A baby’s first Christmas is always memorable, but for one St Annes couple, this year it’s a special joy.
For their son Ronnie, who was born in January – almost four months early – is now a strong, happy 11-month-old who greets everyone with a big smile.
Tracy Coyne, 39, and Dave Chapman, 32, of Newton Road, who’ve been together for three years, were in shock when their baby arrived at just 24 weeks and three days.
Tracy, a stylist at The Crib, Lytham, said: “At my 20-week scan, we asked the nurse to write down the sex of our baby on a piece of paper.
“We kept this until Christmas Day last year, looked at it together and were delighted when we saw we were expecting a boy.
“Then a few days into January, when I was cutting a client’s hair, I had terrible pain.
“I found out I was bleeding as well, so Dave drove me to Victoria Hospital, Blackpool.
“There, they told me I was in labour but that the baby wasn’t in distress.
“I had steroids to strengthen the baby’s lungs and managed to hang on for two days.
“But then Ronnie arrived quickly in breech position, weighing just llb 10 ounces.”
Along with several doctors, nurses and Dave, Tracy’s sister Rachel, 38, their mum, Catherine, and Dave’s mum, Carol, were all at the birth.
Tracy added: “Everyone suddenly went quiet, and I didn’t know whether my son was alive or not.
Dave continued: “Ronnie was dark red in colour when he was born and his skin was shiny and transparent.
“A doctor told us to expect the worst but hope for the best. I’ll never forget those words.”
Baby Ronnie was whisked away to an incubator and put on a ventilator.
Midwife Carol Park, a former client of Tracy’s, stayed beyond her shift to give support.
The next 48 hours were crucial.
With his mother, Ronnie was transferred to Royal Preston Hospital the following morning.
His complications included a suspected life-threatening hole in the bowel condition, bleeds in the brain and lungs, a chest infection, two self-correcting hernias and the usual premature baby hole-in-the-heart defect which closed in time.
Tracy said:” On day three, Ronnie was really poorly, and we had him blessed.
“But although we were emotional at times, we always tried our best to stay positive.
“We talked to him and told him how much we loved him every day.”
There were some anxious times and Ronnie was in hospital for 16 weeks before he was well enough to come home.
Just before Ronnie was born, Dave learned that his dad had terminal lung cancer.
Dave added: “It was a difficult time, and my dad died in May, but it’s comforting to know that he met his grandson, just once.
“Little Ronnie has helped my mum to cope with her grief as well.”
Ronnie was named after Dave’s dad, Ronald, and Tracy’s grandad, also Ronald. His middle name was chosen after Tracy’s dad, James.
For Christmas, Ronnie’s getting a push-along bike, and a disco ball for his bedroom.
“We’re eternally grateful to the neo-natal staff at Victoria Hospital and Royal Preston Hospital,” says Tracy.
“At 11 months, Ronnie’s quite small but in proportion, and he’s a strong, determined, friendly little boy, who’s a real joy.
“He’s our little miracle.”