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CARMICHAEL — Baby Mateo may look strong now but he made his way into the world three months early, weighing just 2 pounds 9 ounces.

“He’s seriously a miracle. He had a one percent chance to live,” said Mateo’s mother, Eloisa Fonseca.

Right after Mateo was born he was rushed off to the NICU at Mercy San Juan Medical Center, too premature to live without the help of machines.

“He came out crying and the whole thing about not having fluid is that his lungs wouldn’t work,” Fonseca said. “They didn’t think his lungs would sustain life after being out of the womb.”

Mateo’s mother and father have come to visit him in the NICU every day for the past three months and they say it’s been an emotional journey.

“There was a point where he wasn’t doing so good, you know, because the NICU is a big roller coaster,” Fonseca said. “You go up and down and they’re doing really good and then they’re not.”

But they say it’s the NICU nurses that helped them get through it all.

As moms around the world get ready to celebrate this Sunday, many new parents will spend Mother’s Day just like Mateo’s parents have spent their holidays — in a hospital room.

“Being in the NICU is stressful, right?” said Jennifer Kavrik, a manager at Mercy San Juan. “So, in order to honor and sort of commemorate the normal pieces of parenthood and milestones that babies and families go through our staff make personalized cards.”

Every holiday the NICU nurses make cards featuring the babies’ hand and footprints, and Mother’s Day is no exception.

“Mother’s Day is a big day for them and if they’re here they didn’t expect to be here,” Kavrik said.

“I love it. It’s like this little memento that you can take home and they put ‘Love, Mateo.’ So it’s like from my little guy,” Fonseca said.

It’s a keepsake to remember just how hard baby Mateo fought to become part of the family.

“Even though it was so hard, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. In a heartbeat,” Fonseca said.