Adorable twins Willow and Niamh Kelly light up a room with their sparkling eyes and cheeky smiles
But when they were born clinging to life three months early, they were so fragile their proud parents, Zoe Stewart and Paddy Kelly, had to wait five weeks to find out what they looked like.
Between them, the infants battled a bleed to the brain, a deadly bowel infection and holes in their hearts and their faces were obscured by the oxygen masks keeping them alive.
It was only when nurses at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit took a photo while they briefly removed their masks, that the parents finally got to see their babies’ features.
Willow was three weeks old and Niamh, who faced a heroic battle back from the brink with a deadly bowel infection, was five weeks old.
Miss Stewart, of Aberdeen, said: “They were just the most beautiful things I had ever seen.
“They were always covered by a hat and a mask, so it was amazing the first time we got to see their full faces–and they were just perfect.”
The siblings were so fragile, as soon as they were born they were placed in a plastic bag to keep their skin moist and their bodies warm.
They spent their first nine weeks fighting for life in separate incubators before they were finally able to share a cot.
Between them they needed several blood transfusions and spent 10 weeks on oxygen.
Niamh also had to be resuscitated when she stopped breathing a week before she was due to go home.
But against all odds, 41-year-old Miss Stewart, who was warned she might lose one or both babies, is now looking ahead to their first birthday.
Willow and Niamh were born on January 3 more than two hours apart when their mother’s waters broke just 26 weeks into her pregnancy.
Just hours later, Willow was born naturally weighing little more than 2lb at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital.
Her sister then turned the wrong way round in the womb and had to be delivered by emergency caesarean section two hours later, weighing exactly the same amount.
Both babies gave a tiny cry before they were whisked away and placed on a ventilator in intensive care to keep them alive.
It was a sign that gave their parents much needed hope that their daughters were not giving up without a fight.
But Miss Stewart, a training coordinator, said: “The doctors warned us that because they were born so early that one or both of them might not survive.
“It was horrendous and there were hairy moments when I thought I wasn’t going to get to take them both home.
“But they have both come through so much. I never thought we’d get to this point.”