A couple who tried for years to have a baby including undergoing four rounds of IVF, had given up all hope when a counsellor suggested they try embryo donation.
Aucklanders Wynne and Mark, who do not want their surname made public, were devastated over their inability to have a child when in 2016 they were made aware of the possibility of using another couple's embryo.
During in-vitro fertilisation [IVF], a man's sperm and a woman's egg combine in a dish to form an embryo, which is then either inserted back into the woman to implant, or frozen for future use.
None of Wynne and Mark's own embryos resulted in a pregnancy for the couple, now aged 45 and their hope of having a family had turned to despair.
Wynne, a high school teacher, had suffered a fertility blow in her late 20s while working in the United Kingdom when she suddenly had to have an ovary removed because of a large cyst.
It was another decade before she met the man she wanted to have children with.
"I met my husband in my late 30s and had always been keen to have children and he had as well."
They married and began trying to conceive. When they couldn't they went to fertility specialists who said the couple, then in their early 40s, would have difficulty.
It kicked off the IVF, four gruelling cycles of injecting fertility drugs to ready as many eggs as possible for manual fertilisation, with each unsuccessful attempt as debilitating emotionally and financially as the last.
"That was exhausting and heartbreaking," Wynne said.
They made the painstaking decision not to try again.
"I just found it incredibly hard and incredibly difficult."
They looked at fostering and adoption but were overwhelmed by the processes.
Struggling emotionally the couple went back to a fertility clinic counsellor who told them about embryo donation.
"We had probably been trying to have a child for four years at this point and actually weren't aware of it."
Embryo donation is when a couple who have embryos left over from fertility treatment can donate them to other people.
Embryos can legally only be stored for 10 years and after that must either be donated to prospective parents or science, or disposed of.
Wynne and Mark, an engineer, decided to give it a shot and completed a profile which was given to Helensville couple, Wendy and Andy, who also want their surnames withheld.
The two couples had individual counselling over the legalities and ramifications - if the donation was successful Wynne and Mark would be the baby's legal parents though Wendy and Andy could change their minds right up until that point.
Wendy and Andy required an open arrangement which suited Wynne and Mark, and when the foursome met with counsellors at a fertility clinic they hit it off.
"They are super friendly, amazingly generous people."
Wendy and Andy had completed their family, a requirement of embryo donation, and already had a daughter, Ashleigh, now 11, and son, Daniel, 10.
Once the donation was approved by the Ethics Committee on Assisted Reproductive Technology [Ecart], one of Wendy and Andy's 22 embryos was transferred to Wynne, and by Christmas 2016 she was pregnant.
Thomas was born via emergency caesarean in August 2017 and is now a healthy, happy 2-year-old.
Wynne said her son's arrival was welcomed by their whole family, particularly because he is the only grandchild on both sides.
"He's the sunshine of our lives."
Although Wynne wondered if it might be hard with Thomas being European, she being part Māori and Mark being half Chinese, she said the little boy was wholly their son.
"For me that concern that he won't be our child just didn't exist. He 100 per cent feels like my child."
At the same time Thomas was aware he has an other brother and sister, whom he "adores", and has met with his biological parents a few times each year.
Wynne said she had no regrets about using a donated embryo to become a mother.
"It was just an absolutely, amazingly, overwhelmingly, awesome experience because I had this beautiful little baby at the end."
Wendy said she and Andy were "100 million per cent pleased we've done this".
"We definitely have no regrets. Wynne and Mark, they would potentially be a barren couple and they're just such wonderful parents ... we're really pleased with the way it's turned out."
She said seeing the pair raise Thomas and knowing there was a deep bond between Thomas and her children was the icing on the cake.
As part of the donation requirement, all of the embryos went to Wynne and Mark but unfortunately none of the others were viable or successful implants.
Wynne is now part of a Facebook support group called Donor Conception and Surrogacy Network, aimed at supporting those on the same journey.
Fertility Plus counsellor Fiona McDonald said embryo donation was increasing because more people were aware of it.
McDonald said if a woman was still physically able to carry a pregnancy then embryo donation provided a chance for the mother to bond with her baby before the child is born, as well as giving birth.
She encouraged anyone considering embryo donation, whether as donor or recipient, to talk to a fertility counsellor to see if it was right for them.
• 46 applications for embryo donation were approved by Ecart between 2005 and 2015 with 32 babies born from that
• Ecart reviews between 12 and 15 applications for embryo donation each year
• Unlike other countries New Zealand has an embryo donor register and encourages open donation to safeguard the interests of the children.
The Missing Kiwis: 'Many of us are longing for a child'
This year Fertility Week, September 23-29, focuses on the non-physical impacts of infertility; particularly the sense of grief and longing which is often inherent to people trying to conceive, says Fertility New Zealand president Juanita Copeland.
Despite infertility affecting up to 26 per cent of New Zealanders during their lifetime, it is often not discussed, compounding an already isolating situation.
"Infertility isn't just a physical thing. There's a huge emotional component that people go through when they are dealing with infertility.
"It impacts on every aspect of your life, your relationships, your work life, especially as the fertility journey can be drawn out over a number of years.
"It's been likened in research to the death of a family member. It's a really life-impacting thing to go through."
Copeland said Fertility New Zealand's awareness week would target support to those struggling through infertility and their families.
"It's one of those things that people don't quite know how to broach or what to say. Unless you have been in this situation it can be really hard to have that genuine, in-depth empathy for what people are going through."
Her advice for friends and family was not to keep asking people when they would be having children, and understanding it was not something that could be "fixed".
"Just be there when they need you. If somebody decides they really can't handle a family Christmas or a child-focused event - baby showers are a classic example - it's really just giving them the space to make those decisions."
As well as in-person events and webinars during Fertility Week, there will be information and guidance on how to support others through their infertility journeys.
For more information visit Fertility Week 2019