A couple who went on a seven-year IVF journey are keeping the memory of their “courageous” baby girl alive after she tragically died after just 33 days.

Fintan O’Malley, 45, and Becca Neal, 47, finished their IVF journey in March 2023, and they were blessed with the arrival of Willow on December 6, 2023.

​But prior to this, Becca suffered a miscarriage and the couple sadly lost Millie on October 29, 2022, after she was born premature.

The Bolton News: Fintan O’Malley and Becca Neal with their daughter WillowFintan O’Malley and Becca Neal with their daughter Willow (Image: Public)Baby Millie’s parents stayed by her side at the Royal Bolton Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for six weeks, which Fintan says was “so hard” emotionally, and that he still hears the noises from the machines.

Millie defied all the odds to be with her mum and dad for thirty-three days before passing away at Bolton Hospital.

Fintan said: “It’s so hard.

“When she was born, she only weighed 486 grams, and we could hold her in our hand.

“People can’t comprehend how small she was because only a handful of people got to see her, because she was so ill.

“She was so courageous and determined, and a little fighter.

“She was unreal.”

The Bolton News: Baby MillieBaby Millie (Image: Public)Read our top stories below:

Becca was 22 weeks and six days pregnant at the time, and she gave birth to Millie on September 27, 2022.

Fintan added: “We are fortunate that we have come through it together because a lot of people don’t.

“Millie’s sister Willow also spent eight days at Bolton NICU, and we had some of the same amazing nurses who looked after Millie.”

Fintan says he remembers the morning when Millie died, and they were taken into a private room, and the heartbreak of that has inspired him to give Millie the legacy she deserves.

Fintan ,who lives in Worsley, will now take on his biggest challenge yet (www.justgiving.com/page/millies-legacy) in a gruelling challenge through Rivington Pike and the surrounding countryside, on the exact two years to the day he first met his daughter.

The Bolton News: Becca and Fintan with baby Millie in the hospitalBecca and Fintan with baby Millie in the hospital (Image: Public)

He said: “I have always done ultra marathons and I really wanted to do something big for Millie, and the doctors.

“For me it’s given me a greater purpose and outlook on life.

“Instead of letting allowing grief and suffering to consume us, we want to use it for something good.

“We have a duty to honour Millie.

“She deserves to have her own legacy.”

He also wants to continue raising awareness around baby loss and help remove the stigma when it comes to talking about the sometimes-taboo subject.

Fintan said: “If we can help couples more and open up then it’s worth it.

“We want people to say her name, and we want people to speak to us.

“She is in our hearts and still a part of our family.

The Bolton News: Fintan O’Malley and Becca Neal with Millie in the Royal Bolton Neonatal Intensive Care UnitFintan O’Malley and Becca Neal with Millie in the Royal Bolton Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (Image: Public)“It’s not just about trauma and grief, we want it to be a journey of hope so that we can help other people get rid of the stigma of child loss, and other parents deal with navigating grief.”

The whopping 330km challenge will see him run the distance of Manchester – London, to raise funds for Bolton NICU, who looked after Millie during her short, but mighty life.

The much-needed funds raised by Millie’s dad will improve the experiences of families staying in the unit.

Unlike a normal marathon, Fintan will face a hilly terrain during his 205-mile run.

Speaking on his inspiration for setting up the challenge, Fintan said: “When Millie was born prematurely at week 22, we knew the chances were extremely slim, but we still believed that Millie would be our miracle baby.

“She fought so valiantly to remain with us over 33 days in NICU, battling one setback after another and she even amazed the doctors, nurses, and consultants at how a girl so small and fragile, could be so strong.

“We were told that she defied the odds of medical expectations for a baby so premature, and she earned herself the nickname ‘Mighty Millie Princess Warrior’.

“The level of care and attention by medical staff was exceptional and we’ll be forever grateful to the team that looked after Millie so lovingly to give us those precious days as a mum and dad with our baby girl’.

“Now I’d like to show my gratitude by taking on the biggest challenge of my life to raise much needed funds for the Bolton NICU to make sure the staff have the support and equipment they need to carry on looking after families that need it – just like we did.”

He said on the challenge itself: “I chose to do a 330km challenge as it signifies the 33 days that Millie was with us, and the 0 is like an eternity ring, as she will be a part of us and in our hearts forever.

“We are so proud of our little angel and are forever grateful that she chose us to be her parents. “It’s going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but Millie dealt with so much in her short life, that I know I’ll be able to channel her warrior energy to help me complete it, and of course I know she’ll be with me every step of the way.”

Fintan is aiming to raise £33,000 for Bolton NICU and has already raised over £1,700 in donations.

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