He weighed less than a bag of sugar, and watching her son struggle to live placed a heavy burden on Amy Boulton.
Amy, of Hempsted, gave birth after only 25 weeks of pregnancy to tiny William who weighed just one pound, but before she even had the chance to hold her newborn son he was being whisked away as it was clear his life was in danger.
Amy said: “As soon as he arrived there were problems. William was taken to the other side of the room – I didn’t even get to hold him.
“I was trying to see what they were doing to him but couldn’t quite make it out. They told me he was being ventilated and were taking him to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit straight away.
“That wasn’t all though. William needed even more help and we were told he had to be transferred to a specialist neonatal hospital in Cambridge called The Rosie. He would be taken by ambulance in just a few hours. I didn’t know what to think. Each minute felt like forever until the time came for him to go.
“Before he went, we managed to squeeze in a visit and I just bawled my eyes out. There were so many tubes, wires and monitors covering my tiny baby and I felt a mixture of absolute love filled with fear.”
Since giving birth at Peterborough City Hospital in January to their only child it has been a real struggle for Amy (31) and husband James (33) as they longed to hold their son, but feared for his life.
Amy said: “When we saw William at The Rosie we were shocked. His tiny body just wasn’t ready to do all the jobs it needed to. He was completely machine-dependent.
“I just wanted to hold him, show him how much I loved him and tell him everything would be okay. But I couldn’t and it was heartbreaking not being able to comfort my son.
“Over the next 10 days there were lots of ups and downs, lots of examinations, monitoring, and lots of waiting. But at 10-days-old William and I had our first cuddle.
“I felt so lucky. It was such a good feeling to hold my baby. He needed to be kept warm so I popped him under my top and held him on my chest.
“Smelling him, touching him was euphoric. I’d waited all this time for this moment and it was perfect.”
The next few weeks provided many ups and downs for the couple with William twice being treated for NEC where tissues in the intestine become inflamed and start to die.
He also had a lumbar puncture - a medical procedure where a needle is inserted into the lower part of the spine to test for conditions affecting the brain, spinal cord or other parts of the nervous system.
This was because doctors thought William had blood poisoning, and he ended up having three blood transfusions.
Because of his prematurity, Williams’s lungs were significantly under-developed and he was diagnosed with chronic lung disease. And he used to just stop breathing, with one occasion seeing him taken from Amy and put on oxygen.
Amy said: “We had had a few cuddles up to then, but after that it made it very hard for me to hold him. I was too scared. What if it happened again?
“As the weeks passed though, William began to improve. We spent seven weeks at The Rosie and in the last week he became bigger and stronger and was taken off the ventilator.”
William was finally fit enough to transfer back to Peterborough, then strong enough to be taken home 10 days after what was his due date in May. Fortunately, he has no lasting health problems other than he is more prone to developing allergies or asthma.
Amy added: “We are now looking forward to celebrating William’s first Christmas and first birthday in January. We can’t wait as we absolutely love Christmas, and we know William will too. He deserves a very special one as he is a very special boy who has pulled through some of the most horrendous illnesses.”