Gift of life so real for little Joshua Colledge of St Columb
ON NOVEMBER 14 last year Laura and Ross Colledge did not know whether their new born son Joshua would survive the next 24 hours.
Unable to touch him, they could do nothing but watch their baby fight for his life in an incubator at the Royal Cornwall Hospital's intensive care unit.
Born nearly three months premature, Joshua weighed just 2lb 4oz and was scarcely bigger than an adult hand.
The tot had suffered bleeding on the brain and was so severely underdeveloped his eyes were still fused shut. His little life hung by a thread.
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But fast forward almost 12 months and his beaming parents look on with pride as he blasts around the living room of their St Columb Road home in his baby walker.
Speaking to the Cornish Guardian, Laura said Joshua's first birthday marks "the end of a long journey of growth" for her family.
"Joshua has enhanced our lives," she said. "He is like our little buddy. The feeling of leaving him that first night was unimaginable, like the biggest heartbreak you have ever had to go through, intensified. His birthday is going to be very emotional. It marks the end of an extremely worrying time and we can finally start to look forward."
For newly-weds Laura, 32, and Ross, 27, their first child's special day will be a poignant reminder of when their lives were turned upside down this time last year.
Laura's waters broke 11 weeks before her baby was due and she went into premature labour. Within 48 hours Joshua had gone into trauma in her womb and his heart rate was slowing.
Doctors then announced that he needed to be delivered immediately through an emergency Caesarean section in order to save his life. The couple were petrified.
"I went into shock, I was shaking so badly," said Laura, originally from Somerset. "I could not believe what was happening.
"Just two days earlier we had been watching The X Factor at home and enjoying a nice meal with friends and now I was giving birth."
Laura, a wedding singer and guitarist, sang Firework by Katy Perry throughout the ordeal to calm her nerves.
"I was so scared," she said. "I had Ross looking into my eyes the whole time, he was a pillar of strength for me. I sang the whole way through it; I only stopped shaking when I was singing. I had gone from a free spirit to a mum suddenly."
Joshua was born at 6am, just 29 weeks into pregnancy and with limbs the size of an adult finger. He was taken straight to intensive care.
"I could not even cuddle him," said Laura, who was unable to hold her son until four days later.
"He was taken straight away from me to make sure he was breathing. I was just happy he was out of me and was OK."
Laura was later diagnosed with a condition that means it is highly likely that any baby she carries will be born prematurely.
Joshua spent more than two months in an incubator at the hospital's neonatal unit as he fought to recover from a bleed on the brain and illness caused by his early birth.
At home, between visits to her son, Laura battled anxiety attacks from post-traumatic stress, sleeplessness and separation anxiety.
She said: "You feel very guilty and helpless. I used to go in with my expressed milk and I was so proud to be able to give something. It is a very frustrating time; your hands are tied as well as it being very worrying.
"You expect birth to be amazing – and painful – and then to go home with your baby but it is not always that straightforward. It makes you more empathetic."
Today, one year on, Joshua is an active, happy and content baby who is growing normally.
"You get through it together," said Laura. "The stronger they get the stronger you get. He is just happy to be here. He is so excited all the time and loves people. He doesn't like to be hungry like any man.
"People think life stops when you have children but it does not – it makes it better."