Poppy McSween, now 2 years old and from Chepstow, South Wales, is one of the UK’s tiniest children. She was barely 25 weeks pregnant when she was born, weighing only 12 ounces. After a two-year battle, the size of a tennis ball was eventually allowed to leave the hospital. However, after two years of ongoing testing and monitoring, little Poppy was just recently given the all-clear to leave the hospital. Despite Hannah, Poppy’s 33-year-old mother, being recommended to abort the pregnancy, Poppy is currently thriving at home. Doctors informed her at the time that if her daughter survived, she would probably be stillborn or have cerebral palsy. ‘Poppy is truly getting better every day,’ said Hannah, a stay-at-home mother. ‘Every time we’re told she won’t be able to do something or won’t hit a milestone, she totally broke it.
It’s astonishing that she has grown into such a strong and brilliant young woman after being one of the tiniest babies ever born. She is still very young and wears clothing for babies between 9 and 12 months, but what matters is that she is still alive and doing so well. It makes me so sad to think about being urged to have an abortion with her, but it also makes me tremendously grateful that we were willing to take a chance with her since it paid off. Being finally released from the hospital makes me thrilled and anxious at the same time. I can’t wait to help her start her life off right and teach her how to take care of herself. I’m concerned that nobody is present to look out for us at all times. Currently, we’re trying to get her up to speed with speech and physical activity – so we spend every day teaching her new words and activities.
When Hannah was only 18 weeks pregnant, she and her 34-year-old husband Steve identified an issue with Poppy’s growth. We were informed that there was a problem, and at first they believed it to be Edward’s syndrome. Fortunately, an amniocentesis allowed them to rule out this possibility. Instead, they informed me that I was suffering a growth restriction while I was still a fetus because my placenta had ceased supplying Poppy with the nutrients she need to continue developing. Her lungs were unhealthy, and they later determined that she no longer had any amniotic fluid. At this point, we were informed that the pregnancy should be ended because otherwise, I would have to go into labor to give birth to a child.
Despite advice from consultants and doctors, the couple decided to continue the pregnancy and did not give up hope. Hannah continued: ‘Our consultants kept telling us before each scan that she wouldn’t be alive for the next and she never did.
‘We knew we couldn’t give her up so we just made sure we were very careful with everything and I went to my midwife or consultant daily to check on her alive or not.
At one of my appointments when I was 25 weeks, I was told she would have to give birth now and be put into an emergency cesarean. When she was born, she weighed less than a pound, the smallest baby I’ve ever seen. But as soon as I saw her, I could tell she was a fighter – I knew right away that she would fight like I did for her. And as expected, as soon as she was born, Poppy continued to fight.
While in the hospital, she was checked daily for growth and development – while receiving cardiovascular treatment, she had a hole in her heart, but thankfully it healed on its own. For the first two weeks of her life, she was on a ventilator, but then got out and adapted well. She spent seven months on oxygen, but when she came out of it, she was fine. Also had to have laser eye surgery while in the hospital, so was put on a ventilator to recover from this. Over the last year, she has mostly been tracking her growth – both physically and mentally. Besides the teaching she received in the hospital, I would spend hours encouraging her to speak and use the makaton signs.
She started walking on January 31 of this year, so it is clear that everything except her right hand is healthy and growing as expected. Now, three weeks after being discharged from the hospital, Hannah and her family are happy to have her at home. It was sad to leave the NICU and the friends I met there – but it was wonderful to have her home forever. I hope our story proves to mothers-to-be that there is hope and that they don’t always have to listen to the advice and predictions they make.