Tyler and Irve Edmond gave their family a big surprise when they drove 18 hours to surprise them with their baby boy's homecoming.
The first-time parents embarked on an 18-hour road trip from North Carolina to Oklahoma at the end of May, about three weeks after their son Eli was discharged from the hospital on May 4.
"I expected them to be really surprised because they had no clue we were coming," mom Tyler Edmond told "Good Morning America."
"I was just making it so inconvenient. I was like, 'We can't come that time because he has this appointment and he has that appointment and there's just no way he can make it. But little did my mother know, I had already moved all of those appointments that opened up a 10-day vacation," she recounted.
Tyler Edmond shared a TikTok compilation video of their surprise on June 2, showing footage of herself placing Eli in his baby carrier outside the door of his great-grandmother's house, his grandaunt's house and his grandmother's house before ringing the doorbell to each home and hiding nearby. The family members' excited and happy reactions have already been viewed over 4 million times, and Edmond revealed that her Aunt Rue's reaction quickly became "the internet favorite."
"Everyone's reaction was just so priceless," she said.
"My grandmother's reaction -- we didn't show the whole entire thing but she shed a couple of tears," she continued. "My Aunt Rue -- she was just floored and we hugged in the yard for about a good five minutes ... And my sister was just excited. She couldn't contain herself and same thing with my mom."
The trip was extra special because Eli, now 7 months old, had spent 170 days in the neonatal intensive care unit at Betty H. Cameron Women's & Children's Hospital in Wilmington, North Carolina, following his birth. According to the Edmonds, their baby boy was born via cesarean section on Nov. 15, 2022, at 23 weeks, weighing in at just 1.9 ounces.
"He was a little tiny thing," Tyler Edmond recalled. Irve Edmond added that Eli was so small at birth that the infant was only "the size of his hand."
Although Eli was born four months early, he made great strides while in the NICU and received treatment that helped him grow and get healthy enough to go home after about five and a half months.
"A lot of 23-weekers, micro preemie babies, they experience a lot of major head trauma, so they may get brain bleeds and seizures and things like that. Luckily, that wasn't the case for Eli. It was a miracle that he didn't have any long-lasting effects from being born that early," Tyler Edmond said.
Now at home, Eli uses an oxygen tank to help him breathe at times and will be fed through a gastrostomy tube, or G-tube, for the rest of the year, but his parents said that despite some of his extra needs, caring for Eli has been "very easy" as he's been "happy and pretty laid-back."
The Edmonds say they're glad to see the positivity that's come from sharing Eli and their heartwarming family surprise on social media.
"It's brought a lot of people a lot of joy ... and a lot of people have shared their preemie stories, like, 'I had a son who was born in the NICU. He's 22 now,'" Tyler Edmond said.
Irve Edmond added that seeing others' personal stories has also encouraged the couple.
"We've been documenting everything from TikTok to Instagram, even through YouTube, just talking about everything from that first day in the hospital, and the amount of love that we've gotten has helped us throughout the journey," he said.
He added, "For us to hear everyone else's stories -- from a male's perspective, from the mother's perspective -- it definitely was encouraging and helps us to get perspective that we're very fortunate to actually be able to come home with him."