The birth of a child is a stressful time for any family, but add lockdown to the mix, and a premature baby boy born at 25 weeks, for some the experience is far scarier than others.

One mother in Greenwich has spoken out after she went through three incredibly stressful months whilst lockdown was going on around her to get where the family is today.

At 21 weeks old, little Henry John Todman is now healthy enough, still needing oxygen to breath but safely at home.

News Shopper:

But, as mother of three Billie-Jean Todman tells us, the journey to get there was far from simple.

"From the moment I found out I was pregnant I had nothing but trouble, and one weekend in June I knew something wasn't right," said Billie-Jean, who lives in Greenwich.

"I was meant to go to Lewisham Hospital for a check up, but I just went straight to the labour department - turns out I was right and I was in trouble, and they confirmed I was actually in slow labour.

"I was blue-lighted to St George's Hospital in Tooting, they were the only hospital that could take me and a 25-weeker."

Currently in the midst of lockdown, Covid-19 restrictions were in place, and Billie-Jean spent four days effectively locked away and isolated as she went through slow labour.

She said: "Because of the virus, they wouldn't let my partner in until they were sure the birth was happening.

"It was horrible, dealing with a premature baby in the middle of lockdown locked away, it was really scary.

"When he was born, I shut my eyes until the nurse said it was ok."

The baby was delivered into a plastic bag and born on June 11 weighing 875 grams. His due date was September 18, and he was born blue with no audio heartrate.

News Shopper:

"But straight away I was rushed off to have an additional operation so I didn't see him for hours.

"I had to wait for feeling to return to my legs, then they put me in a wheelchair and I got to see him.

"It was such mixed emotions, I was happy but also really sad, it wasn't a nice environment with Henry being so premature. Most mothers can go home with their babies after a few days, but I couldn't hold him or feed him."

The baby survived, and was put on a ventilator via a breathing tube from birth. The next few weeks were unsteady as he jumped between different breathing apparatus.

News Shopper:

Billie-Jean said: "I had to wait eight days for my first cuddle. It was then I felt like tears!"

But at around four to five weeks in, nurses told her that things weren't looking good, and warned her to prepare for the worst.

"He just wasn't breathing properly, the staff kept changing his ventilator settings until one day one small change just worked and he started to improve. I had watched him deteriorate, but suddenly I was seeing an improvement every day."

News Shopper:

"From then on he was sailing through, and we spent the rest of our time in hospital back at our local hospital, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

"Once our baby arrived, he began to progress and within a few weeks he was just put onto plain oxygen."

Since then, Henry has been admitted to Evelina Children's Hospital to undergo surgery, as well as blood transfusions, infections and punctures, bleeds on the brain, and countless medication and treatment.

"It was really tiring. I was back at home, but I was spending 7am to 9pm every day in the hospital, which was exhausting.

"If it hadn't been for lockdown and my partner on furlough so he could look after the other two children, I don't know what we would've done. But my newborn needed me, he needed me 24/7, and you do what you can for them, they're everything."

Then came the big day, September 21, when Henry was brought home to meet his two older brothers (aged 10 and four) and the rest of the family.

News Shopper:

"They're now both besotted with him. It is amazing having him home. Henry still needs the oxygen 24/7, which can be pain on shopping and school runs, he's a demanding baby. But it's amazing having him home."

Billie-Jean added: "At the time I never saw the light at the end of the tunnel, when I was warned to prepare for the worst I thought that was it. It's still hard to believe.

"In total I was in hospital for around 14 weeks, and it was a long and stressful and demanding journey. But the hospital staff at every place were just amazing. I can't thank them enough, they were amazing with the babies, their support too, they were there 24/7 - and I only got them a box of chocolates.

"But now he's here, I wouldn't have it any other way."