While parents celebrate every moment that passes in their new baby’s life, Ariana Sophia Cruz-Gutierrez’s parents are rejoicing over an extra special milestone.

After four months in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), their baby girl is finally going home.

Screenshot/WMAR

The Maryland hospital where she stayed for the first 16 weeks of her life, Anne Arundel Medical Center, is also taking part in the momentous occasion as Ariana is the smallest premature baby to ever survive at their facility.

Due to Ariana’s size, neither her parents nor hospital staff were sure the tiny infant would make it, reports the Capital Gazette.

In March, her mother’s prenatal checkup at 24 weeks revealed she was suffering gestational hypertension. Ariana’s parents, Oscar Gutierrez, 34, and Claudia Cruz, 31, made the decision to induce labor.

According to the Mayo Clinic, gestational hypertension occurs after 20 weeks in pregnant women. It can be dangerous as it can decrease blood flow to the placenta; lead to preeclampsia, a serious and sometimes life-threatening condition; placental abruption (caused by preeclampsia), in which the placenta separates from the uterine wall; and can cause future cardiovascular diseases.

The American Pregnancy Association reports that most medical communities have established 24 weeks as the earliest time a fetus is “viable” — that is, able to survive outside of the womb. Although viable at her delivery, Ariana wasn’t breathing after birth. Her parents’ request for doctors to resuscitate her left them fearing that fear she wouldn’t survive. Her father said:

“We felt like we wanted to die. […] But, now that we’ve thought of it, it was the best decision we made. Truthfully, when they told us the baby could die, our life changed completely.”

Ariana was so tiny at birth, the only way doctors could illustrate how fragile she was was to compare her to something similar in weight. At just 12 ounces, Ariana weighed the same amount as three sticks of butter. Worryingly, from there, her size only grew smaller. The little baby’s weight later dropped to just eight ounces.

Screenshot/WMAR

As WMAR reports, medical staff worked tirelessly to care for the tiny baby girl as her parents prayed by her side.

Dr. Suzanne Rindfleisch, director of the hospital’s NICU, told the Gazette that it was Gutierrez and Cruz’s persistence and attention to their newborn that made a critical impact in her recovery:

“It was a long and difficult course for her but she has a bright future ahead. Being at 24 weeks gestation, all the issues of a premature birth were there with the placement of tubes and monitors. She had transfusions and intubations. Her head sonogram was normal, though. And her parents were by her side all these months. […]

The family involvement was crucial. The attention they gave her and how they fought for her.”

As they prepared to bring their daughter home, the second-time parents encouraged women to make sure to receive adequate prenatal care and to regularly monitor their blood pressure. As Gutierrez told the Gazette while clasping Cruz’s hand:

“They should get into pre-natal care early. Claudia’s blood pressure was really high. […] We’ve cried blood for everything the baby has suffered and we’ve suffered.”

Ariana reportedly weighs three pounds less than the average American baby, but she will return to the hospital where she spent the first months of her life for physical therapy and regular checkups.

Screenshot/WMAR

Staff can hardly wait.

Rindfleisch is thrilled Ariana is going home but will always have a place for her in her heart as she told the Gazette, in part: “She was a special baby.”

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Baby Is So Small at Birth, Doctors Can Only Compare Her Size to ‘Three Sticks of Butter’

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