Baby born in Italy 15 weeks early to spend first Christmas at home in England
- Credit: Jordan Wilson
She was born weighing less than a bag of sugar.
But now, little Matilda Challoner is spending her first Christmas at home in England after she arrived 15 weeks early last year while her shocked parents were on holiday in Venice.
Jordan Wilson and Ashley Challoner spent last Christmas in hospital with Matilda, after Miss Wilson went into labour early.
But the little family, who have since moved to Yorkshire, will be surrounded by friends and family this year as they have a more conventional festive period.
When Matilda was born, weighing just 800g, she was rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit at a hospital in Trento, Italy.
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She endured a blood transfusion and was hooked up to oxygen for her first few weeks.
And while she was battling, her parents were stranded in the country for just over two months.
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Miss Wilson, who is due to continue her studies at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in January, said: 'She just keeps surprising us. She's just wonderful, she's very funny, she's very chatty - she's not said her first word yet but she's very chatty. And she's cheeky, when you tell her off she thinks it's hilarious, and she'll keep on doing what she was doing.'
She said the whole experience at this time last year now felt surreal.
It all started when Miss Wilson woke up and she said 'there was fluid just everywhere'.
She called her midwife in the UK who told her to go to the nearest hospital but that did not have a gynaecological unit, so instead they were transferred to Trento.
Battling the language barrier, the couple managed to ascertain Miss Wilson had gone into early labour.
Drugs kept the delivery at bay for two days, but Matilda was born on December 3.
Miss Wilson, 27, said: 'In the end it was all fine and it feels a bit surreal now. We don't feel like it ever really happened.'
Matilda, now one, was brought back to hospital in Rochdale on February 1 this year, where she spent two weeks before she went home with her parents, who are due to get married in 2020.
'And she was still home before her due date,' Miss Wilson said.
More than £4,400 was raised for the couple through an online fundraising page, to cover their expenses while in Italy.
It was started by Miss Wilson's mother, Helen Richardson, but at the time Miss Wilson said: 'I think I was the last to know.'
While the pair had insurance which covered an apartment close to the hospital, and 28-year-old Mr Challoner's boss said his truck driving job would be held for him, they used all their savings for baby supplies to fund their day-to-day living.
Miss Wilson said: 'I sat and cried for a couple of days because it was not just the UK, it was people in Italy who put a lot of money in as well because they'd seen the story on the news.'
And she said while much of it was used on their expenses, anything left over had been put away for Matilda in the future.
Matilda now weighs 14lbs, around 6.3kg, and Miss Wilson said she was reaching all her milestones - some taking into consideration how early she was - including starting to crawl.
She said: 'Her paediatrician and other healthcare professionals are very happy with her progress.'
She added: 'I am due to start back at the UEA to finish my final year of nursing in January so Matilda will be starting nursery one day a week which is also very exciting. She already attends swimbabes once a week and loves socialising with the other little babes so i am sure she will love it.'