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Page last updated at 08:36 GMT, Friday, 24 December 2010
Morning MK's Helen Legh and a baby born too soon
Helen with her baby daughter Matilda
Helen with her baby daughter Matilda

Morning MK presenter Helen Legh's baby arrived three months early and weighed only a pound and a half.

Baby Matilda was born when Helen was just 25 weeks pregnant and spent the first few weeks of her life in an incubator.

She spent three months in Special Care with her parents hoping against all hope that she would survive.

She did, and now, five months after her birth, Helen and her husband Paul have told BBC Three Counties all about it.

The couple had tried for four years to have a baby and had been through two failed attempts at IVF. But in February this year, they were delighted to find that Helen was pregnant following a successful third round of treatment.

Going well

Baby Matilda was due on 27 October and the pregnancy was going well.

Helen had morning sickness for the first 18 weeks or so, then as the sickness subsided she had a bit of a scare and spent the night in hospital after having a bleed.

Despite this, Helen said that she was never worried about miscarrying.

"Not at all" she said.

"It absolutely didn't occur to me. It was a struggle enough to get pregnant, it did not occur to me that anything else would happen.

"We didn't have any problems, that's the thing. Not until I was about 23 weeks pregnant when I had a little bleed. I went into hospital and they checked her and me and everything seemed to be fine. There didn't seem to be any problem, they just said 'sometimes this can happen'".


Helen went home and carried on as normal. but the following weekend her problems began.

"The next weekend I had these very odd back pains" she explained.

"I phoned the midwife and she said it was probably constipation so we went to the supermarket and bought lots of fresh orange juice and prune juice and all the time I was getting these pains.

"When we got home I suddenly felt something go" she continued.

"I was bleeding quite heavily so we went to the hospital and again they tested her heartbeat and scanned us and there didn't seem to be a problem but they kept me in overnight."

After being in pain throughout the night things had not improved by the morning and then, when she went to the toilet, her waters broke.

"That was quite terrifying" said Helen.

"They wheeled us to an emergency delivery suite and we didn't really know what was going on because I was six months pregnant and wasn't considering any of this to be an issue.

Helen's hand with Matilda's
Helen's hand with Matilda's

"I was 25 weeks pregnant. The abortion limit is 24 weeks. I hadn't read the section in my book on labour because it was too far away."

Husband Paul explained how they both seemed to be in denial.

"We were in hospital as a precaution" he said, "and for 24 hours everybody was saying there was no problem at all, you're fine. Even when her waters broke I don't think either of us thought this was going to happen, it was just too early.

"There was a woman in the bed next to us whose waters had broken a few weeks earlier at 22 weeks and she hadn't gone into labour.

"But then the consultant arrived, took a look and said, this baby's coming out in the next 30 minutes to two hours!"


After that, everything happened very quickly. A team of paediatricians arrived as Helen's contractions got closer and closer together and a consultant gave them the sobering news that things were very serious, the baby was arriving very early and may not make it.

"They didn't talk in percentages but I've since found out there is a 50/50 chance of survival at that stage" explained Helen, "and the consultant said that she might have all kinds of disabilities.

"At that point we thought 'she's going to die'.

"They left us on our own for a little bit and I remember us both being so upset and thinking how is this happening to us? We thought we'll just get through this, I'll give birth to her and we'll have a funeral, I remember us talking about the funeral."

With a team waiting at the end of the bed, Matilda entered the world after just two pushes, weighing 1lb 13oz and was immediately whisked away.

"You perceive that when you have a child they do the checks and give the child back to you" explained Paul, "but Matilda was officially resuscitated because you're not supposed to be born at 25 weeks and she couldn't breathe. Literally within 30 seconds of her being born there were four doctors around her pushing tubes into her mouth."

Too young

Matilda was put onto a ventilator to breathe for her straight away. She was too young to stay at the hospital in Northamptonshire where she was born and later that night was transferred to a specialist unit at Leicester Royal Infirmary.

"It didn't feel real" said Helen.

"It had happened so quickly, we were both relieved it was over to a certain extent at that point.

"It was kind of surreal. We were on a bit of a high that she'd been born and she was alive rather than the alternative."

Helen and Paul weren't allowed to go in the ambulance with their daughter so they stayed in the hospital for the night before joining her the next day, but they were able to see her at about 1.00am just before she left.

"That was quite horrible" she revealed.

"She didn't look like a baby. She looked like a tiny little kitten. Her eyes were fused together, she was covered in tubes and on a ventilator so you couldn't see her face.

"You could barely see her, she was red raw and it just wasn't real. I look back now and can't quite believe that we got through it to be honest."


In Leicester, Matilda was put straight into Intensive Care where she had one on one nursing care 24 hours a day for two weeks before being moved again.

"You know your premature baby is getting better or progressing because she is moved out of intensive care to a room where there's a nurse to three babies 24 hours a day" said Paul.

"What they try not to get you to do is focus on the long term. They try to focus you on the day to day and keep saying to you 'let's get through the next day'.

Matilda makes her first trip into the 3CR studios!

"They say it's going to be a really long journey with lots of ups, lots of downs" added Helen.

"But the best thing that was ever said to us - because they'll never say she's getting better - was when a doctor came to her bed during the morning rounds and said 'Ahh yes, this is the baby that we don't have to worry about too much'. That was the best thing they could have said!"

Matilda was in hospital for 12 weeks, 83 days in total. Whilst there she had a heart problem which healed itself and blood transfusions but since coming home has thrived and is now around 11lbs.

"She's put on such a lot of weight and she's just started smiling" said Helen.

"Developmentally, she's the equivalent of an eight week old but she's actually five months old. She's learning all the time and we're learning all the time.

"I look back now at the time when she was in hospital and think that's an age ago - and I can't imagine what it would be like without her now."

To find out more about Helen and Paul's IVF journey, use this link:

Health Check: Premature babies
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