Two Burton mums marked World Prematurity Day with deeply personal accounts of their own experiences of premature births - and their "real-life superhero" babies.
With rising numbers of premature babies born every year in the UK, we spoke to the two local mothers about the ups and downs of giving birth prematurely.
At the age of 20, Stacie Hylans was delighted to find out she was expecting a bouncing baby boy. Diagnosed as low risk early on, the excited mum-to-be read up on what she needed to know, took her vitamins and eagerly awaited her little one’s arrival.
What she didn’t count on were the sudden change of symptoms at 22 weeks, when she "swelled up severely" and struggled to pass "treacle-like urine."
As Stacie’s health took a downward spiral she was admitted to hospital, where doctors diagnosed her with pre-eclampsia and told her she had no choice to deliver the baby early.
Stacie, now 34, recalls the terrifying moment. She said: "Everything was going ok until I got to 22 weeks then I had really severe swelling that made it difficult to move and my vision got really blurry. The situation escalated and I ended up being rushed to Wordsley hospital in Dudley where they told me the devastating news. I was bang on 24 weeks and they told me my only option was to deliver.
"I was in shock and absolutely terrified. There was a chance I could die and there was a chance Alex wouldn’t survive. I remember vividly my mum signing forms in case the worse happened; it was horrible.
"I kept telling everyone please save the baby, don’t worry about me."
Alex was later born weighing 500g, or equivalent to nearly one pound and one ounce.
His sudden birth meant he was not fully developed in some places and was forced to undergo laser surgery on his eyes.
Stacie herself was not out of the woods either and spent the next few days in a high dependency unit.
She explains: "Alex is registered visually impaired. He can’t see out of his left eye and has tunnel vision in his right. From the beginning there were lots of problem. His lungs collapsed a couple of times and they thought he was going through heart failure and might not make it through the night. He went blue and we were preparing for the worst.
"At the same time my blood pressure was through the roof, my kidneys were starting to fail and my lungs were shutting down. It was the scariest time. I have blocked most of it out - it was so tough."
Alex was in Wordsley for six weeks and was then transferred to Burton for 12 weeks, where he began to recover.
Despite Alex’s difficult start to life, the youngster, who has autism, ADHD, oppositional deficiency disorder, dyspraxia, is visually impaired and has moderate learning disabilities, attends Fountains High School and makes his mum proud every day.
Stacie, who is also mum to Ellis, 10, and Oscar, six, said: "He hit his milestones later than other people his age but he always gets there eventually. He is my hero.
"I am so proud and in awe of him. He is so happy and has so much enthusiasm and despite his disabilities he is going to go far. He is a very intelligent and popular young man, he has a girlfriend and is Mario mad.
"Every time he does something they told me he wouldn’t, I am so proud."
Jade Wilcock from Horninglow also spoke out to raise awareness of the risks of premature births, after she endured a life- changing experience when her triplets were born earlier than expected.
The 31-year-old said she and her partner Jamie McNeil knew the triplets would not go to full-term but nothing could have prepared her for the loneliness their sudden birth triggered.
She said: "With every triplet pregnancy you know they are going to be early so it wasn’t a shock in that sense, the shock was how early they came.
"Consultants aim for 34 weeks but as soon as you hit 28 weeks it is a countdown. Then the chances of survival go up so it is a waiting game. I really wanted them at Burton but I knew from the start that there was a strong chance they may not have the space to cater to us all so I didn’t get my hopes up."
Jade, who is the deputy director of curriculum for English at Burton and South Derbyshire College, went into labour at 31 weeks and six days and said although she was "incredibly happy" to get past the 28 weeks, no-one was prepared for the babies to arrive so early.
She said: "I had a scan booked the day after my waters broke so I was quite surprised to say the least. I was taken to Bolton Hospital which is three hours away, but had enough neonatal beds.
