Premature baby survives all the odds

EVERY so often, when that old anxious feeling rises up in her, Jodie Haigh will reach down into the pram and lightly place her palm upon the tiny chest of her baby.

EVERY so often, when that old anxious feeling rises up in her, Jodie Haigh will reach down into the pram and lightly place her palm upon the tiny chest of her baby.

The 25-year-old said: “I can't help it, I just want to make sure that he is breathing okay and still alive. I'm doing it less and less these days though.”

Considering what she has been through, these little checks on baby Ashton, who celebrated his first birthday are understandable - when he was born two months prematurely he was just 2lbs 7oz.

When Jodie started going out with partner Phil Nicoll, 37, three years ago, she had already been through the hell of four miscarriages. And so it was with deeply mixed emotions, then, that nine months into their relationship she found out she was pregnant again.

She said: “After the shock of discovering I was pregnant I was happy but I didn't want to get excited because of what had happened before. Phil shouted 'I'm going to be a dad!' He was ecstatic.”

Living together in a flat in Yarmouth, the couple coped together with a difficult pregnancy that left Jodie with severe dehydration, blood clots and dangerously high blood pressure.

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And it was whilst going into the James Paget University Hospital for the last of Jodie's scans, 31 weeks into her pregnancy and two months before the baby was due, that they realised something was very wrong.

Phil said: “Normally they would say that everything was fine, but this time they rushed us to see a consultant who said a Caesarean section would need to be performed as soon as possible.

“We were told the baby had not been getting enough oxygen and that his lungs might be damaged, and that there was a danger that the placenta might break up because of Jodie's high blood pressure. Deep down we both thought we had lost him.”

But it was while standing helplessly in the operating theatre, witnessing his child being born, that Phil heard a noise that brought him a flood of relief.

He said: “It was scary seeing his head being pulled out of Jodie's stomach because you don't know what's going to happen, but then I heard the cries - they were more like little duck quacks - and I knew he would be okay.”

For Jodie, the birth had been a blur but she remembered the tiny baby being placed on her shoulder so she could see him before he was whisked away for the special care baby unit.

For Jodie, who had been through so much, Ashton's early birth and tiny weight meant she first resisted going to the unit to look into the incubator where Ashton lay in a tiny tangle of tubes and breathing apparatus. He remained in the incubator for three weeks until his birth weight was enough for doctors to allow him to go home.

And one year on, things couldn't be more different.

When Ashton and his parents marked his birthday, along with their families, it was a celebration of a year that had seen the youngster take his first steps, speak his first words -“dadada”- and, thanks possibly thanks to his large, deeply blue eyes, even be snapped up by a London-based modelling agency.

And the proud parents say the consultant who they still see about the progress of their little boy has said he has caught up in all aspects with his peers.

Now, Jodie is looking forward to the little things others might take for granted and keen that others take hope from their experience.

She said: “I know it sounds silly, but I just can't wait to walk down the street with him hand-in-hand.”

“We were lucky enough to have the support of the Special Care and Baby Unit at James Paget, who were absolutely great, as well as help from Ashton's grandparents Lesley White, Brian Harris and Cindy Gibbs.”

And for those who are facing a similar situation, Jodie has one message: “For any other parents out there going through what we had to go through, I just want them to be aware that they should never give up hope.”