THE family of a baby who was born at just 26 weeks have spoken of their "whirlwind" experience of a first year in lockdown.

Kimberley Tyler and her partner Simon Bailey, from Pontypool, welcomed baby Elijah into the world on January 14 last year - 14 weeks prematurely.

Elijah was born at the Royal Gwent Hospital with bleeding on the brain and a hole in his heart.

His parents were told the first 72 hours were vital.

"We didn’t know if he would make it, it was such a hard first few days," said Ms Tyler.

Thankfully he pulled through - but, at just two weeks old, Elijah's breathing began to deteriorate.

"We were sat down with the doctors and told he was very poorly, with him showing signs of infection," Ms Tyler said.

Blood tests showed Elijah had sepsis - a potentially life-threatening condition.

His mother stayed with him all night, but Mr Bailey had to go home to the couple's older children Kian, five, and Callum, two.

After suffering from sepsis for a second time, and receiving a fifth blood transfusion, he "was like a different baby, it was just what he needed to perk up".

At 34 weeks Elijah began bottle feeding.

"It took him two weeks to master it, but he did," said Ms Tyler.

At 36 weeks, Elijah was ready for his car seat challenge. This is a test premature babies must pass to demonstrate they can keep steady while sat in a car seat.

Elijah passed this with flying colours.

Shortly afterwards, he was discharged, emerging into a world which had just been locked down against coronavirus for the first time.

"Our family was finally together," said Ms Tyler.

However, the ordeal was not over.

A week later Elijah stopped breathing and was admitted to hospital once more - a five-day stay.

"It isn’t really where you want to be with Covid-19 everywhere," said Ms Tyler.

She said that the experience had taken a toll on oldest son Kian.

"Every time he’d see an ambulance he thought it was for his brother," she said. "He used to ask if he was allowed to stay home. He didn’t want his brother going back to hospital."

And two weeks later the family had another scare when Ms Tyler found him asleep in his Moses basket - "grey, floppy and unresponsive".

She screamed for her partner and Elijah was taken to hospital again.

"He practically had a full MOT," she said. "Thankfully all came back negative."

This had all taken its toll on mother as well as baby.

Ms Tyler explained that she wouldn't sleep at all during this period.

"I was scared I’d lose him the moment I closed my eyes," she said.

"Elijah has delayed development and a hole in his heart still but he has come on incredibly well and we are so proud of him."

The family celebrated his first birthday in January.

"It was such an emotional day, celebrating a day that changed our lives forever," said Ms Tyler.

She also paid tribute to Elinor Kinsey Evans and Ffion Ryal, two of the nurses who cared for Elijah.

"We are so thankful to our NHS, without them our baby boy wouldn’t have made it home," she said.

"It was such a whirlwind of an experience."