As her 40th birthday loomed, TV star Rebecca Maddern was feeling emotionally wrung out, grappling with the reality that she might never become a mother.
The first female host of the Nine Network's AFL Footy Show, Rebecca was riding a professional high but secretly struggling with IVF, sneaking off to the bathroom at work to inject herself, running to the clinic for scans and blood tests, even doing the show bloated and bandaged after a painful procedure for endometriosis – all the while joking on air with a panel of oblivious male colleagues.
"IVF was tougher than I ever imagined," says Rebecca, now 41.
"I'm a pretty tough cookie and it came close to breaking me."
After two years of trying for a baby naturally and three rounds of IVF ("back-to-back – failed, failed, failed"), Rebecca and her cameraman husband, Trent Miller, were told their only hope was an egg donation.
"I was devastated," she says. "IVF was enough, but having an egg donor is a really big next step. I was just like, I don't know if it's going to happen for us."
Rebecca wasn't in the mood to celebrate the milestone birthday, but Trent splashed out on a romantic trip to Qualia, a luxury resort in the Whitsundays.
As for conception, she says, "I completely forgot about it."
When her period went AWOL a few weeks after the trip, Rebecca suspected her hormones were out of whack from the IVF.
Still, she did a home pregnancy test just hours before shooting The Footy Show – and was floored when the result was positive.
Rebecca remembers laughing on the phone to Trent: "I had no words – I just thought, how could this be possible?"
More than a year after Ruby Mae Miller's birth, it seems Rebecca still can't quite believe her luck.
"The intensity of the love, it's indescribable," says Rebecca. "She's just my everything. I've had the most wonderful year of motherhood anyone could ask for."
And it's clear to anyone who follows her on Instagram - she's got almost 90,000 followers - and sees her adoring snaps of her sweet daughter, that Rebecca is clearly smitten with Ruby.
"She's gorgeous, she's one, and I'm loving every second of it," she says.
"There was so much interest in me getting pregnant, it was like I couldn't not show people the end result – it's my best work yet!"
For many women, first-time motherhood can be a brutal, bumpy ride – one that shakes their very sense of themselves – but Rebecca suspects her age has worked in her favour.
"I'd wanted it for so long, I was 100 per cent ready for it," she says.
"Even though being more mature it was harder to conceive, I think it benefited me because you don't second-guess yourself as much in your 40s. I think that translates into having a calm, relaxed baby."
The best part has been watching her daughter develop.
"She couldn't climb up a step 24 hours ago and then this morning she got herself up," says Rebecca.
"I cry every moment she achieves something new. They're so pure and raw, and you watch their little faces take such delight in simple things. It teaches you a lot about life – to just appreciate the little things. And you see this little person that you and your husband made together.
"It's just so incredibly special – and I'm getting teary! I'm not really a teary person – she's the only thing that makes me cry. I just adore her beyond words."
The tears have been coming since the day Ruby was born, three weeks early by caesarean.
"Because I had pre-eclampsia, everything swells big time, 10 times worse than a puffer fish, which makes the injections very hard to get into your spine," she recalls.
"It was quite intense. I remember the doctor said, 'We've got a loud one here' – because they usually don't cry until they're out, and as soon as they opened me, she'd already started talking. Takes after her mother!"
So are there plans for baby number two?
"There's part of me that doesn't even want to go there because I know how hard it was to get here, and I just couldn't deal with the disappointment again," she says.
"Also I'm 42 in August. I'm very aware of what can go wrong."
If Rebecca could have her timeover, she says, she would have children earlier but, like a lot of women in their early 30s, she thought she was too fit and healthy for infertility – and that IVF was a reliable back-up.
Rebecca wants young women to understand that it's not: "IVF is not a plan B; it's a last resort," she says. "It's fantastic technology, but for a lot of people it doesn't work."
WATCH BELOW: Fifi Box talks about conceiving via IVF. Story continues after video.
But the unlikely silver lining of her fertility battle has been the strength of her relationship with Trent, her second husband, who she married in 2014.
He has been Rebecca's rock for the past few years – calm, patient and now a devoted, hands-on dad.
"I don't want to say I love him more because I thought I loved him the most a human being could love another, but I think I've found an extra 10 per cent somewhere," she said.
The new season of Ninja Warrior Australia is coming soon to Channel Nine.
Read the full interview with Rebecca in the new issue of The Australian Women's Weekly, on sale now.
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Australian Women's WeeklyToday 11:49am