Coping with a newborn baby can be tough. So spare a thought for Claire Ormrod – who has had to do it twice in the space of just nine months.
Her son and daughter were born in such quick succession that they will even be in the same class at school.
But what is just as remarkable is that the babies survived at all – after 26-year-old Miss Ormrod suffered dangerous complications during both pregnancies.
Daughter Alice arrived 15 weeks prematurely, weighing only 1lb 3oz, while Gareth weighed little more at 2lb when he was born 11 weeks early.
So serious were their conditions that both were in special care units at the same time – but in hospitals 230 miles apart. Their mother said: ‘I’m just so grateful they are both still with us.’
She said: ‘I was absolutely petrified when I found out I was pregnant again. All of my children, apart from Molly, have been born progressively early, so I convinced myself I was going to have another very early, premature baby.
‘My GP said I should have a termination. He said [the pregnancy] would end up killing me and the baby and that it wouldn’t be fair to put me through it. But I said no.’
Miss Ormrod had been just 25 weeks into her pregnancy with Alice when she suffered a placental abruption – a condition where the placenta comes away from the wall of the womb, which can kill the unborn child.
Miss Ormrod believes that if Alice had been born days earlier at 24 weeks – the legal limit for an abortion – medics would not have even tried to save her. Even after the baby was delivered by emergency Caesarean in December 2011, doctors warned Miss Ormrod and her partner Gareth Gee, 36, that she was unlikely to survive.
Alice had a catalogue of health problems, including chronic lung disease and heart and bowel defects, and was put on a ventilator to help her breathe. She also suffered several life-threatening infections and, at her lowest point, dropped to 9oz in weight.
At the age of ten months, she suffered liver failure, six heart attacks, seizures and brain damage.
Doctors told Miss Ormrod and Mr Gee, who run a martial arts club together, that there was nothing more they could do. The couple had her baptised, began planning a funeral and were only 90 minutes from turning off her life support when, against the odds, she began to respond.
Miss Ormrod said: ‘We were having a final cuddle with her before turning off the life-support machine when she suddenly woke up, started looking around and moving her arms and legs.
‘Within 24 hours she was off the life support, out of intensive care and breathing on her own. The doctors couldn’t explain it, it was a miracle. She’s such a fighter.’
A month before that, in September, Gareth had been delivered, also by emergency caesarean after Miss Ormrod suffered another placental abruption.
He spent eight weeks in special care before being allowed home in November.
Miss Ormrod, from Rhyl, north Wales, said: ‘It has been very hard, at one point we were travelling to Birmingham Children’s Hospital for Alice and Gareth was 230 miles away in the special care baby unit at Glan Clwyd.
The doctors don’t know how much damage Alice has suffered. She is still fed through a tube in her stomach, she can’t swallow or sit up, she is like a newborn. Gareth appears to be fine, he is just a bit small.’
Miss Ormrod, who is waiting for an operation to be sterilised, added: ‘It will be nice that they are so close when they are older.
‘Hopefully, they will be in the same class and Gareth will be able to look after his big sister.’
Gareth was born on the cut-off day for their local Catholic school, Ysgol Mair. If he had arrived just a day later, he would have been in the year below Alice.
Alice is now 13 months old and weighs 12lb 14oz, while Gareth, who is just over four months, weighs 7lb 14oz.