Cradling her tiny baby in her arms, Jodie Mcintyre never thought her premature daughter would be well enough to go home.
Born on July 31 only 24 weeks into her mother’s pregnancy and weighing just 1lb 8oz – less than a bag of sugar – Lily Forsyth’s tiny fingers were barely able to clutch her mother’s hand.
She was so poorly that Jodie started to plan her own daughter’s funeral after doctors told her to prepare for the worst.
Jodie was even forced to watch in agony as doctors desperately tried to revive her little girl when she stopped breathing.
That was six months ago – and after 174 dark days in hospital, beautiful Lily is now home in Mayfield, Dalkeith, with her mum, dad Mark Forsyth, 23, and two-year-old sister, Chantelle.
Jodie fought back tears as she remembered being told by doctors after an hour-and-a-half in labour that Lily was too weak and that if her condition did not improve within 12 hours, then her life support machine would have to be switched off.
The 21-year-old said: “I nearly lost her a number of times, but she’s fought very, very hard for her little precious life.
“It was a really bad start in life and I am just so proud of her.”
Jodie made repeated trips to the maternity unit at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary during her short pregnancy after her waters broke at only 19 weeks.
“Lily was living without the waters and it was just so horrible,” she said. “The doctors scanned her and they said she wasn’t going to make it and I would miscarry.”
Medics were so concerned that Lily would not survive that they offered Jodie a termination when she was 20 weeks’ pregnant, as it falls within the 24-week legal limit.
But Jodie refused as Lily had a strong heartbeat and she wanted to give the little baby a chance to fight.
She said: “I had even started arranging her funeral and my emotions were all over the place.
“They actually thought it was a miracle she managed to survive for so long without the waters. My elder daughter had been born naturally, so I had no idea it would be this hard. I just kept on going.”
Despite suffering contractions constantly for almost a month, Jodie knew something was different on the morning of July 31 when she went into labour despite only being six months into her pregnancy.
The survival rate for babies born at 24 weeks – 16 weeks early – is around 40 per cent, with Lily falling into the “extremely premature” category.
Doctors rushed Jodie to the Simpson maternity unit at the ERI to deliver the specialist care needed to save both mother and baby.
She gave birth to Lily in under two hours and the tiny baby was whisked away to be placed in an incubator in the intensive care unit before Jodie had a chance to meet her.
“It was the most horrible thing which has ever happened to me,” she said.
“They rushed her away and I didn’t even get to see her until about four hours later.
“I was asking every minute whether she was still alive. It felt like days.”
Jodie and fiancé Mark could only see their baby girl through the glass and the young parents were forced to watch in horror as she stopped breathing and doctors worked to resuscitate her.
Jodie said: “I had to look at her through the glass and I couldn’t touch her.
“She was just so tiny. I had never seen a baby this wee in my whole life. Then she just stopped breathing and I had to stand and watch her be brought back.
“The alarms went off and all the doctors came running, which just made it scarier.
“I wasn’t sure if she was going to make it through the first day.”
The doctors told Jodie that Lily was so sick they would have to turn off her life support machine in the next 12 hours if her health did not start to improve.
The family decided to baptise her before they prepared to say goodbye.
Her voice catching, Jodie said: “They were going to place her in my arms so she could take her last breath but I said I wanted to give her the best chance to fight longer.
“And she did.”
Since that first day when she started to stabilise, there have been many obstacles for little Lily to overcome.
One of her lungs collapsed and while doctors were able to stabilise the organ, she would often stop breathing and need to be resuscitated.
She has been dependent on oxygen every day of her short life, but injections of nutrients known as peripheral parenteral nutrition (PPN) have helped her to gain vital weight.
After two months in intensive care she finally reached 2lb 8oz and was able to move to the specialist care baby unit.
Sister Chantelle visited her once a week in the unit and the pair have become firm friends as she can always make her baby sister smile, said Jodie.
The proud mum said: “It was a very long time she was in hospital.
“But she started bottle feeding after two months and that is when she finally started to put weight on.”
Finally, after six months in the hospital, Lily reached 9lb and the young family was given the best Christmas present possible when they were finally able to take her home on December 23.
The tot still has to breathe through a portable oxygen unit, but she was able to enjoy her first Christmas with her family.
Jodie, who was keen to praise the efforts of staff at the ERI, said: “She really is my miracle baby.
“We never thought we would get her home.”
Every day can still be a challenge, said Jodie, as they are reliant on how long the oxygen canisters last for whenever they leave the house.
She said: “We have tried her off oxygen but she is not quite ready for it. But she is doing great now and we take each day as it comes.”
Lily – who now weighs an impressive 11lb 10oz – is one of the smallest of the 8000 premature babies born in Scotland each year.
Diane Waugh, Bliss Scotland co-ordinator, said: “It’s great to hear baby Lily is doing so well now and is at home after her early start to life. She is one of around 8000 babies born each year in Scotland needing specialist care – at one in seven of all births, this is the highest rate in the UK.
“Bliss Scotland is working with health boards across the country to ensure these babies and their families receive the very best care and support.”
TINY EMILY GROWING STRONGER EVERY DAY
BABY Emily Cressey was one of Scotland’s smallest babies when she was born on February 27 last year weighing just 1lb 3oz.
Born at just 24 weeks, Emily spent weeks on and off a ventilator as doctors at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary battled to keep her alive as her lungs were not strong enough to function on their own.
Mum Claire, 34, described her as “a little miracle” as she fought against the odds before finally gaining enough weight to be taken to the family’s home in the Borders in June. The brave tot is now able to roll over and eat solid food. A heart murmur she was born with grows smaller by the day and a hernia on her tummy button has also healed.
She now goes for a routine health check every three months.