MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A baby named Zara, born at just 23 weeks, headed home from the hospital for the first time on Friday afternoon.

Her doctor at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital estimates she is one of just a handful of babies born so extremely prematurely in the state each year.

Called a “micro-preemie,” Zara has spent her entire five months of life in hospitals.

baby zara micro premie 2 Baby Zara, A Micro Preemie, Finally Goes Home

Baby Zara just after birth (credit: Brittany Schmidt)

Her mother, Brittany Schmidt of Parkers Prairie, says Zara weighed one pound when she was born and fit in her mother’s palm.

“She is now finally making eye contact and looking around, and you get to watch her do what a newborn baby should be able to,” Schmidt said. “For the first four months while she was alive she was developing on the outside like she would on the inside.”

Zara’s twin brother passed away at 18 weeks, and Schmidt says that hurt her chances of survival.

“When her brother was born the doctors told me they were waiting for me to miscarry her, too,” Schmidt said.

That is when Zara first started proving she can beat the odds. She was born Nov. 8.

“She was actually born on my mom’s birthday,” Schmidt said. “My mom passed away 11 years ago, so to me that was a sign that Zara was going to be OK and I haven’t really had any doubts since.”

zara Baby Zara, A Micro Preemie, Finally Goes Home

Baby Zara today (credit: Brittany Schmidt)

Dr. Tate Gisslen worked on Zara’s heart at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital. He says Zara had about a 50-percent chance of surviving after birth.

Gisslen says Zara still has difficulty breathing on her own.

“It is a really long, challenging process for the babies and families,” Gisslen said.

Schmidt, a first-time mom, says the experience has been “difficult.”

“But I guess I don’t know any better or any different,” she said.

The hard work is not over for Schmidt and her baby, but Zara was healthy enough to go home for the first time on Friday. She now weighs 7 pounds.

Schmidt says she is excited to bring her baby home.

“It doesn’t feel real,” she said. “I’ve just kept my faith and remembered God is not going to give me more than I can handle and I’ve been able to handle it.”

A GoFundMe account set up to help Schmidt with the medical expenses and constant care Zara will need for many months to come.

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