THERE were moments Calliope mum Sophie Saul worried her tiny baby wouldn't see her first birthday.
Born 16 weeks early, weighing 510g, Maddison Jade Saul had a brave battle ahead of her.
The premature birth for Sophie and Ben Saul's third daughter changed their lives, with the mum and baby girl spending four months at Brisbane's Mater Mother's Hospital.
But now feelings of helplessness and doubt are in the past for the Sauls, replaced by focusing on clawing back normality.
An eight month old-Maddison is almost unrecognisable, happy at home and weighing 6kg.
Every milestone, even Maddison trying to talk when everyone is asleep early in the morning, is enjoyed.
The early labour exposed the Sauls to a new world of regular hospital visits and nurses and doctors who specialise in dealing with babies born well before their due date.
"You try to be positive," Sophie said.
"But there's days where her oxygen requirements would need to go up and she would be on antibiotics.
"It's scary to hear your baby's lungs are collapsing.
"Not knowing what each day would bring (that was the toughest) and waiting to be told your baby isn't going to survive today."
The challenges of having a severely premature baby have made the Saul family stronger than ever.
Sophie says they feel blessed.
"I look at her and think we are so, so lucky," she said.
"Being born at such a young age you don't know what to expect, you think is she going to have a disability, but seeing her laugh and talk and have teeth, it's so great."
Now back to making sandwiches for lunch before a Sunday soccer game, Sophie is starting to gain some normality back.
Maddison's journey |
Maddison has two teeth, with the third not far away, she's laughing and trying to talk.
Her older sisters Ella, 5 and Indee, 1, adore her.
"She can't say words yet but she knows how to find her voice, especially in the mornings when you want to sleep," she said.
"The girls love her too, it's so nice to see them play with her."
Little Maddison isn't out of the woods just yet, with monthly visits for health check ups in Brisbane.
But by all accounts since returning home the brave baby girl has recovered well.
"To have a normal life is great, the next step is getting her off oxygen," Sophie said.
Sophie said returning to the Mater Mother's Hospital was like visiting family.
She keeps in contact with other mums she met along the way too, also facing some of the toughest challenges for a parent.
"Just watching her grow and hit these milestones is amazing in itself," she said. "I believe everything does happen for a reason, you just get through those hard times," she said.
"I was meant to meet these people for a reason."
To thank the Gladstone community for ongoing support Mrs Saul wants to host a family day close to Maddison's first birthday.