Cassandra Hall's first Mother's Day was a blur, having given birth less than 24 hours previously after more than three days in labour.
But the second that baby Isabelle was placed on her chest after an emergency caesarean, her fears about parenting on her own vanished and her heart filled with love.
In February her husband Alex, 37, died at Ballarat Base Hospital five days after suffering an anaphylactic reaction to a meal of barramundi, despite never previously having had a severe allergic reaction.
The couple had dreamt of welcoming Isabelle into the world at their Ballan home, but when the labour failed to progress Mrs Hall was taken to Ballarat Base Hospital for the delivery.
"Maybe it was needed to create balance, bring new life where one was lost," she said.
A midwife who looked after Mrs Hall while her husband was fighting for life was in the recovery room with her and Isabelle immediately after the birth, and staff who cared for Alex during his five days in ICU visited the new mum while she was in hospital
"The staff were incredible and gave me all the support I needed," Mrs Hall said.
She had gone in to labour on her due date, Wednesday May 6, but Isabelle Ruth Alexandra Hall did not enter the world until Saturday May 9.
Hospital staff put up pictures of Alex in her room and allowed Mrs Hall to keep her wedding ring, and Alex's wedding ring, on during the delivery which was important to the new mum.
"It was a very emotional experience but the hospital were able to do everything I wanted - immediate skin to skin contact, leaving baby with me as soon as she was born, which was great," she said.
"It was a relief more than anything else to see that Isabelle was okay. She was 2.7kg - a lot smaller than I anticipated because Alex had been quite a big baby.
"It was overwhelming to have her finally out on my chest and with me ... pure relief."
A picture of Alex on the side of the hospital crib beamed down on the daughter he never got a chance to meet.
"At one point I looked at her and my heart was full of so much love I just bawled my eyes out," she said.
"I can't stop looking at her sleeping and just staring at her beautiful face. I definitely see a mix of both Alex and I in her. Before he passed we were talking about what we would love for her to look like: whose features, whose eyes, whose hair, and she is exactly what we picked. She's got Alex's eyes and nose, and probably more my lighter hair. She's absolutely the perfect blend of the two of us and I definitely see him in her."
Mrs Hall said the challenging labour and birth had taught her important lessons about herself.
"Labour had been in progress so long and it wasn't going anywhere so we had to make the decision. It wasn't what I wanted but I felt I had done everything I possibly could to have my natural home birth but after three days ... I was completely drained and exhausted and felt I had given it everything.
"Everything happened how it had to happen. The whole process I went through, albeit extremely long and agonising, taught me I'm a lot stronger and more resilient than I thought.
"There were many lessons that happened through those few days that I had to learn and that have made me a stronger person."
Isabelle has settled in well at home, sleeping and feeding and enjoying the nursery the couple had planned together.
And there has been a stream of extended family offering love, support and a fridge and freezer full of home-cooked meals.
"I'm enjoying being a new mum and just trying to adjust," she said.
Before Isabelle was born, Mrs Hall found it hard to imagine how she would parent on her own.
"The love I feel for her now, I know I would do absolutely anything and we are definitely going to be ok."
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