A premature baby, born weighing just 750g, about the same as a loaf of bread, has made an incredible recovery in time to celebrate Christmas.
Marley Hayes was so small when she was born she struggled to drink her mother's milk. Lying in her cot in hospital, she looked tiny next to her cuddly toy octopus, but has progressed so well, she now towers over the fluffy sea creature.
Her mum, Sophie Louise James, 30, from Bawtry, Doncaster was 25 weeks' pregnant, when her waters broke in April 2022.
Doctors attempted to delay Marley's birth for as long as possible, but just four days later, James went into labour and welcomed her tiny daughter.
The newborn arrived on 2 April 2022 at 5.57am and weighed so little that doctors feared she wouldn't make it.
Marley was rushed straight to NICU where medics battled against a complex list of health issues including renal failure and a bleed on the brain.
She also had dangerous calcium levels, which meant she was unable to drink breast milk.
But after 102 days in hospital battling back to health, Marley, now seven months old and weighing 9lb 9oz (4.49kg), was allowed home and is now thriving.
The family have planned to go "all out" for Christmas this year to celebrate their daughter's incredible journey.
"At one point we didn't even think she'd see her first Christmas," explains James, a primary school teacher.
"It was something I didn't even dare hope for. She couldn't even drink my milk and wasn't growing at all, it was awful."
Having been around other parents who had sadly lost their babies, James says they feel "so lucky" their daughter survived.
"Marley had such a complex medical journey, but now she's home she's a super-smiley baby," she says.
"We can't wait to spend our first Christmas as a family of three. I've already bought so many festive babygrows and outfits for her to wear.
"She's going to look so sweet."
James and her fiancé, Lloyd Hayes, 30, a rugby player and personal trainer, found out they were expecting in November 2021.
"We had a private scan at 17 weeks to find out what we were having," James explains.
"I had to have extra scans because I had Polyhydramnios, which is where there's too much fluid around the baby in the womb."
Despite the complication, James' pregnancy continued as normal until 25 weeks, when she noticed a leak in her trousers.
"I went home and Lloyd called 111," she says.
"I remember the operator told him to prepare hot towels and water. We couldn't believe it as I was only 25 weeks."
The concerned couple headed to their local hospital, where they were seen in A&E.
Watch: Report reveals parents struggle to connect with their premature babies
An ultrasound confirmed James' waters had broken, but doctors suggested trying to keep the baby in the womb for as long as it was safe to.
"They said they weren't equipped at Doncaster to look after her if she did come early, so we were transferred to Bolton Hospital for four days," James continues.
"I was discharged at 4pm, because there was 72-hour monitoring window.
"Doctors said if she didn't come within that time frame, she'd probably stay within my womb.
"So we left the hospital, but my contractions started at 4.30pm.
"At first I just thought it was pains but after rushing back to hospital by 7pm they told me I was in labour."
By 5am the next day, doctors were preparing to perform an emergency C-section due to the risk of infection.
"They did one last check before I went to theatre and I was actually 10 centimetres dilated," James explains.
"They said you need to push right now. Three pushes and our baby girl was out."
While Marley was taken straight to intensive care, James had to undergo surgery after the umbilical cord snapped during the placenta delivery.
The family were all transferred to Arrowe Park Hospital, The Wirral, Liverpool, where they would spend the next eight weeks, with Marley being looked after in the NICU.
"The doctors said she would need everything doing for her to keep her alive, so she was incubated and put straight on a ventilator," James says.
At just two days old, Marley was diagnosed with Hypercalcaemia, which is where the calcium level in the blood is higher than normal.
She also suffered with renal failure as a result of the condition and had a bleed on the brain.
On 13 May a bed became available at the family's local hospital in Doncaster, so they were able to move closer to home.
After just over three months in hospital, her parents desperately wanted Marley to reach 4lb (1.8kg) – the weight she would need to be to go home.
"Two weeks before we came home, she suddenly got better," James explains.
"It seemed as her body developed and it sorted itself out, and the issues resolved themselves.
"It was amazing."
On 13 July, the couple were able to take Marley home, and now, at seven months old, she is doing brilliantly.
"She was sleeping through the night after four weeks," her mum says.
"She wears a Snuza at night, which is a sensor that clips to her nappy, and if she stops breathing it will notify me."
Looking back on their journey, James' says she believes she's still processing everything that's happened.
"When we were in hospital we only got to hold her once a day," she explains. "It was so hard to not be able to pick up your own baby.
"Now we're out of the other end, we take each day as it comes."
Additional reporting SWNS.