For many couples, having their first child in time for Christmas is a dream come true.
But for Sir Chris Hoy and his wife Sarra, whose son Callum arrived 11 weeks premature on 15 October 2014, meeting their firstborn baby long before his January due date was the beginning of a difficult journey.
Born at 29 weeks gestation, Callum weighed just 2lbs 2oz.
“He was due on January the 2nd – and everyone was joking that we would have a Christmas baby,” Sarra tells Yahoo UK. “We were laughing at the time, but be careful what you wish for
“We were flung into neonatal world of intensive care and had to go through that with a small and vulnerable baby.”
She adds: “It was terrifying and a complete journey into the unknown. Any baby born that early is very vulnerable. For the first week, we were taking it minute by minute.”
Callum was born early after his mother suffered from a severe case of pre-eclampsia.
This is a condition that affects some pregnant women which can lead to serious complications for both mother and baby if not treated, and can cause potential life-threatening fits called “eclampsia”, according to the NHS.
The only cure for pre-eclampsia is to deliver the baby. Sarra was told with just one day’s notice that she had to deliver Callum by emergency C-section.
“I went from one day expecting my pregnancy to last 11 more weeks to the baby being delivered – it was a very fast, intense time,” she says.
“It was a shock to the system,” adds Chris. “At this point we didn’t know anyone who had had a premature baby, and we weren’t at all prepared for the situation.”
One in 13 babies, more than 60,000, are born prematurely in the UK every year, according to the research. This means 8,000 preemie babies will be spending the day in neonatal care on Christmas Day.
And while, unlike these 8,000 preemies, Callum was able to come home for Christmas, the young family by no means felt they were out of the woods at this stage.
“Prematurity doesn’t end on discharge,” says Sarrah. “We were delighted to have him home – but it came with the responsibility of having a medically vulnerable child.
“At the hospital you have all the doctors and nurses around you, but once you’re home you’re in charge and you have to wing it.”
When Callum arrived home, after more than two months in hospital, he was still just 4lbs.
“We’d bought a turkey for the two of us, and we put Callum down next to it – he was dwarfed by it,” Chris adds.
The next couple of years continued to be difficult for the new parents, with Chris admitting it took this long for the parents to truly relax and stop worrying.
“It took a long time for the fear to pass. Callum picked up bugs easily and was in and out of hospital,” he says.
But as the anniversary of his Christmas homecoming rolls around again, Callum, now aged five, is doing great – “He’s one of the tallest in his class now, a strong robust kid.”
In 2017, Callum was joined by a younger sister, Chloe Rose Carol Hoy, now two years old.
With their neonatal care journey thankfully behind them, Chris and Sarra have teamed up with Pampers to back its #PampersForPreemies campaign.
The nappy brand has developed its smallest ever nappy, specially made for premature babies in their early development, and has donated hundreds of thousands of these nappies to hospitals since 2017.
Chris and Sarra didn’t have the option of such a nappy during their neonatal process, and say the campaign is close to their hearts.
“What Pampers have done in producing a tiny nappy will help premature babies thrive and be comfortable in an incubator. It’s also helpful to the parents, because it shows them their situation is not so unusual,” says Sarra.
You can buy to donate – a nappy will be donated for every pack of Pampers purchased in ASDA until 7th January 2020. You can also share to donate – a nappy will be donated for every share of a post with #PampersForPreemies on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. By including a ‘hand heart’ image in the social post, Pampers will also donate £1 to @Blisscharity on top of a nappy donation, to help raise awareness for the charity.