A baby girl who weighed just two pounds when she was born three months early was welcomed home Wednesday with a parade, fireworks and two giant teddy bears in her family’s front yard.
Meredith Celine Mike was born Oct. 24, 2016, at the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville, Tennessee. She was whisked away to the neonatal intensive care unit after birth and put on a ventilator, according to her mom, Nicole Mike.
“The doctors gave us all the scenarios of what could go wrong,” Mike, 32, told ABC News. “We stayed with her around-the-clock as much as we could and she had nurses with her 24-7.”
Mike, a teacher, spent the month prior to Meredith’s birth on bed rest at the UT Medical Center, a nearly two-hour drive from her Middlesboro, Kentucky, home.
Mike and her husband Blaine spent 10 years trying for a child, but suffered from infertility, an ectopic pregnancy and a failed adoption, according to Mike.
“We had given up all hope,” she said. “I had stopped using any fertility medication and then without any help except for God, we found out I was pregnant on the day after Mother’s Day.”
In the days and weeks after Meredith’s premature birth, Mike said she and Blaine spent some nights “on our knees in prayer all night long.” They watched as Meredith suffered a life-threatening bout of pneumonia, collapsed lungs, heart surgery and the threat of blindness.
“There was one night we thought we were going to lose her and we were told to prepare ourselves,” Mike recalled. “We went into a room they gave us and prayed, prayed, prayed and we went to the hospital chapel.”
She continued, “About 10 minutes later they called us and her levels were back to perfect.”
Throughout the Mikes’ stay at the hospital, they were supported by their Middlesboro community of about 12,000 residents. Teachers at Mike’s school donated their sick days so Mike could stay with her daughter, while Blaine’s employer also gave him time off work.
Mike said of the community, “Their words were that Meredith had brought our community together. No matter what all else was going on in the world there was one thing they could agree on, to pray for Meredith.”
One of Meredith’s NICU nurses, Loren Crews, recalled that the girl’s parents and grandparents never left Meredith’s side during her entire NICU stay. She said she was amazed at the support shown by the family’s community.
“[Meredith’s] parents and her grandparents talked about how the entire community had been praying for her and rallying around her and that there was going to be a parade when she went home,” Crews told ABC News. “We kind of took it with a grain of salt that it would happen, but it did.”
When the Mikes took Meredith home on Wednesday, they received a police escort as they arrived in Middlesboro. The family, joined at the homecoming by Crews and another NICU nurse, Laura Trent, was greeted by pink balloons, signs and cheers from friends and strangers who lined the town’s streets.
When the family arrived home, they saw on their front lawn more decorations of pink balloons and streamers and two 12-foot teddy bears with pink bows. Pink fireworks also lit up the sky above the family’s home.
“It was overwhelming,” Mike said. “A line of about 75 to 100 cars followed [Meredith] home because they just wanted to see her go through the front doors of the house.”
Meredith, whose middle name, Celine, is Latin for heaven, now weighs six pounds.
“Other than frequent doctor appointments for the first few months, she is expected to live a normal, happy healthy life,” Mike said of her daughter, who came home just days after her original Jan. 20 due date.
Meredith was even chosen to be the flower girl at the wedding of Laura Trent, one of her primary nurses, in May.
“They are her forever aunties,” Mike said of Trent and Crews. “We’ve made lifelong friends.”