Christmas will be extra special this year for a British family who nearly lost their premature daughter to complications resulting from her very early birth.
Marley Hayes’ parents describe her as their little Christmas miracle because she overcame so much, The Star reports. Born 15 weeks early weighing about 1.7 pounds, Marley almost died. But nearly nine months later, the little girl is thriving at home with her parents, Sophie Louise James and her fiance, Lloyd Hayes, of Bawtry, Doncaster, England.
“We cannot wait to have a first Christmas as a family of three. It’s just going to be amazing,” James said.
According to the report, James was diagnosed with polyhydramnios, or excessive fluid around her unborn baby, early in the second trimester. Then one day in late March, her water broke and she was rushed to the hospital.
James said the doctors tried to keep Marley in the womb to continue growing, but after four days, she went into labor at Leighton Hospital in Cheshire.
Marley was born on April 2 at 25 weeks of pregnancy. She required immediate medical attention and soon afterward was transferred to Arrowe Park Hospital in Liverpool for intensive neo-natal care, the report continues.
Across the next several weeks, the tiny baby girl suffered renal failure and a brain bleed, her mother said. Marley also had dangerously high levels of calcium in her body and was unable to drink breast milk for the first several weeks, she said.
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“When we were in hospital we only got to hold her once a day. It was so hard to not be able to pick up your own baby,” James said. “At one point we didn’t even think she’d see her first Christmas. It was something I didn’t even dare hope for. She couldn’t even drink my milk and wasn’t growing at all. It was awful.”
The Doncaster Free Press reports Marley was transferred to a hospital closer to home on May 13 and spent three additional months there. James said she and her fiancé “desperately” wanted their daughter to reach the 4-pound mark, because doctors said she would need to be at least that big to go home.
“Two weeks before we came home, she suddenly got better,” her mother remembered. “It seemed as her body developed and it sorted itself out, and the issues resolved themselves. It was amazing. She clearly just needed a bit of time, and she was right as rain.”
Marley was deemed well enough to go home in mid-July, more than 100 days after her birth.
“We were constantly around parents who were losing their babies,” James said. “We ended up just feeling so lucky. Marley had such a complex medical journey, but now she’s home she’s a super smiley baby and even sleeps through the night.”
Now, the family is preparing for their first Christmas together, feeling especially blessed by their baby girl’s health.
“We’re going to spend our first Christmas just the three of us,” James said. “I’ve already bought so many festive baby grows and outfits for her to wear. She’s going to look so sweet.”
Modern medical advances are enabling younger and smaller premature babies to survive and thrive. The smallest recorded surviving baby weighed less than 9 ounces at birth in California. The earliest known premature baby to survive outside the womb was born at 21 weeks and four days of pregnancy. In 2017, the journal Pediatrics highlighted the girl’s survival story.
Recent studies out of Duke University and the New England Journal of Medicine have found that a growing percent of premature infants are surviving as early as 22 weeks of pregnancy. The research recently prompted the British Association of Medicine to issue new guidelines encouraging medical treatment for babies born at just 22 weeks of pregnancy. Previously, the guidelines did not recommend treatment until 24 weeks.