Mum Vicki reveals she was blessed with two little miracles after suffering seven miscarriages

Little fighter Alannah was born three and a half months early - weighing a tiny 1.5lb
Adorable Alannah Healy, with her mum Vicki at their home in Dublin, was born at just 25 weeks weighing 1.5lb.

Adorable Alannah Healy, with her mum Vicki at their home in Dublin, was born at just 25 weeks weighing 1.5lb.

Deirdre Reynolds

There are 'miracle babies' - and then there's little Alannah Healy. Just two years old, the toddler from Dublin weighed less than a trainer when she was born, with her arrival into the world at all a mini-marvel after her mum Vicki suffered multiple miscarriages.

Small wonder then that the smiley little sister to Billy, aged 9, has all the makings of a future girl boss, according to her understandably boastful mammy.

"She's doing great," says Vicki, who lives in Rathfarnham with her husband Shane and their two gorgeous children.

"Developmentally, like walking, talking, she's doing it all - a little bit slower than children her age, but by her corrected age, she's not that much further behind.

"She is the strongest-willed child and she rules the roost, but I think a lot of people say girls always do. I couldn't be prouder."

One in 13 babies are born prematurely in Ireland every year, according to new research by Pampers, which has partnered with the Irish Neonatal Health Alliance (INHA) to provide tiny Preemie Protection nappies for the precious bundles. It's a statistic that Vicki is all too familiar with after both children were born early.

Adorable Alannah Healy was born at just 25 weeks weighing 1.5lb.

Adorable Alannah Healy was born at just 25 weeks weighing 1.5lb.

"We went through 13 rounds of IVF and I had seven miscarriages within six years, so it was a tough time," recalls Vicki.

"But then we got pregnant naturally with Alannah, which was an amazing surprise.

"The worry started from day one being pregnant with Alannah; first of all because I'd had seven miscarriages, so you're constantly thinking, 'When's it going to end?' Secondly, because Billy was born premature, there's the whole worry of that again.

"At 20 weeks, I had a scan and I was already dilated and the waters were bulging," adds Vicki, who spent the rest of her second pregnancy being monitored closely in a high-risk ward at The Coombe. "They had to put a stitch in my cervix, to try to close it back up and keep it closed. At that point it was literally day by day.

"When I got to 23 weeks, it was what they called viability. Before 23 weeks, she basically had no chance; once she got to 23 weeks, it was still only a very small chance, but she had a chance of survival. Literally every day made a difference between whether she lived or died."

Little fighter Alannah was born just two weeks later on February 25 - three and a half months early - weighing a tiny 1.5lb. Big brother Billy had previously arrived slightly less prematurely, weighing 4lb at 32 weeks, in April 2012.

"Although Billy and Alannah were both premature, they're completely different stories," she explains. "He just looked very small, which - in hindsight - is very funny because I now think a 4lb baby is huge.

"With Billy, we got a little bit of a hug and then he was taken away to the special care baby unit, and we got to see him all the time. With Alannah, there was no hug. When she was born, she couldn't breathe, she had to be resuscitated; they put her straight onto the ventilator and then she got wheeled straight down to the ICU.

"Nothing can really prepare you for it. She had holes in her heart, she had a bleed on her brain, over the first few weeks she had to have a good few blood transfusions. It was a struggle - we weren't allowed to hold her until she was 10 days old."

"Possibly one of the hardest things you'll ever have to do is to leave a hospital without your baby," continues Vicki of both births. "Even though they're doing well, emotionally it's very tough.

"Even when they come home, and they look like a full-term baby, they're still not quite at the same stage. When you're in hospital, you have all these monitors and professionals around. Then you go home and you're like, 'Oh my God, what if there is still something wrong?'"

Cerebral palsy, vision impairment and learning difficulties are just some of the health struggles that preemies can face later in life, but Vicki believes it's important for expectant parents to hear that it's not all bad news, as her own two children continue to thrive.

"Sadly, especially when it comes to extremely premature babies, a big percentage of them won't make it, and that's all you ever seem to see," says Vicki, who urges linking in with nationwide charity INHA for support. "So it's nice to be able to focus on some of the positive stories, so that people feel, 'We can do this'.

"We were very lucky," she adds. "Billy thrived from day one - so far, touch wood, the only long-term effect that he's had is a touch of asthma when he was younger. Alannah still goes in to see her neonatologist every few months. More than anything, it's a case of if there's something wrong, early intervention is the best.

"With the age gap, I always thought that they wouldn't have that closeness, but they love playing together. Billy has said to me a few times now, and it makes me cry, 'Thank you for making her, Mummy.'

"Every parent says how proud they are of their children, but I think when you've actually seen them fighting for their lives, and making it, you really are."

  • For more about Pampers Preemie Protection nappies see

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