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03 / 07 / 2009 - Little fighter: The baby that was born at 23 weeks and survived
She arrived four months early, so small that she could fit in the palm of her father's hand.
Six months on, Jessica Hawkins is still on the tiny side - but has beaten the odds by growing into a healthy baby girl.
Yesterday her mother Sam, 35, a child-care assessor, said: 'She has amazed us and all the hospital staff who have seen her.
'She has just done brilliantly and didn't even need oxygen when she came home which we were very surprised about.
'We couldn't take our eyes off her and are still in disbelief every day that she's actually ours.'
Jessica was initially thought to have been miscarried, but a scan showed her heart was beating.
She then arrived very ahead of schedule on December 29 last year weighing just 1lb 7oz.
It was a particularly difficult time for Mrs Hawkins and her husband Pete, 44, as the couple had already lost five children to miscarriage, including one at 19 weeks and one at 20 weeks.
Mrs Hawkins had two cycles of IVF but was told it was 'highly unlikely' she would have children.
When Jessica was born at 23 weeks she was held in intensive care but only needed a ventilator for four weeks.
Mr Hawkins, an administrator with Bedfordshire Police, said: 'When I first saw her in the incubator I broke down because there were so many tubes and everything.'
Jessica was eventually allowed to return home to Bedford with her parents on May 5, just weeks after her original due date.
Today she weighs a healthy 9lb 11oz, has passed all her sight and hearing tests and is beginning to show interest in objects and toys like any normal child.
The only difference is she is the size of a six-week-old, not a six-month-old.
Last May MPs voted against cutting the upper limit for abortion from 24 weeks to 20 weeks.
Jessica's remarkable tale of survival may reignite the debate. Both her parents said they believed the limit should be lowered.
Tory MP Nadine Dorries, who was behind the campaign to change the law, said: 'I wish Jessica and her family well. She is a testament to how far medical science has advanced in neonatal care and she will be a valuable source of reference for the future