Baby Born at 23 Weeks Doing Well Six Months Later

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Jessica Hawkins was born at 23 weeks, weighing less than a pound and a half. Photo: Getty Images

Jessica Hawkins was born on December 29, 2008, after only 23 weeks in the womb. She weighed 1 pound, 7 ounces. For comparison, that's less than a Priority Mail package.

Now she is 6 months old and weighs in at 9 pounds, 11 ounces. That's still very small for her age -- some children are born at or close to that weight. But she is healthy and alive. She has passed all her vision and hearing screenings, and came home from the hospital without an oxygen tank, which is huge for very premature babies.

Her parents, Pete and Sam Hawkins, are overjoyed, of course, but their joy is even more poignant than that of most parents of preemies: Mrs. Hawkins has had five miscarriages; one occurred at 19 weeks, and one at 20 weeks, which is halfway through a typical pregnancy. She had also gone through two cycles of IVF and was told it was "very unlikely" she would have children. When baby Jessica was born at 23 weeks, doctors thought the mother had again miscarried, "but a scan showed [Jessica's] heart was beating."

Her parents were stunned. "We couldn't take our eyes off her and are still in disbelief every day that she's actually ours," says Sam Hawkins.

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While Jessica does not appear to have any long-term health issues, premature babies are at higher risk for a variety of things, including higher risk of sudden death in childhood and possible fertility issues as adults. Not so long ago, a baby born at 23 weeks would not have survived; now, neonatal intensive care units are able to stage dramatic interventions to help these tiny preemies live.

But is it for the best? Jessica's story comes at the same time as the British Parliament reconsiders the issue of late term abortion. "Last May MPs voted against cutting the upper limit for abortion from 24 weeks to 20 weeks," says the paper. Baby Jessica was born at 23 weeks and survived, which raises questions about when a fetus becomes a baby and what rights the mother has to terminate her pregnancy.

Regardless of your beliefs about medical intervention and abortion rights, Jessica Hawkins is a miracle baby. But her story raises all sorts of issues -- about choice and intervention and the proper use of medical technology. We're just glad everything worked out well for the Hawkins family, and we wish them all the best.

Brett Singer is the editor-in-chief of DaddyTips.com. You can follow his tweets at Twitter.com/brettsinger.

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