SPOKANE, Wash. - Whitney Spilker was pregnant with she and her husband William's first child when they learned a lessons most parents can relate to. There is no way to completely prepare to be parents, especially when you're faced with your worst fears.
Whitney Spilker said baby Willow was a surprise, but one she and William were so excited for.
Then came news no parent expects or wants to hear.
There were issues with Willow's health. Whitney Spilker said she was about 22 weeks along when an ultrasound first showed her daughter was measuring small and the amniotic fluid was low.
Then doctors discovered there were issues with Willow's blood flow. Doctors told her she could try to carry to full term or end the pregnancy.
"And then he said it's a very serious situation and a stillbirth was likely," Whitney Spilker said. "I said, are you telling me I have to decide that my baby is dying inside of me or outside of me? He said yes."
Dee Spilker can still remember how it felt for her knowing her granddaughter may not survive.
"You feel your heart just go down to the pit of your stomach," Dee Spilker said.
The Spilker couple decided to give their daughter her best shot, so her mom started medications and prayed the doctors were wrong.
Whitney Spilker delivered Willow 13 weeks early at Sacred Heart Children's Hospital in Spokane. She was born in late October weighing just 13 ounces. That's less than a pound.
Her legs were so small you could put a wedding ring around her thigh.
Still, she persisted.
"I call her my little warrior princess because she is a little warrior," Dee Spilker said.
Willow spent three months in Sacred Heart's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Somehow, she managed to avoid nearly all the common complications that preemie babies have.
Her lungs were severely underdeveloped, but that was the most pressing issue.
Finally, it was time to go home. She arrived in her own crib in January, a few days after her original due date.
Willow can tip the scale at more than six pounds now. Without the small oxygen tube running into her nose, you'd have few clues about the life she's lived and how she fought for her life.
"As long as she's going to keep fighting, we're going to keep fighting with her, for her," Whitney Spilker said.
Through it all, this family held on to hope. That four letter word is something Willow Spilker will carry with her forever.
After all, her middle name is Hope.
"Keep the hope. Keep the faith. Miracles happen. Miracles do happen and she's our little miracle baby," Dee Spilker said.
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