Mother of preemie who returned home: "I never doubted"

A North Carolina family is celebrating a medical marvel, with their daughter becoming one of the smallest babies ever born who survived.

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E'layah Pegues
CBS News

Megan Smith waited five months for the chance to go home with E'layah, her baby girl, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann.

"We actually got to see the human being formed outside of the womb," Smith said.

Smith and her fiance, Eric Pegues, were thrilled when they learned she was pregnant, but early on they could see this was not going to be easy.

Barely sixth months in, hypertension had nearly given Smith a stroke twice. E'layah stopped growing inside her, and doctors had trouble finding a fetal heartbeat. Megan needed an emergency C-section.

E'layah was born September 23, 2015, 14 weeks early. She weighed 10 ounces, and head to toe, measured 10 inches long.

"She was tiny. The size of a small kitten, or smaller, maybe like a baby bird," neonatologist Dr. Andrew Herman said.

Herman said E'layah was born half the size of the smallest premature babies at Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte.

"The risk was that she very well could die. As long as there is hope, I would focus on the hope," Herman said he told the parents.

But hope seemed like a stretch. Less than one percent of babies in the U.S. are born as early as E'layah. Her world for weeks was an incubator, a respirator and a series of challenges medically, technically and emotionally.

"None of her organs are working as they should. ... Her skin was one cell layer thick, like the bottom of a blister," Herman said.

Even taking a blood sample was risky, as E'layah was born with less than an ounce of it in her body.

"Because she was so small, she really was reaching the limits of our technology. So we had to sit down and get creative about our approaches to many things," Herman said.

One night her heart rate plummeted. CPR brought her back to life. She left the hospital, six weeks after her original due date, weighing five pounds, eight ounces -- almost nine times her birth weight.

"I never doubted. Oh, no," Smith said. "I refused to put doubt in there. Mmm mmm. She was here for a reason, and everything happens for a reason."

Tiny E'layah was born with a big heart.

"I had hope, faith, prayer. I had everything. There was no doubt in my mind that they couldn't do what they needed to do to make my baby live," Smith said.

Herman said E'layah shows no signs of developmental issues.

"I'm still in awe of her and awe of her parents and awe of the team," Herman said.

"I fought for her to live, and she fought to live," Smith said.

Now she's sitting at home holding her baby.

"It's just joy. I love it. Like I finally have my baby home," Smith said.

E'layah has more than lived up to her middle name: Faith.