Last Christmas season, Tyler and Mandy Stout received a gift they would never forget — their first child.
On Dec. 18, three months before expecting her baby boy, Mandy Stout went in for an ultrasound. The doctor was concerned about the amount of fluid surrounding her baby.
The ultrasound resulted in more distressing news. The baby was significantly small for his age, and the blood flow to the placenta was too low. Mandy was then told she needed to immediately check into the labor and delivery part of the hospital and prepare to give birth to her 27-week-old baby in two days.
For the next couple of days, the Stouts waited in the hospital as Mandy was monitored by the doctors and given medicine to decrease her blood pressure.
Less than 48 grueling hours later, Marshall Stout came into the world as a “micro-preemie” baby, weighing only 14 ounces and measuring 10.5 inches long.
“The first week of his life seemed like it lasted a year,” Tyler Stout said. “Even when I look back now at the pictures of the first week, I’m reminded by the things that happened in the first week, and it seemed like such a long time.”
Tyler and Mandy stayed in the hospital for a week before Mandy was discharged, but Marshall remained in intensive care. The Stouts were living with Mandy’s parents while they waited to move into their new home. Mandy’s parents lived about 10 minutes away from the hospital, making it convenient for Mandy and Tyler to visit their son on a daily basis for hours at a time.
“We’d visit multiple times a day and it was always a difficult thing because we always wanted to spend as much time as possible with Marshall, but at the same time we didn’t like being in the hospital to visit our son,” Tyler Stout said.
On the day Marshall was born, the Stouts began sending out emails to family and friends updating them on Marshall and his progress.
Shortly after his son’s birth, Tyler got the idea from his brother to create an email account in Marshall’s name and email the family from the tiny infant’s perspective.
“Marshall” sent his first family email when he was only 3 days old.
“I guess I better fill you in on my little world. For such a lightweight, there sure are a lot of people fussing over me. I’ve got a couple doctors and a team of angels in scrubs that spend 12 hours at a time watching over me. I guess that makes me feel pretty special, but I’m trying to stay humble,” the email said.
After emailing their family and friends a couple times from Marshall’s perspective, the Stouts received a lot of positive feedback. Mandy wanted more people to have access to Marshall’s well-being, so she decided to create a blog of his experiences.
The previous emails sent out to family were posted on the blog, and the Stouts continued to write posts for Marshall frequently.
When the blog was brand new, it was primarily read by close friends and family.
Soon, people were posting it to Facebook, and the Stouts were receiving a significant number of emails and comments from people they didn’t even know.
“We would get emails from friends of friends of friends letting us know they were thinking about us and praying for us and for Marshall,” Tyler Stout said.
One response that particularly stuck out to Tyler came from his aunt and uncle who live in Texas.
“Both my aunt and uncle emailed us separately and commented how Marshall has been a blessing to their family because they’ve had the opportunity to pray for him,” he said. “They said it brought their family together during Christmastime and helped them not think about themselves as much.”
The blog posts are detailed and descriptive.
“In many ways it really was Marshall’s voice,” Tyler Stout said. “Marshall really was teaching us lessons that we wouldn’t have learned had we not tried to take his perspective on things as one who was just recently born and who is still so close to his Heavenly Father.”
On March 4, the day Marshall Stout passed away, Mandy wrote a post from his perspective titled “Home.”
The post describes Marshall’s experience as he passes from his earthly home to his heavenly home, and how he truly treasured his time on earth and hoped for comfort for his family.
An excerpt from the final blog post says, “Time is a strange thing. Earth-life is but the blink of an eye. Trust me, I know. But when you’re there when things seem their bleakest, time seems to slow down, but the good times just fly by and sometimes you sure wish you could change the speed, and all your loved ones could be back together again.”
According to the Stouts, the blog was therapeutic for them to write. Although it was the most challenging experience the two had ever gone through, they relied on their faith to heal them.
“We believe that Marshall fulfilled his mission which was to make manifest the works and miracles of God,” Tyler Stout said. “The most important lesson I learned personally was that I needed to trust in God to take care of my son. When I decided to put my son in God’s hands, that’s when I was able to manage the worry. Had I not done that, I would have been in much worse shape seeing Marshall pass away.”
Megan Marsden is an intern with the Deseret News writing for the Faith & Family section. She is currently a junior at BYU-Idaho studying communication. The views of the writer do not reflect the views of BYU-Idaho.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company