'The ultimate gift': what it's really like being a surrogate

Photo: Karin was in the birth pool with Hayley when her baby was born and was there to hold him straight away.  Supplied
Photo: Karin was in the birth pool with Hayley when her baby was born and was there to hold him straight away. Supplied 

Hayley Wilson, 38, from Mackay, had two children of her own and used to joke that her pregnancies were so easy she should become a surrogate.

After a family holiday she announced to her husband she was going to stop joking about it and help make a couple's dream come true.

"We were definitely done with kids, but I felt not quite done," she explained. "He was a little bit surprised, but he got on board fairly quickly and said if you feel you can do it, I feel you can."

Photo: Supplied
Photo: Supplied 

Hayley began to search online and then rang a fertility clinic who said they couldn't help but referred her to an online group.

"I read a couple of posts from people and responded to one that stood out. The wife had already had a child and there was just something that I sensed and clicked on."

With Hayley in Queensland and the couple wanting a baby in Tasmania a relationship began to blossom over emails.

"It was like a courting and the emails got longer and longer as we got to know each other better.  We became really good friends quite quickly.  We talked openly about it and what our limits and expectations were.  We were as transparent as we could be with each other," Hayley said of her emails with Karin.

About six months later Hayley flew to Tasmania with her two children, aged five and six.

"We could not have been a better match," Hayley said.

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By January, they began the counselling and psychological evaluations required under the law and in September were ready for the first transfer.

Surrogacy is not a quick process in Australia and each state has different laws around how long the surrogate and intended parents have to have known each other for and a psychologist must certify everyone meets the criteria before proceeding.

Karin had already had a child with a previous partner, but due to health issues had had hysterectomy but still had her ovaries.

Photo: Supplied
Photo: Supplied 

Her and her husband, Marcus had created embryos before meeting Hayley, so she travelled to Tasmania three times to have the embryos transferred.

"We were so excited at the first transfer.  It was an exciting adventure because I went down without the children."

Karin and Marcus were both in the room for the transfer.  

Photo: Supplied
Photo: Supplied 

"It was a bit surreal, especially the first time.  Little did we know how long it would take for a baby to come around," Hayley said as each time unsuccessful.

They decided to try with fresh embryos, this time in Brisbane.  It took three rounds of IVF to get three embryos.  Again, the first attempt was unsuccessful.  The next time the last two embryos were transferred.

Two weeks later the clinic confirmed Hayley was pregnant.

Photo: Supplied
Photo: Supplied 

"I nearly fell over when I got the news I was pregnant.  I called Karin. There was a feeling of elation that overwhelmed us, and it was one of the best days of both our lives.

When you go into surrogacy all you want to do is give someone a baby. I knew the suffering of wanting a baby."

Hayley said finding out she was pregnant was like Christmas day.  It was a chance to give someone the ultimate gift.

During the pregnancy Hayley and Karin maintained close contact, while remaining respectful of each other and keeping appropriate boundaries.

Hayley went to Tasmania for the first scan and the couple came up to Queensland for the second and they continued to see each other as much as possible during the nine months.

Each milestone was exciting for Hayley, but she said it was more like accompanying a best friend on their pregnancy journey.

When the baby kicked and Hayley's children talked to it, it was like a little playmate for them.  

"They were excited because they had met Karin and Marcus numerous times. They knew this baby had another family and we were just guardians for it."

Karin and Marcus flew in the day before Wilson was born.  They had talked early on about how they wanted the birth to be and Karin and Marcus were respectful of Hayley's birth plans and wish to have a natural birth.

Hayley laboured for four hours and said it was a blessed relief when Wilson arrived.

"I was thankful my job was done.  Now I get to kick back and soak up all that joy.  I was very quick to step out of the role of the person carrying the child and the centre of attention and switch the focus on to the baby."

Karin was in the birth pool with Hayley when he was born and was there to hold him straight away.  

"Everything was just fluid and natural. There was never a moment of actually handing the baby over.  I had as much contact with him as I needed, and he needed.

Hayley said people often ask how she was able to hand over Wilson, but she said he was never hers to begin with.

"Even though I cared about him deeply, both my head and my heart knew he belonged to another family, and so my body knew too.

Parenting is a privilege; I don't own my children. They are a gift, so I was just looking after Wilson until he could go to his parents. I would have been taking a baby from his family if I held on to him. He belonged with his parents."

"It was just like one of my best friends had had a baby and I got to breath it in."

Almost a year later Hayley found out she had become pregnant again with another girl and after the initial shock she couldn't wait to share the news with Karin and Marcus and be able to join them in raising a baby.

Hayley has now channelled her love of pregnancy and birth into becoming a doula and hopes one day to be able to support another family going through surrogacy.