ROTHLEY, England -- Before Kate and Gerry McCann became known as the parents of a missing 4-year-old girl named Madeleine, they were simply a pair of doctors with three kids: Madeleine and twins Amelie and Sean.
Gerry McCann loved golf. Kate McCann was a working mom with dreams of a large family. Gerry McCann's boss and golfing buddy, Dr. Doug Skehan, said their lives were picture perfect.
"One has to say they had everything you would want for," he told CNN. "They'd got into medicine and been successful. They were able to rise to good positions. They have a family and a settled situation and suddenly everything is turned into a nightmare."
The McCanns live in Rothley, England, a small village about 2½ hours north of London. They've lived here only 1½ years, so most people in Rothley had never heard of the McCanns until they reported their daughter missing in Portugal.
Now practically everyone here knows the McCanns. Madeleine's face is plastered on posters around town. Yellow ribbons and green and yellow bracelets signifying hope are everywhere.
"We think about her every day," said Brian Kennedy, Madeleine's great uncle. "We pray for her. We talk about her."
Friends and family interviewed by CNN said the McCanns moved to Rothley for peace and quiet and to be near family. Gerry McCann found a good job working as a cardiologist at a reputable hospital. Kate McCann decided to give up her career as an anesthetist and gynecologist to work part-time as a general practitioner so she could be home with the kids more. Somehow, these two busy doctors managed to achieve what so many working couples do not: balance.
"He's an efficient doctor. He gets things done. He doesn't linger in hospital late into the evening. He will go home and be with his family," Skehan said.
The couple first met in Glasgow, where Gerry McCann grew up. They were studying medicine at the time. When Kate took a job in New Zealand, Gerry McCann, already head over heels for her, passed on a job so he could follow her.
Kate McCann's close friend, Linda McQueen, remembers his excitement.
"I think he went to the pub one night and said I met the girl of my dreams," McQueen said. "I'm not going to Canada. I'm going to New Zealand!"
In New Zealand, they found romance. In 1996, they moved back to England and married at a Liverpool church two years later. Kate McCann, friends say, wanted to have children, but it proved difficult.
"Whatever they could do, they were prepared to go the whole way to have the baby and have a family. It was just crucial to them," McQueen told CNN.
The couple turned to in vitro fertilization, which after several rounds, worked. Kate McCann gave birth to Madeleine before the couple moved to Amsterdam, where Gerry McCann, a cardiologist, would study heart scanning.
"Kate was delighted to have Madeline. And of course because Madeline was her first child, they had the first child bond, which makes the present situation all the more grievous for all of us to bear," Kennedy said.
In vitro fertilization proved successful again while in Amsterdam, and she became pregnant with the twins. The family settled in Rothley when they returned to England.
"They have a wonderful relationship. They are a delightful pair. They idolize the children. All the children. You wouldn't find a happier family or a more dedicated pair," Kennedy said.
Nonetheless, tabloid newspaper reports, which CNN has not independently confirmed, paint the picture of a very frustrated mother. The papers have released what they call bits and pieces of Kate McCann's diary.
According to these reports, she wrote of her children being "hysterical" and "hyperactive" and also "difficult to control." She reportedly wrote that Madeleine's "excessive activity" exhausted her.
When asked if she was overwhelmed by motherhood, Nicky Gill, her best friend, said, "Not at all. She just loved the children. I think she's a mom that takes it all in stride. She's so calm, it's fine, there's no air of anything negative about her."
Family and friends said the couple communicate with each other about everything. One friend said they complement each other so well they are like "opposite sides of a coin."
"For me, it's two special people who love the children dearly, they would not harm a single hair on their heads," Gill said.
They came from working-class backgrounds, but established successful careers.
"Sometimes people automatically assume with two doctors they must be quite well off and quite wealthy. They're not. It's been a long struggle for them to get where they are now and just as life was looking good this sort of thing happens," he said.
All the McCanns want now, those closest to them said, is for the spotlight to return to the search for their daughter, whom they believe a stranger stole.
"You have to keep focused. And the focus is Madeline and the focus is getting Madeline back and we still believe Madeline is alive somewhere," Kennedy told CNN.
"We don't know who's taken her or why. We have all sorts of theories. The police in Portugal have been saying for some time they think she's dead. And they've moved from that to these fatuous allegations that one of their parents has done something," he said. "It's so ludicrous, it's beyond words." E-mail to a friend