall

At night we're joined by our star...

Published by: Alexander McGowen & Tiffany Sherlock
Published on: 21st July 2011

Dear Marshall,
When me and your dad told your brothers and sisters I was pregnant with you, we had no idea the arguments it would cause. ‘It’s going to be a girl,’ said Courtney, 10.
‘Yeah,’ agreed Demi-Rose, eight.
‘No way!’ snorted Damien, nine. ‘It’s going to be a boy, a little brother for me, Leo and Ollie.’
Leo, two, folded his arms and nodded eagerly and, although Ollie was only four months old, I’m sure he hoped for a boy – more of you to play football with!
Looking over at your dad Andrew, 31, I rolled my eyes. ‘I’ve told you we’re having a little boy, remember,’ I reminded them ‘And we’re calling him Marshall.’
But it didn’t stop them bickering, as I ate another Wotsit. ‘At this rate he’ll be orange,’ I said. Since falling pregnant with you, I’d become addicted to the cheesy snacks.
I’d also become hooked on buying you baby clothes. I couldn’t wait to dress you up in them.
Seemed like you couldn’t wait either, Marshall. Because, seven months into my pregnancy, I woke up with crippling cramps across my belly.
‘They’re really bad,’ I panted to your daddy.
‘I’ll get you a hot water bottle,’ he soothed.
But as I waddled into the bathroom, I started to bleed… ‘Andrew!’ I cried. Suddenly, Daddy was calling an ambulance, the kids were crying. Yet I stayed calm.
‘Everything’s going to be fine,’ I said. All your brothers and sisters had arrived early – Courtney was born at eight months. Although you were premature, I wasn’t worried.
My cousin Martin babysat as me and your dad were rushed to hospital. There, I was given a scan. Oh Marshall, you looked so perfect and peaceful, curled up inside me. Then the nurse spoke. ‘There’s no heartbeat,’ she said quietly.
I stared at her, bewildered. What? Surely, you were just premature.
‘I’m sorry,’ she said. I looked up at your daddy. Tears were running down his face – and that’s when it hit me. You’d gone, Marshall.
‘No,’ I begged. ‘Please, no.’
Severe pre-eclampsia had made my placenta rupture, and you hadn’t survived. Now, if they didn’t induce me, I could bleed to death.
As the doctors battled to save me, I was lost in a haze of grief. Here I was bringing you into the world,
but you’d been cruelly snatched from us. Instead of hearing your first cry, there was only the sound
of Daddy’s sobs as he dressed you in a tiny teddy bear babygrow.
‘Hello, Marshall,’ he kept saying.
You weighed 3lb 7oz. When he put you in my arms, you were still warm and so peachy. I couldn’t believe you’d never open your eyes.
‘You’re beautiful,’ I sobbed, stroking my tears from your cheeks.
I was heartbroken, and knew your brothers and sisters would be, too. It was so hard calling my mum and asking her to break the devastating news. Worst of all, I couldn’t get home to comfort them. I had kidney failure, septicaemia, a Strep-B infection and blood clots. There was no way I could go home. I was so ill doctors couldn’t move me to intensive care.
So for four days I lay in the delivery suite listening to the cries of newborns and the happy sobs of parents. But me and Daddy only had your still body to cuddle.
The nurses were so kind, taking photos of us. But it seemed so cruel these were the only ones we’d ever have of you.
‘I’d dreamed of albums full of pictures,’ I sobbed.
‘We may never have got to meet Marshall properly, but we won’t forget him,’ said Daddy.
Your brothers and sisters were determined not to forget, either.
They sent you drawings, and Courtney knitted you a pillow.
But, after six days, the terrible moment came to say goodbye.
‘We love you,’ Daddy cried, as he gave you to the nurse.
Back home, friends came round to see us. ‘I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve paid to have a star named after Marshall,’ my pal Ellen Perkins, 33, told me. ‘I thought it would make a nice memorial.’
‘It’s perfect,’ I smiled. You’d light up our lives forever, Marshall.
All too quickly, the day of your funeral arrived when I carried your tiny coffin, covered in rainbows and flowers. Oh so carefully, I cradled you in my arms, just like I’d carried you in my tummy.
Your brothers and sisters were there, and Courtney wrote a poem – A Message From My Heart. She was too upset to read it out, but the vicar did and everyone was in tears. ‘You would have been perfect in this world, but now there’s a new star shining in heaven…’
As we released a dove and balloons into the sky, I couldn’t help smiling. I could imagine you giggling and reaching out to them.
That night, I took your brothers and sisters outside and we looked for the brightest star in the sky.
‘That’s Marshall,’ I told them. ‘He shone brightly in our hearts and now he’s looking down on us.’
‘Mummy, can I read Marshall my poem?’ Courtney asked suddenly.
‘Of course,’ I smiled. She got into bed, and I pulled back the curtains so we could see your star. Then she read aloud. ‘I’m going to leave my window open tonight,’ she said afterwards. ‘Then Marshall can come into my dreams.’
Courtney often reads you bedtime stories now. Do you join her in her dreams? I hope so.
Every night your brothers and sisters come into our bedroom and look at your star. ‘Night, night,’ we say, blowing you kisses. ‘Love you.’
You really are our little star Marshall, and always will be.
Mummy & Daddy xxx
Alison Haynes-Hearst, 29, Clacton-on-sea, Essex