After an eight-week agonising wait to welcome his newborn son home for good, Matthew Cutler finally got the chance to play daddy just two days before runners from across the country took part in the 2013 London Marathon.
Now St Albans father Matthew is training to run this year’s 26-mile challenge to raise money for Bliss, a special care baby charity, which helps babies like his son Joshua born premature and sick.
"Having a child is meant to be the most magical moment of your life but in some circumstances it is the scariest moment of your life."
Matthew, 34, relives the moment he and his wife Lisa welcomed their precious son into the world on February 18, last year - weighing just 2.5lbs. The couple’s bundle of joy was born 13 weeks premature.
Keen first time parents, Matthew and Lisa had it all planned out for 40 exciting weeks ahead of them. Regular scans, a potential name, the nursery and making sure they attended their regular GP appointments.
"You expect your first time to be idyllic," he said, "you think you have nine months to get everything prepared, the nursery and the shopping. We thought our baby would come along and then it would all be happy families."
A first time father and first time marathon runner Matthew, a contracts manager in London, says he has begun training at a steady pace.
"After eight weeks and one operation our beautiful son was big enough and strong enough to come home, which happened to be the week of the 2013 Marathon, so it seems fitting to set myself this challenge.
"Bliss is a charity close to my heart because of the experience me and Lisa had. I can’t wait for the run, I know it will be a big challenge, but I feel it will be well worth it to raise money to say thank you for the care Joshua received and help other families in what is a very difficult situation.
"Lisa and Joshua will definitely be there cheering me on at the finishing line." Matthew laughed.
Lisa’s waters broke unexpectedly on Valentine’s Day and Matthew rushed her to Watford General Hospital, where she was given a course of antibiotics.
However, four days of complaints of stomach cramps later, doctors told Lisa she was in labour - at just 27 weeks pregnant.
'The moment I knew he was alive'
"We were rushed to the delivery suite and all I can remember is going straight down the corridor and putting on my green scrubs and shoes," Matthew explained. "On Sunday afternoon she was coming home with a course of antibiotics but then she stayed over Sunday night to be monitored.
"I returned at 6am on Monday morning with every intention of bringing Lisa home. However, I looked up at the clock when he was born and it was at 3.06pm. It all happened so quickly.
"It was pretty horrific watching her go through all that pain and wondering if she and our unborn baby were going to be okay. "
Joshua was delivered by an emergency caesarean and before the couple could meet their precious son he was whisked away for an operation. He was then taken to the neonatal unit and placed on a life-saving machine.
"I got a very brief glimpse of Joshua, "Matthew said, "I heard him scream and that’s the moment I knew he was alive and then he was whisked off. "
One in every nine babies in the UK is born either premature or sick. That’s over 80,000 babies every year with one being admitted to special care every six minutes.
Bliss Hertfordshire Family Group was launched in December last year and meets regularly at the Oaktree Children’s Centre in Welwyn Garden City.
"Seeing him for the very first time was absolutely magnificent. The nurses had pre-warned us that he was going to be very small, surrounded by a lot of equipment, wires and tubes. I remember the noises, his small body under the lamp and his small face with a mask and breathing apparatus. " Matthew said.
Joshua was in intensive care for 10 days, moved to a high dependency unit for three weeks and in total spent the first two months of his life in hospital.
The couple were also warned that there was a chance Joshua could be brain damaged, due a small amount of liquid that was discovered on his brain.
"It is simply a waiting game and you just have to wait for them to grow and develop.
'Small, perfect boy'
"The first three months of Joshua’s life were an absolute rollercoaster. "Some days you would go in and there would be good news and you felt like you were taking steps forward. However other days it was like taking two steps backwards. It was mixed emotions. "
The couple were finally allowed to take Joshua to their home in Highfields, St Albans, after eight agonising weeks.
"It was exciting. We were about to start our life as a family. Such a small, perfect boy could not have been loved more. To be honest we were absolutely petrified to take him home because you become used to caring for him at the hospital with the reassurance of the doctors and nurses being there.
"It was extremely emotional and it was a mix of joy and being scared."
A year on and about to celebrate his son’s first birthday on March 18, Matthew spoke fondly of Joshua. "He is absolutely fantastic. He definitely keeps us on our toes pottering around. Joshua is a very healthy boy, who loves his food, running around and bashing into everything" he said.
To sponsor Matthew visit http://www.justgiving.com/MatthewCutler.