By Kristin Harmel/Homestead
July 16, 2007 12:00 PM

Gazing at a blue toy flower hanging over her bouncy seat, Amillia Taylor grabs and grins. “Good morning, little girl!” her mom, Sonja Burton-Taylor, says.

Little, yes, but, against all odds, getting bigger by the day. Born Oct. 24—at a gestational age of 21 weeks and 6 days—Amillia weighed less than 10 oz. and measured 9 1/2 in., the length of a business envelope. Doctors at Miami’s Baptist Children’s Hospital told Sonja, 36, and Eddie Taylor, Amillia’s father, that the baby they’d struggled for years to conceive (they succeeded after doing IVF) was unlikely to survive. But Amillia defied that grim prediction, becoming the world’s youngest preemie. “People were so worried,” says Eddie, 46, “but we didn’t have one doubt.”

That unwavering faith has fueled the Homestead, Fla., couple through an intense eight months—filled with frequent specialist appointments and occupational and physical therapy. Now 14 lbs. 3 oz., Amillia weighs as much as many 4-month-olds; she holds her head up and sits with support—right on schedule for a baby meant to be born March 4. But she needs an oxygen machine at night and, like many preemies, stops breathing every few hours; a monitor wakes Sonja and Eddie, who then give Amillia a nudge in her bedside cradle. All that care, even with insurance coverage, has put the Taylors $40,000 in debt.

But those sacrifices pale in comparison with Amillia’s smile. “It lights up a room,” says Sonja, now on leave from her job as a high school math teacher. “Every part of her makes me happy.”