For both parties involved, the act of childbirth used to be a very important but perilous phenomenon. The world mortality rate for childbirth has dropped by around 45% since 1990, and as modern medicine grows more adept at noticing and navigating the various complications associated with childbirth, more and more babies are surviving. With that in mind, there aren’t many births today you could describe as miraculous, but for Victoria Bradley and her partner Paul Curran from Fazakerly, north Liverpool, “miracle” is a perfectly apt word for their daughter Francesca.
Had she been born two days earlier, hospitals wouldn’t have considered her viable for treatment, and when she was born, doctors gave her very little chance of survival. In fact, Victoria was given a keepsake of Francesca’s tiny footprints, so sure were the hospital that the premature baby would not survive. Seventeen weeks later, though, and Francesca is alive and kicking, and those tiny footprints have got a whole lot bigger.
As stunning as the survival was, 24-week-old Francesca’s miraculous story actually began long before her birth. Victoria Bradley and her partner Paul Curran were told that due to complications with Victoria’s ovaries, that particular coupling would never bear fruit. So it was something of a surprise when 37-year-old Victoria was pregnant with 43-year-old Paul’s baby. With back and stomach pains about 24 weeks into the pregnancy, Victoria checked into Liverpool Women’s Hospital, and was shocked to learn that she was in labour, two days after the official cut-off for abortions. Francesca was delivered naturally shortly afterward, weighing a miniscule 1lb 6oz. Following three hours of quality time with her parents, a team of 15 doctors worked around the clock to keep her alive.
After a host of infections, illnesses and two collapsed lungs, Francesca was finally brought home, and mother Victoria was still somewhat stunned that if she’d gone into labour two days earlier, none of this would have happened.
“It’s just great to finally have her home. I didn’t think she would be here. It’s scary to think if she had been just two days earlier they wouldn’t have worked to save her… I thought she still looked like a foetus. Her skin was see-through, and she didn’t have eyelashes or eyebrows. Her eyes weren’t open yet. She was just tiny, and so poorly. We were told it was hour by hour with her, and they didn’t think she would survive. Her blood was full of infections.“
At the moment, the Royal College of Midwives are campaigning for legal abortions at any point in the pregnancy phase, but there are concerns in the wider health community that this could lead to abortions for the wrong reasons, such as babies getting aborted for being the “wrong” sex. The current 24-week law regarding abortions was put into place after a woman was imprisoned for deliberately inducing miscarriage at eight months. Anyone born before the cut-off date is given such a low chance of survival that hospitals prefer not to treat these babies. Still, the difference between life and death can be a very fine line and for Francesca the miracle baby, that margin was as little as 48 hours.