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Homecoming For Octuplets' Mom

After three months in the hospital, the mother of octuplets went home Wednesday. CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod reports.

Nkem Chukwu, making her first public appearance at a hospital press conference, thanked her doctors, nurses, and God, "because I owe all gratitude to Him" for helping her with the difficult birth of the premature babies, seven of whom survive.

She looked frail but happy as she and her husband, Iyke Louis Udobi, addressed reporters at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital. She entered the hospital in early October and spent the last 2 1/2 weeks in bed with her head inclined toward the floor.

"It wasn't easy but I did it for the love I have for them," said Ms. Chukwu, 27, who delivered the first of the babies Dec. 8 and the remaining seven by Caesarean section on Dec. 20. "I knew one day it will be over."

Asked how she feels now, she smiled and said, "Great."

The meeting with reporters came three days after the smallest girl, Odera, died. The seven surviving babies were in critical but stable condition Wednesday, three breathing with the help of a ventilator.

Tests show the surviving five girls and two boys, all under two pounds are doing well. Two of them have now had their first breast milk.

Doctors were uncertain when the babies would be strong enough to go home but said that they would have to quadruple their birth weight. However, doctors hope the babies can go home by April 1, which was their due date.

"We're feeling better and better about the babies as each day goes on and right now I think we are going to discharge seven pretty good babies," said Dr. Patti Saverick.

Meanwhile,

the seven babies passed a crucial medical test on Tuesday. Doctors said ultrasound exams showed that none of the babies has bleeding in the brain, which is common in extremely premature infants and can indicate cerebral palsy or other problems.

While the test results are encouraging, doctors said they aren't foolproof, and the babies will continue to be monitored for brain complications.

Ms. Chukwu declined to address the debate about whether infertility doctors should try to prevent such multiple births. But she did say she would not consider undergoing selective reduction, in which some of the fetuses are aborted to give the others a better chance at survival.

"I've never seen such a word in my Bible," she said she told her doctor, Brian Kirshon. "I wasn't even going to give it a second thought."

Ms. Chukwu said she would try to visit her babies every day "because they are part of me still. I'm not complete without them."

"I am blessed," she said. "I thank the whole world for their support and prayers."

She said tha when she saw them Wednesday morning at Texas Children's Hospital, where they are being cared for. "I told them, 'You're all looking great.'"

The family currently lives in a four-bedroom house, but a Texas congresswoman is asking corporate donors to help them buy a new house and a van. Several companies are donating goods and services to the family. A neighborhood grocery store is giving a $100 gift certificate for each week of 1999.

It probably won't be long before we see baby pictures. On the same day Nkem Chukwu left the hospital the family was close to signing a deal with an agent.

But Wednesday, after 3 months in the hospital, all this extraordinary mother could think about was returning to see her children.

"I will be coming every day because they are a part of me. It's like I'm not complete without them," she said.