Elsie spent 10 weeks on life-support after she was born at 23 weeks weighing just 1lb 10z at the Royal Oldham Hospital in Greater Manchester on June 17 last year.
Her little hand was no bigger than her dad’s fingernail when she was born after a difficult pregnancy in which her mum suffered a heavy bleeding.
Parents Katie and Rob Hampson were thrown into turmoil eight weeks into the pregnancy as doctors diagnosed the bleeding as a subchorionic hematoma, which takes place due to a build-up of blood between the uterine wall and the outer foetal membrane.
Many hematomas go away on their own but the bleeding carried on for Katie, 27, for 15 weeks until Elsie was born 17 weeks early.
There was a limit to how much doctors could do to assist as they were concerned that administering medication before Katie’s 16th week of pregnancy would impact her placenta and threaten the baby.
After the natural birth, medics told Katie and partner, Rob, 32, a builder, that their daughter only had a 25 per cent chance of survival.
But now tiny tot Elsie is home and thriving – weighing a healthier 13lbs 6oz.
Katie, a full-time mum-of-two, of Rochdale, Greater Manchester, said: “It was horrific because I just didn’t know if I was going to lose Elsie or not.
“I was living with the unknown so I just couldn’t relax or enjoy my pregnancy and even in hospital there was no guarantee she would be alive.
“After I pushed her out, I sat on the bed and looked at her and then was uncontrollably sick.
“It was the shock and the worry as we were told she had just a 25 per cent chance of survival.
“Her body was the size of Rob’s hand and that photo of her hand against her dad’s hand doesn’t even show how small she was – her little hand was no bigger than his fingernail.
“She was so tiny but perfectly formed with her little eyelashes, fingernails and toenails. She was tiny like a little doll.
“She’s a little miracle, she’s overcome so much and survived – it’s a miracle.
“Not even the doctors or nurses had hopes that she would survive but she’s a little fighter – we’re so proud of her.”
Rob – dad to Madison, 12, from a previous partner and Poppy, seven, daughter to Katie – found out they were expecting their second child together in February 2021.
Katie said: “We were delighted when we found out we were having another baby.
“Rob and I couldn’t wait to expand our family and give Poppy and Madison a little sibling.”
But just a few weeks into her pregnancy, Katie began to bleed heavily on a daily basis.
She was quickly diagnosed with subchorionic hematoma and consultants scanned and monitored her during weekly appointments at Rochdale Infirmary.
The risk of having Elsie prematurely was briefly raised during consultations, but Katie revealed she was hopeful the subchorionic bleeds would resolve themselves as they do for most women.
But the bleeding did not stop and at 22 weeks, Katie was admitted to hospital where she went into labour.
Katie said: “When the bleeding didn’t stop, I couldn’t help but panic. I thought it would be OK, but it just seemed to get worse – and I worried our baby wouldn’t make it.
“We were so relieved as each week passed – knowing our unborn daughter would be gaining strength.”
The labour was complicated by Katie experiencing a placental abruption – which occurs when the placenta separates from the inner wall of the uterus before birth.
Katie said: “It was far from straight-forward. Even when she arrived we didn’t know if she would survive – she was so tiny and fragile.”
After Elsie’s birth, the worried couple were unable to hold their newborn as she was taken straight to NICU and hooked up to a ventilator.
Katie said: “I had to wait nearly five hours to see Elsie in the incubator and when I eventually did, I was still in shock. I didn’t get to hold her.
“Elsie was so small, she could fit completely in her dad’s hand and her hand was the same size as his fingernail.
“I was so nervous and didn’t know whether she would even survive. Her skin was practically see-through, and she was so small.
“It wasn’t how it should have been. It wasn’t like having a newborn baby – some people didn’t even say congratulations because they felt they shouldn’t have been congratulating me on having her so early.
“It was very mixed emotions, and I was in my own little world throughout the whole journey. I was just praying and hoping for the best.”
The couple describe Elsie’s next few weeks in NICU as a ‘stormy ride’.
Katie said: “It was a very, very difficult time for us. We just didn’t know if she was going to pull through.
“A nurse even said to me that we had both gone through one of the most traumatic experiences she’s ever seen on the unit.”
While Elsie was in hospital, Katie captured the photo of her ‘high-fiving’ her doting dad – which showed the tot’s hand being the same size as his fingernail.
Elsie was kept in the NICU on a ventilator for nearly 70 days.
Eventually on 30th October 2021 – nearly five months after she was born – Elsie had gained enough strength to return home for the first time.
Despite celebrating the milestone, Elsie’s parents were cautious about caring for their tot on their own.
Katie said: “It was so lovely to welcome her home, but it was scary because for so many months, we relied on nurses and doctors.
“They were our comfort blanket and support system.
“But it feels amazing at the same time, some days we never thought we’d get to this point.
“Poppy is so good with her, she’s a great big sister and absolutely adores Elsie, it’s so cute to watch.
“Elsie is only just fitting into clothes for a three-month-old now. But they’re still a bit baggy for her.”
Katie revealed she couldn’t be more grateful to the staff at the hospital for saving Elsie’s life.
She said: “The staff are real life angels. If it weren’t for them, Elsie wouldn’t be here. They should be recognised for the amazing job that they do. They saved my baby’s life.”