A "remarkable" baby who weighed just 1.5kg at birth and has spent two months in hospital is home just in time for Christmas.
Just 20 weeks after becoming pregnant, North Shore mum Lisa Cribbens discovered, at a routine check, her water had already broken, meaning the cushion of fluid surrounding her baby had burst and the risk of infection was high.
"The outlook was pretty grim at that stage because usually when your water breaks you go into labour pretty quick," Cribbens told the Herald.
Instead, the 35-year-old endured "nine torturous weeks" of not knowing if her baby was going to make it.
Cribbens spent two months at Auckland City Hospital's high-risk maternity unit before she had a C-section and baby Isabelle was welcomed into the world on October 26, joining her 2-and-half-year-old brother Archie.
Despite being "relatively healthy", baby Isabelle was still 10 weeks premature and was quickly diagnosed with chronic lung disease which meant she relied on a ventilator while in hospital to help her breathe.
The condition means Isabelle's lungs are weak and for at least her first year she will need oxygen to help her breathe. It also means she will be more vulnerable to illness and infections in the first year or two.
Baby Isabelle spent the next two and half weeks at Auckland City Hospital's neonatal unit before shifting to North Shore Hospital's special care baby unit where she spent nearly two months.
Yesterday the "feisty wee fighter" made the Cribbens' Christmas, moving home to join the family-of-four for the festive season.
"It means the world that she is coming home in time for Christmas and we can finally be a family together in the same room," Cribbens said while holding back "tears of happiness".
It was all the family could have asked for, she said, adding there had been time they didn't know if their baby girl would survive.
"Having her here and relatively healthy is just really special."
Cribbens described her baby daughter as sassy, feisty and, most importantly, a fighter.
"It's funny, about six nurses have said to us she seemed like a feisty wee character so I'm sure we will have our hands full."
Waitemata District Health Board charge nurse Karen Boyle said there were a lot of infection risks when it came to mothers' waters breaking that early .
"So it's pretty cool she was able to go home and even better to go home at Christmas time," Boyle said.
When Neonatal Trust executive director Neil O'Styke heard about Isabelle's fight for survival he said it was "remarkable".
"Obviously she was under risk of infection once the water breaks so she must have been a fighter alright," O'Styke said.
Premature babies in New Zealand:
• Every year around 10 per cent of babies are born premature (before 37 weeks), that's one every 90 minutes.
• Premature babies can be viable from 23-24 weeks, sometimes earlier.
• Depending on the parents' location in New Zealand, and the current capacity of the five Neonatal Intensive Care Units, parents may be flown at any time of the day or night to a different city from which they reside.
• Chronic lung disease is a common condition following a premature birth and means the baby often needs to be resuscitated and intubated to help them breathe.
• The survival rate in New Zealand for premature babies is 66 per cent, and 99 per cent for full-term Kiwi babies.