The word “cute” on their T-shirts perfectly describes adorable twins Archie and Harley but “miracle” would be equally accurate.
This beautiful photo of the blue-eyed boys was taken on their first birthday – a celebration many feared they would never see.
For the Garthwaite lads were born at 22 and a half weeks, making them the most premature surviving twins in Britain.
The miniature miracles have battled heart, bowel and eye problems to not only survive but thrive and give their delighted parents the run around.
Mum Hayley, 20, and joiner dad Billy, 21, were told to expect the worst when Archie and Harley were born 17 weeks early.
Archie weighed just 1lb 4oz and Harley 1lb 6oz and both had holes in their tiny hearts.
At two weeks old, Archie, the “naughty one”, had heart surgery followed by Harley a fortnight later. They were kept alive on ventilators and needed further delicate operations to correct bowel problems, and laser treatment to stimulate their underdeveloped eyes.
Cherished photos of the precious pair in intensive care tell the story of their fight for survival.
Archie’s leg was tiny that a ring could be slipped over it.
But to the utter delight of their parents and hospital staff the boys clung to life. Now they giggle, “chatter” to each other, play and love food including Quaver snacks.
At the weekend family and baby friends attended a joint party for Archie, now 16lbs, and 13lb Harley, who still needs to receive oxygen through a tube.
Hayley, of Hartlepool, Co Durham, said: “They’re really special little boys. We’re constantly thinking how lucky we are when we think back to just how tiny they were when they were born. Every parent feels blessed but we know just how fortunate it was for us to keep them both. It makes you appreciate them all the more, we so nearly lost them.
“We’re stopped all the time in the street because people saw their story and love to see how they’re doing.
“The boys go down at 7.30pm most evenings and do not get up until 8am. Archie can be a little horror and likes to be centre of attention. Harley is much more laid-back.”
Though not yet crawling, the dynamic duo can shuffle around the floor lying on their backs.
Archie was born on June 13, 2012, and Harley the following day.
A spokeswoman for baby charity Tommy’s said more than 50,000 babies are born prematurely in the UK each year and that the twins’ survival was a “miracle”.
Mia and Scarlett Lavelle-Redrup were the previous most premature twins born in Britain, at 24 weeks. Proud parents Stephanie and Wayne, both 25, of Camberley, Surrey, celebrated their second birthday with them last year.