Baby Hartley goes home after 135 days in the NICU

Hartley's parents are all smiles as they get to take her home after 134 days in the NICU. (WTHR Staff)

CARMEL, Ind. (WTHR) — Graduation days are always emotional and today's was no different. But this graduate is only 135 days old.

Hartley Madelyn Moon was born 17 weeks early on April 15 and weighed just a shade over one pound.

"This could have ended so differently. We are so blessed and so happy that we get to bring her home," Taylor Moon told the nurses Wednesday.

There wasn't a dry eye on the floor as she and her husband Spencer were taking their baby girl, Hartley, home after 135 days in the Riley Hospital for Children NICU at IU Health North Hospital.

"We didn't know she would be coming home until last week. It was actually my birthday when Dr. Roberts said we could take her home next week. We are very excited," Spencer said.

"There is no reason to give you a birthday gift. That was the best gift ever," Taylor said.

That relief came after one of the most emotional and trying times of their lives.

"Mom never left the hospital. Not one night out of the hospital since Hartley was born," said Taylour Needler, NICU nurse.

"I stayed here during this time so even being able to stay with her has been great. We are so excited to be headed home, but we will miss everybody here," Taylor said.

So Wednesday, after 135 days, it's graduation day and the three emerged from their room for the very first time, as a family.

"I hope Hartley gets to see the pictures and see the love she has for everybody on the walk," Spencer said. "This was the first time we got to walk down the hall with her instead of without her so very cool," Taylor said.

"It's great to see but you also don't want her to leave. But it's a good thing she is leaving," said Stephanie Hurtte, NICU nurse.

So now weighing in at nearly 8 pounds Hartley is finally going home.

"You are always welcome in our home and we will never forget you. We will be back to visit," Spencer said.

It's always said that when one door closes another will open. Madelyn is going home.

That moment you meet your baby for the first time can be one of the most amazing moments of your life.

For parents Taylor and Spencer, it became one of the most emotional and trying times of their life and tested them to limits parents hope they will never face.

Baby Hartley was born on April 15 at just 23-weeks and weighing just one pound, four ounces.

Immediately the team at Riley Hospital for Children NICU at IU Health North Hospital in Carmel went to work.

The team helped make sure Hartley got the nutrition she needed to grow and watched her until she could eat and breathe on her own. It wasn't until last week, on Spencer's birthday, that they learned Hartley would be coming home.

On Wednesday, they walked out of the NICU surrounded by nurses and staff who had become their family.

After the hugs and tears and goodbyes, baby Hartley went home to start the life her parents had dreamed for her.