Two dog-eared black-and-white photos pinned to the fridge in Sharee Welch's Auckland home are the realisation of a dream she's held on to since she was a little girl.
Simply labelled "Fetus A" and "Fetus B", the scans are precious images of the twins Sharee finally carries in her womb after six years of effort and a brave solo quest to the other side of the world.
"I'm excited, but I'm also scared," says Sharee, 42, gently tracing a finger across the scan photos. "I don't think I will really believe I'm a mum until I have my babies safely in my arms."
Falling pregnant is a dream come true for Sharee and not one that came easily.
She was in her 20s when she first began to collect things for her future child or children.
More than 50 little dresses have hung neatly in the wardrobe in her sunny spare room, and the nearby shelves have been stacked with lotions, nappies, books and toys. A cot stands in one corner and the quote "I love you to the moon and back" is emblazoned on one wall. For years, the top sheet has been folded down and Sharee's favourite childhood soft toy has waited patiently on the pillow.
Until now, it has been a room earmarked for a baby, yet cruelly frozen in time.
"After six years, it's finally happened," says Sharee, resting a hand softly on her stomach. "I thought I was ready, but now I need two of everything!"
As a single, professional woman, Sharee first sought help from Fertility Associates when she was 37. She says she has never met her soulmate and wasn't scared to become a single mum.
In the past six years, she's done IVF, intrauterine insemination (IUI), and sperm and egg donation.
Facing a two to five-year waiting list for embryo implantation in New Zealand, she travelled last September with her mother Trish James to a fertility clinic in Spain, IVF Spain Alicante, for embryo implantation. Heartbreakingly, it was unsuccessful.
Bravely, she made a solo trip again in February and is now delighted to be pregnant with not just one baby, but non-identical twins, due in October.
"My message to people is to never give up hope," says Sharee, who also writes a blog, NZ – My donor IVF Journey at IVF Spain Alicante. "If you want a baby badly enough, there are always options."
After months of biding her time to return to the fertility clinic in Spain, Sharee came close to missing the magical transfer date on February 8. Confident she could get there by train, she misjudged the route and became lost in Alicante, a port city on Spain's southeastern coast.
"No-one spoke English so I couldn't get directions or call the clinic," tells Sharee.
"I arrived one and a half hours late and an absolute mess!"
Doctor Alicia Alvarez and Sharee's patient care assistant Genoveva Paredes, who have become close friends, greeted her with smiles and open arms. "All the staff are so amazing there – I feel like it is a second home to me.
"Two minutes away from the transfer, I thought, 'Pull yourself together, Sharee.' I could watch it on the TV screen and one embryo began to hatch – it looked like a little chicken and I began to giggle."
A week later, medical staff gave her permission to travel to London to meet up with a New Zealand friend. After a morning of sightseeing, the pair stopped for lunch at the Hard Rock Café and Sharee's friend handed her a pregnancy home testing kit.
"Within 10 seconds, I was in the loo," laughs Sharee. "It came back instantly with two blue lines and I stood there thinking for a minute, 'Shall I laugh or cry?!'
"The first person I called from London was my mum – we both just burst into tears," recalls Sharee. Her mum Trish, who is also a twin, has waited a long time for her first grand-child or grandchildren.
"Five minutes later, my mum called me back to make sure I wasn't joking!"
Back home, Sharee is counting down the weeks, days and hours until she can cuddle her babies. So far, the cost of trying to become a mum has totalled more than $60,000.
"I don't eat out at restaurants and I don't take expensive holidays – every cent I have earned has gone into trying to have a baby," she tells.
Sharee is doing well, but like all expectant mums, she has struggled with fatigue in the first trimester. Her stomach is still black and blue from the fertility injections she took for the first 13 weeks.
In the initial 12 weeks, she struggled to eat and lost 10kg. Although potatoes and bread are the only food she feels like, she's whipping up healthy smoothies to ensure her babies get the nutrients they need. She's also kicked her longtime
cola habit and is only drinking water.
"Already my maternal instincts have kicked in and I feel protective of my babies," she says with a smile. "I'm just so happy. This is like an adult's Kinder Surprise – I don't know what I am getting until they arrive."