Why a Mackay mum of three decided to become a surrogate
HAYLEY Wilson thought her life was complete.
She had her two daughters and supportive, loving husband Glenn.
It was the picture of happiness, except for one thing - the joy of being pregnant, and the pregnancy process.
A certain sense of longing would eventually turn into one of the greatest gifts a woman could give another, with the safe delivery of a baby boy for a couple who are now close friends.
"It was more of, I just had this desire," Mrs Wilson said.
"Conceiving our own children wasn't super easy.
"We didn't go through IVF but we did have fertility assistance … I'd known what it was like to yearn for a child and not know whether it was going to come to fruition.
"I thought if this is something I can help with, then I'd like to be able to do it."
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Surrogacy cannot be advertised under Australian law but Mrs Wilson began reading stories on online forums, and it wasn't long before she connected with Tasmanian couple Marcus and Karin.
Karin's uterus had been removed and the couple was unable to conceive a second child.
After six months of emails, Mrs Wilson met with Marcus and Karin in person.
"We both connected quickly, because we were not just looking for a transaction, we were looking for a connection," she said.
"We became firm friends before we were even certain that we were going to keep going down that path."
That path, Mrs Wilson described, was one of jumping through hoops.
Each family met with lawyers and counsellors for psychological evaluations, and both women's' bodies were prepared with medication.
Karin and Marcus would supply the "complete" IVF-conceived embryos which would be transferred into Mrs Wilson's "ripe" uterus.
"That was an important distinction for me," Mrs Wilson said.
"I think egg donation is awesome but it's not for me.
"I've got different feelings of my own genetic material being popped out into the world."
Mrs Wilson flew to Tasmania three times for the transfer of the three-day old embryos from September 2015 to February 2016.
But none took.
And so after doing some research, Karin chose a Brisbane-based IVF clinic instead as doubts - particularly Mrs Wilson's - began creeping in.
Thankfully, the second transfer in Brisbane was a success.
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Mrs Wilson said each mum "found outlets" to speak about their respective journeys during the pregnancy.
"I went down (to Tasmania) for the 13-week scan and then they came up (to Mackay) for the 20-week scan," she said.
"And we holidayed in Tassie when I was about six months along.
"All the excitement was like what you would have for a really close friend or sister."
The families did not see each other again until the night before the birth.
Both families were in the birthing suite at Mackay Birth Centre, Karin joining Mrs Wilson in the pool for the baby boy's natural birth.
After he was born, Mrs Wilson said she carried him out of the bath still attached to the umbilical cord, and then passed him to his mum.
"I really wanted to have this moment of handing him to them," she said.
"It was nice to see their family come together.
"That was what I needed to see, a closing of a circle."
The second-time parents decided to name their baby Wilson as tribute and Karin was able to successfully breastfeed him having spent three months inducing lactation, Mrs Wilson said.
People ask how she could have handed him over but she was merely his "custodian", she said.
"I'd been gearing myself up for it for years so I had a really clear distinction in my mind of what it would be like as the surrogate as opposed to growing my own baby.
"Because my head knew it, my heart knew and my body seemed to know it too."
A year later, Mrs Wilson and her husband fell pregnant with a daughter of their own.
As to whether she would become a surrogate again, Mrs Wilson said she would do it "in a heartbeat" if it were not for the "realities and confines of family life".
"Everyone acknowledges me but my husband did the hard yards and my kids had to compromise and sacrifice along the way as well."
Instead, Mrs Wilson is embracing all things pregnancies and babies by becoming a doula to help others on their journeys to become parents.
"We are blessed by children's existence," she said.