A premature baby who was one of the smallest in the world to survive has returned home to her parents.
Poppy Wicks is thought to have been one of the smallest babies ever when she was born at 25 weeks, measuring just 14cm and weighing 12.7oz.
Her parents Hannah Wicks and Steve McSween, both 31, were told by medics that their daughter was the seventh smallest baby in the world to survive.
At the 18-week scan, doctors warned it was unlikely their unborn child would make it.
They steeled themselves for the worst and even picked a funeral plot, buying a cuddly toy rabbit so their daughter wouldn’t be alone when she was buried.
Estate agent Hannah described Poppy’s condition, intrauterine growth restriction, as “sheer bad luck.”
But she never gave up hope their miracle baby might pull through, and talked to her bump continually, urging her to keep going.
The mum-of-two said: “Initially our consultant thought it was a syndrome which was ‘incompatible with life’.
“I used to pat my belly and talk to her, telling her ‘come on, keep going.'”
Poppy was delivered by emergency C-section three months before her due date – and a week after the abortion limit of 24 weeks.
“The consultant said ‘it’s going to get to a point where you have to make a decision if you are going to give her a chance or let her go,”
“I didn’t have to think about it – I’d rather have tried than just let her go. They also said that if she’d passed away inside me they wouldn’t give me a C-section.
“It would have been a still birth.”
When Poppy was born on March 9, blood flow from the placenta started to reverse, posing a risk her heart could stop beating.
Medics were told in advance to prepare for how tiny she would be, and adapted life-saving equipment, although it was still too big.
The newborn was the size of her mum’s hand and it was a week before anyone could touch her.
Even special nappies for premature babies had to be trimmed down to fit her.
Poppy was kept on a ventilator in an incubator at Southmead Hospital, Bristol, and her parents would visit every day from their home in Severn Beach, South Glos.
They chose her name as a tribute to their consultant, who had a daughter named Poppy.
Three weeks after her birth Steve and Hannah were finally able to hold her – on Mother’s Day.
Hannah said: “The nurses told me the day before, ‘if you’ve got a blanket, bring it in tomorrow.'”
Before the birth she had warned her son Oliver, five, from a previous relationship, that his baby sister might not make it.
Recalling the moment she first held her daughter, Hannah said: “It was amazing. I sat there for what felt like a lifetime, just looking at her, longing to hold her.
“To be able to properly cuddle her was unbelievable. We feel incredibly, incredibly lucky.”
Hannah and Steve had planned to tie the knot in April but when Poppy arrived three months early they cancelled the festivities, choosing to focus on their daughter.
Their emotional roller coaster continued when Poppy was diagnosed with sepsis aged six weeks, and briefly stopped breathing.
Hannah praised the caring nurses in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) who helped her understand what was happening.
She said: “I want everyone to know how amazing the staff are – they look after the parents as well as the babies.
“People were saying to me ‘are you nervous about taking her home?’
“I said ‘I’m more upset I’m not going to see the nurses every day, they’ve become my friends.'”
Now, 19 weeks after her birth, Poppy is back home with her mum and dad and although she still needs an oxygen aid it won’t be for much longer.
She is still so small that even baby clothes for newborns are too large, but proud mum Hannah said: “She’s just starting to smile.”
Oliver is “besotted” with his new sister, and the family are enjoying being able to relax all together.
And Hannah is looking forward to rescheduling their wedding for next year, with both her children and Steve’s son Oli there to celebrate.
She said: “We’d started planning the wedding in December, then we found out she was ill in January. We kept going with it because we needed something to focus on.
“We wanted to be married before she was born, but then she arrived.
“I wouldn’t have wanted to do it while she was in hospital.
“Poppy’s just fought and fought and fought against all the odds. But she’s made it.”
Warehouse worker Steve said: “We weren’t going to give up on her.
“We had stopped buying clothes and preparing for the birth. But we never gave up hope.”
Hannah added: “I never could have believed she would have been one of the smallest babies in the world – she looks massive now compared to when she was born.
“She really is our miracle baby.”