Masterchef finalist Ana Schwarz not only missed her daughter's first steps while she was locked away filming the show - her family also purchased land on Waiheke Island to build a new home while she was gone.
Schwarz has opened up two days before the televised final of MasterChef to reveal how tough it was to be without her young family, the most heart-tugging storyline of the 2012 series.
She was holed up in the Castor Bay mansion with other contestants for two months from last August, leaving husband Geoff to look after their three children.
For the Waiheke mum, who values family and friends above all else, it was hard going.
"I had to make the decision to wean Sienna early as I'd been breastfeeding. It was one of the things I had to emotionally deal with. I didn't even know whether I was going to get on the show at the time, but we had to make that a bit of a priority."
Ana says she yearned for her family, not least the hugs she was used to from children Mia, 8, Jai, 7, and 10-month-old Sienna, as they were aged back then.
Missing her youngest child's key milestones and the joy of celebrating after the exciting news that the couple had succeeded in buying land on the island for a new house was particularly hard.
"I was not there to celebrate with Geoff or see Sienna's first steps. I also missed her first birthday. I've always made my children's birthday cakes.
"It was during the latter stages of the competition and I remember waking up feeling particularly tired and melancholy that October day. The fact it was Sienna's birthday and I couldn't be there made me feel like crap.
"But I had a good cry and was fine by the time the family Skyped me."
She was also aware of how much her eldest daughter was missing her but son Jai had been a pragmatist.
"I just want mum to win," he told his dad.
Family and friends had helped her husband while she'd been away but he was relieved to have her back.
"I was thinking a lot in the house about how hard it would be going home. Actually, I stepped back into motherhood really easily."
Now Ana is looking forward to the future, with the new home in Onetangi expected to be ready by August.
See the MasterChef final this Tuesday, from 7.30pm to 9.30pm on TV One.By Diana Worthy