LITTLE Abigail Wardle is the much-loved gift her parents had feared they would be without.
But putting a traumatic 2012 behind them, her family are preparing to make this year the best yet.
With her first birthday just weeks away, the milestone in their daughter’s life is something Thomas and Valerie Wardle dared not think about 10 months ago.
Although she’d had previous healthy pregnancies, a routine 20-week check-up for 34-year-old Valerie escalated into the terrifying possibility that she’d need to give birth to her baby at 22 weeks, two weeks under the legal abortion limit.
Despite medication to lower her blood pressure her condition worsened, and she was told her placenta was no longer working. At just 25 weeks, medics were forced to carry out an emergency Caesarean, and Abigail was born weighing no more than a loaf of bread.
At just 1lb 4oz, her skin almost transparent and measuring smaller than her father’s hand Abigail was among the smallest babies to be delivered at the Newcastle’s RVI. Premature and undergoing heart surgery at just three-weeks-old her chances of a future without complications looked bleak.
Valerie, who lives in Wallsend with Thomas and their children Ryan, 17, Chandler, 12, Grace, seven and Justin, six, said: “She was so tiny and brittle you could see through her skin.”
Almost 24 hours after the birth the couple were able to see their tiny miracle at the RVI’s special care baby unit, and four days later she was introduced to her brothers and sister.
Thomas added: “She was the size of my hand, it was terrifying. They told us the first 48 hours were critical and Abigail was so thin they couldn’t put a feeding tube into her veins so had to use her umbilical cord.
“We really wanted the children to meet her as it would have been awful if something had happened and they’d never go to meet their baby sister.”
Although unwell with a chest infection over the festive period Abigail is now on the mend as the close-knit family prepare to make 2013 one to remember.
Valerie said: “Christmas really brought home how lucky we are to have Abigail here with us. We couldn’t imagine not having her here and how awful that would be. It made the day all the more special for us all to be together.
“Abigail is truly amazing and has faced so much already in her young life.” On February 2 it will be a year since Valerie and Thomas were faced with the possibility their baby might not survive. But with Abigail doing better than ever, the family are preparing to celebrate her first birthday.
Valerie added: “We say Abigail is like the Queen. She has the date she was born and then her due date which isn’t until May 10. Whatever we do it will be a special day.”
Wanting to thank the RVI’s Tiny Lives charity for their help when Abigail was born, the family and their friends raised £1,400 from donations and sponsored events.