With her chubby arms and easy smile, you wouldn’t know newborn Alexa had a rough start in life to look at her today.

The baby’s mother, Tawnya Ritco, was only five-and-a-half months pregnant when she experienced some discomfort and her water broke on the way to hospital. She spent the remainder of her pregnancy on strict bedrest at BC Women’s Hospital & Health Centre, barely moving and on an antibiotic cocktail to avoid infection.

"We thought honestly it was over at that point, for us," said Ritco.

But she never gave up hope.

Each night for 49 nights, her husband, TSN sports radio host Tom Mayenknecht, slept on the floor beside her. His listeners had no idea The Sport Market host was going through an intense personal challenge, unsure of his wife and daughter's future.

"It was the worst case of walking on eggshells we've ever felt," said Mayenknecht.

With each week her baby still grew inside her, Ritco marked the passage of time by folding an origami butterfly as a symbol of hope.

As Ritco passed the stage where her pregnancy would be viable, hospital staff started preparing the couple for their daughter's birth and care in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to help reassure them their baby was in good hands.

"I'm really glad they took that approach with us because you go into the NICU for the first time and it's like going into Mission Control in Houston at NASA,” said Mayenknecht. “There's the beeping going but instead of astronauts being sent into space it's these early born babies being sent into the world."

Alexa weighed just three pounds when she was born through an emergency Caesarean section and began life with serious health problems.

"Her heart wasn't able to get blood into her lungs a half hour after she was born and we almost lost her then," her father told CTV News.

But the NICU team met this and every other health challenge – including meningitis – calmly and decisively, prescribing antibiotics, respiratory therapy and other treatments immediately. Ritco and Mayenknecht are humbled by the professionalism and tenderness with which the doctors and nurses cared for Alexa, who strived to include them in what most parents would consider mundane activities made extremely challenging with tubes and sensors affixed to their baby. It took several people and gentle coordination just to have their first cuddle with the fragile infant.

Then 10 weeks later, just days from her due date, Ritco was finally able to take Alexa home and start adapting to life with a newborn.

A tearful Mayenknecht said he’ll be forever indebted to the staff the country’s largest maternity hospital.

"For the rest of my life BC Women's hospital is going to be something I want to support however I can because they saved our baby's life," he said. “They helped us have a family. and if you're going to have a family late in the day like Tawnya and myself, you need that help because there weren't going to be a lot of other opportunities."

With files from CTV Vancouver’s Penny Daflos.