"Jamie wasn’t allowed in the ambulance with me and it was terrifying going somewhere I didn’t know and not really knowing what to expect. What is worse is that we knew we were going to have to spend a while there and we don’t drive, which added to the worries."
When Jude, Lily and Fynn were finally born, on November 5, it soon became clear there were difficulties with mum and babies.
Jude, who weighed three pounds and 11 and a half ounces, was not breathing and needed immediate care, while Lily weighed three pounds 12 and a half ounces while Fynn was born weighing three pounds eight and a half ounces and needed support with his breathing.
Jade said: "I didn’t actually see the babies for 12 hours as unfortunately my operation didn’t go very well. The doctors nipped my womb and I started to bleed out on the operating table.
"It was very scary; I felt like I was drifting away. They asked Jamie to leave the room but he wouldn’t, he stayed by my side the whole time. Later I was put on the high dependency ward and they wheeled my massive hospital bed onto the antenatal ward so I could finally see my babies."
Jade said the NHS had been "incredible" but she was surprised by some of the remarks people had made to her during the traumatic time.
She said: "The staff were incredible. They offered us a place to stay and saving my life and three little people’s lives in a night is nothing short of incredible.
"However I do think people can show more compassion when talking to parents of premature babies.
"Not every baby or birth is the same and I was surprised at some of the comments that were made. I have had people say to me "well at least you didn’t have to go through the third trimester" and "at least you can sleep at night" but it is not like that at all. I was still waking every three hours to express milk except my babies were stuck in hospital."
But the journey didn’t end there and after four weeks in hospital, the children were transferred to Burton separately, which had a major impact on Jade.
She said: "The babies were all transferred separately to Burton when beds became available which was incredibly emotional.
"Lily went first, she was a real fighter and her daddy went with her while I stayed with the boys. Then followed Jude and Fynn was last.
"Fynn has had more health problems since and is often in hospital. He suffered with his lungs and had a hernia when he was born and that has had a lasting affect. He also had a heart murmur that was exacerbated by bronchitis and at one point he was on 1ml of milk an hour and was tube-fed.
"Burton hospital has saved his life so many times and while the others have been discharged he is still under the consultant but he is getting there.
"What no-one tells you is how lonely it is.
"It is one of the loneliest things that I have ever been through and nothing can prepare you for it. I really feel for mums who don’t have that little inkling that the baby might end up in neonatal because premature birth is quite a common thing and there is always that chance. Even now there are certain smells and noises that bring back waves of memories."
Jade said the triplets who are now two, are hilarious and "amaze her every day."
She said: "I can’t believe it now when I look at them and see how far they come. I struggle to pick Jude up now he is so chubby! They are hilarious, walking and talking and they love sitting by the windows looking and identifying the different vehicles.
"They play with each other and they say each others' names which is really cute.
"They are amazing and such great fun to be around."
Jade and Jamie were unable to throw a first birthday party for the triplets as Fynn had just endured a stay in hospital, but this year they managed a celebration when they turned two.
Jade said: "It was really nice to see them interacting with other little people and when I see a full-term baby now they are like giants.
"It is amazing because you can see just what babies can do. They are so brave and they just get on with it. They amaze me every day."
Jade said becoming a parent to premature children was "life-changing" in ways she had never imagined.
She said: "I have never before been so conscious about germs. A lot of "premy parents" won’t invite guests around to the house unless they wash their hands and don’t wear perfume. There are so many things that can affect the little ones."
Bliss, UK's leading charity for babies born premature or sick, provides free support to parents. You can find out more at www.bliss.org.uk.
How many babies are born prematurely in the UK?
It is estimated that around 60,000 babies are born prematurely in the UK every year.
This means that one in every 13 babies born in the UK will be born premature (before 37 weeks of pregnancy).
Not all of these babies will need to be cared for in a neonatal unit. Many babies born prematurely will be born late pre-term (at 34-36 weeks of pregnancy), and some of these may not need specialist care on a neonatal unit.