March 16, 2005 -- Emmanuel Taran Hawkins, a happy, healthy baby, is celebrating his first birthday today. But it's nothing short of a miracle that he is here at all.
Emmanuel was born 14 weeks prematurely to a teenager who had lain in a coma for four months. Two days after his birth, his mother died in an Atlanta hospital.
"This baby is truly a miracle baby," said Dr. Bridget Cobb, who was Emmanuel's primary physician after his birth. "He was as sick as a baby can be without being dead."
His name means "God is with us," and for his grandmother, Emmanuel is a gift from God.
"God and Tara gave me Emmanuel so that I could go on," Nonnie Hawkins said on ABC News' "Good Morning America."
A Mother Refuses to Give Up
Tara was an 18-year-old freshman at Georgia Perimeter College when she was injured in an altercation with a young man in November 2003. She suffered a neck injury and was left brain-dead.
Doctors had no hope for Tara. They discovered the teen was 12 weeks pregnant, but that did not seem like much of a reason to hope. There have been very few cases in which a pregnant comatose woman has been able to carry a fetus to term.
Hawkins remembers getting the grim prognosis from a doctor.
"He says there is no way for the baby to survive in her," she said. "It is impossible. She had no prenatal care. She's in a coma. She's brain-dead. The body cannot function. The baby will not grow."
Hawkins heard him out, but refused to give up. "I looked him square in the eye and said, 'You're not God. God can do anything but fail.'"
In the months that followed, Tara remained on life support. Against all odds, the fetus continued to develop.
On March 16, 2004, a nurse's aide went to check on Tara and made a startling discovery -- Tara had given birth to a baby boy. Doctors had not realized Tara was in labor.
A Tiny Survivor
The baby weighed just 2 pounds, 9 ounces. He had heart and lung problems. A serious infection caused his kidneys to shut down.
Two days after her son was born, Tara died.
Hawkins said she was left questioning if her own life was worth living.
"Emmanuel was hanging and clinging on to life," she said. "Barely breathing and his mother was not here. So could I be that selfish and get caught up in emotions and lose my mind or worse? What's going to happen to Emmanuel?"
Emmanuel began responding to antibiotics. Doctors performed surgery to repair a damaged heart valve, and he also underwent eye surgery. The baby no one expected to live began to thrive.
"He's 20 pounds and doing very well, very well," said Hawkins. "He's such a good baby. He never cries, he's always smiling and laughing."
His doctor agreed that Emmanuel has made astounding progress.
"Everybody is amazed at the fact that he seems to be developmentally on target and even superior when it comes to certain tasks," said Cobb.
Last month, Stephen Davis, 19, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in Tara's death. As a first-time offender, he was sentenced to three years in prison and another three years on probation.
Hawkins has said she does not feel the sentence is adequate. She said Tara had tried to help Davis, bringing him to her mother -- who runs a ministry for the homeless -- when he needed food.
But Hawkins says she won't dwell on Davis when Emmanuel is old enough to ask about his mother's death.
"I will tell him that it was Tara's job to help people, and she was trying to help someone when she died," Hawkins said. "I don't want Emmanuel to hate. I will tell him that we all come from heaven, and that it was Tara's job to go back and be with God."
Now Hawkins is concentrating on bringing up her grandson. (Tara apparently never said who the father was so Hawkins has sole custody.) She has also started a program to prevent teen violence. It's called Tara's Love 101.
"When I think about Tara … she loved anything and everyone," she said.
Hawkins said she loved her daughter so much that Tara was like "the beat of my heart."
"God is so merciful and so kind that he gave me one of Tara's beats to keep my heart beating and go on," she said. "I'm so grateful. I'm so grateful."
For more information about Tara Hawkins, baby Emmanuel and Tara's Love 101, go to www.taraslove101.com.