Baby who weighed less than a Christmas pudding is now a healthy one-year-old

Ettie when she was born and now (Picture: Sammie Burrell)

When little Ettie Burrell was born just weeks before Christmas last year, she weighed less than a Christmas pudding.

Born 12 weeks before her due date, she was so small, her parents Sammie and Jordan thought she wouldn’t survive.

But now Ettie is a happy and healthy one-year-old and they’ve just spent their first Christmas at home as a family.

Mum Sammie, 36, from Norfolk, explains: ‘Having her home this year is so different. It’s so special.

‘Sometimes we will be doing something Christmasy and I can’t believe we are finally here. Last year, the only thing that kept me going was thinking that this year was going to be so different.’

At the end of November last year, Sammie was into her third trimester and enjoying a straight forward pregnancy.

Her baby had moved a lot throughout so when that slowed down, she went to hospital to get checked out on 28 November last year.

Sammie and Ettie in hospital (Picture: Sammie Burrell)

She was kept in to be monitored – but never expected she would be having her baby.

She explains: ‘I went up for a check and thought I would be told I was being silly and everything was fine.

‘They kept me in until 3am and they said they were going to keep me in overnight and get me a scan in the morning. 

‘I sent my husband home and had a few hours of sleep. At 6 o’clock the next morning, they woke me up and put me back on the monitors again. 

Ettie in NICU (Picture: Sammie Burrell)

‘Between 6 and half 7, gradually more and more people started to come into the room. I knew something was up but I wasn’t sure what. I was trying to ignore it.

‘At 7.15, they I put a cannula in my arm. They told me I should probably have someone with me and I thought it was just because I got upset about the cannula. 

‘At 7.30am, they told me that they thought the baby stood a better chance of surviving out than in so they needed to get her out as soon as possible.

Ettie at Christmas time last year (Picture: Sammie Burrell)

‘I called my husband in floods of tears and told him he needed to get to hospital because the baby was coming. I was 28 + 2 weeks. It was still so early. We weren’t ready at all – we hadn’t really thought about anything. I thought I still had three months of my pregnancy left.’

Luckily, Jordan, 41, was nearby as he was on his way to work and he was able to get there in 15 minutes, just enough time to see Sammie before she was given a general anaesthetic and taken for an emergency c-section.

Ettie was born at 7.52am, weighing just under 2lb – the same as a family size Christmas pudding.

Ettie’s incubator (Picture: Sammie Burrell)

Sammie adds: ‘In under an hour, we’d gone from thinking we had three months left, to having our baby here.

‘They told us that we had a little girl and said that she had a bit of a rocky start but she was doing all right.’

Jordan was able to see her later that morning but Sammie had to wait until she had recovered enough from the anaesthetic.

Sammie says: ‘I was just watching the hours tick by waiting to go and see her. There is nothing in the world that can prepare you for that moment when you see your baby. 

‘She was so tiny and fragile. I remember thinking that she just wasn’t going to survive. I couldn’t believe that something so small that needed so much help was going to be alright.’

Ettie is now a happy and healthy one-year-old (Picture: Sammie Burrell)

As well as struggling to come to terms with having a poorly baby, Sammie says she went through a grieving period for the parts of her pregnancy she would miss out on.

‘I don’t think you can understand it unless you go through it,’ she says.

‘I went through a whole grieving period because I missed out on being heavily pregnant and things like my waters breaking. I missed little things like having a baby shower and leaving work to go off on maternity leave. All those things I thought were coming, were taken away from me.’

Ettie was kept in neonatal intensive care for 11 weeks, including throughout Christmas and for the first few weeks, the couple struggled with knowing she might not make it.

Sammie says: ‘The time in there was difficult. No one can give you an endpoint and you just get into this weird bubble of living at the hospital. 

Ettie now (Picture: Sammie Burrell)

‘Last Christmas, I couldn’t listen to a Christmas song on the radio without burst into tears. I was supposed to be nursing a big pregnant belly and spending our last Christmas just the two of us. 

‘I would have just totally ignored it but my husband wanted to try to keep things a little normal. 

‘We introduced all her grandparents to her on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. That was the first time we had anyone come to visit us at hospital because it took it us a long time to believe she was going to be ok.’

Sammie and Jordan spent hours at the hospital last year, popping out for an hour for lunch on Christmas Day and a few hours on the evening of Boxing Day.

‘I did not want to be anywhere other than hospital. Even though I knew she would never remember it, it didn’t feel right to me to be anywhere other than with her on her first Christmas,’ Sammie adds.

The family are celebrating their first Christmas at home together (Picture: Sammie Burrell)

But in the weeks that followed, Ettie got stronger and stronger and on 13 February, she was able to come home. 

She was still using oxygen but six weeks after her homecoming, she was able to stop that.

Since then, Ettie has thrived and is now a very happy and healthy one-year-old. 

Sammie says: ‘She’s doing amazing now. She is the happiest, most content little thing and she just babbles away. She’s just started taking a few little steps if I hold her hands.

‘Being premature doesn’t seem to have had any long term effects on her.’

This year, the family celebrated Ettie’s first Christmas at home and they even returned to the ward where she spent the first 11 weeks of her life to deliver presents to parents who are in the same situation this year.

Sammie adds: ‘When we were in NICU over Christmas, some of the parents who had been in NICU throughout the year had put together hampers and the staff made a card with her footprints on. It was a really difficult time and those things just made it a little easier, knowing that people cared.

‘We did the same this Christmas and took that in on Christmas Day this year. We’ve come full circle.’

The Burrell family are supporting the Christmas campaign by Bliss, the leading UK charity for premature or sick babies. This year, the appeal focuses on ensuring more babies are able to come home and making the journey home easier for little ones and their parents.

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