I've always heard of people who experience near death experiences developing a whole new lease on life, appreciating the fact they are still living and breathing and not taking anything for granted. As cliché as it sounds, that’s exactly what happened to me and the reason I decided at 30 years old to pursue my lifelong dreams of Modelling, Acting and Presenting..
I suppose my story starts when I was about 10 years old, I would sit and cut up fashion magazines and paste pictures of models, dresses and beautiful people in my books as an inspiration. I wanted to be them, I wanted to wear the clothes and experience life as a model, I wanted to be beautiful and I wanted to be someone other people looked up to as an inspiration.
During my high school years I was bullied and made fun of for being quiet and a bit dorky. I was often laughed at for my taste in music and my dress sense and as much as I held on to my dream of modelling, I decided not to pursue it for fear of further ridicule and failure. It seemed everything I tried no matter what, was received with negativity from my peers. Instead, I hid myself away and only visited the wish of making it in the industry in my dreams, walking those catwalks and being on the front cover of a magazine, proving to every single person that said "no you can’t", "no you’re not good enough" and "you're wasting your time", that in fact I can.
I met my husband when I was 18 and he was 22, we started a business together and by the time I was 21 we were married with our first child. I had always had issues with endometriosis so was advised to have children early. After your body experiences child birth, it is never the same again. My goals of modelling were pushed securely into the back of my mind where I locked it up and pretended I didn't care that it would never happen because I was living my other dream of being a mum.
By the time I was 24, my husband and I had another two children and were living the dream. We were stable financially and content with our beautiful family. My friend though was fighting a long battle to start her own. Over five years she’d had continuous rounds of IVF with several miscarriages. With each child that I was having I could see the growing sadness and frustration in her and her husband, unable to have the child they so desperately wanted.
I watched them go through treatments and IVF and felt a strong urge to help, so I approached my friend and offered to carry her baby. Surrogacy laws in Queensland hadn't been passed at that stage, so what I had proposed was technically illegal. So, we decided to wait until the laws passed in Queensland.
While we were waiting my husband and I decided to go ahead and donate my eggs to see if my friend could conceive. I harvested my eggs three times for her and her husband, each time with his sperm and my eggs but after three cycles of IVF she still hadn't conceived.
I wanted to do more and as soon as altruistic surrogacy (no, financial gain) became legal in June 2010 my husband and I made the decision to offer my body to carry a baby.
We decided to use a donor egg and my friend’s husband’s sperm, in August 2010 two embryos were placed inside me and we fell pregnant on the first cycle. I felt fantastic, over the moon for them, that their dream of becoming parents was going to come true.
Very early on in this pregnancy it was thought that I was carrying twins as my hormone levels were absurdly high. So it turned out to be, that I was the carrier of two little babies for my dear friend. For the first three months I was so sick, even hospitalised with morning sickness, but the babies were healthy.
But the twins and the daily life of looking after my three children took their toll on my body and I went into early labour at 28 weeks. I felt like I was failing as a friend and I was angry at myself for not being able to hold on to the babies longer. I was admitted into hospital for three weeks away from my family and it was so hard. But in the end it was worth it as I was able to hold onto the twins until 33 weeks.
The baby girls were born via emergency caesarean; my first caesarean. With my husband and my friend in the operating theatre, we welcomed them together. The feeling was amazing and the look on my friend’s face when she saw her babies for the first time was overwhelming; it was all the happiness that I had wanted for her from the start and I will never forget it.
And so I became the first legal altruistic surrogate of twins in Queensland.
I am always asked if it was hard giving the babies away. To me, I never gave the babies away, they weren't mine to begin with. From the start of the pregnancy we’d always known the outcome. Yes, I had developed a bond with the babies but it was more a bond that an aunt would have with her niece or nephew. I loved them dearly but my job was to carry them and bring them into the world safely. Once I had achieved this and was able to see my friend holding her babies my role was fulfilled.
As I was leaving hospital after giving birth and recovering from my caesarean, I was given the most amazing news: my friend had fallen pregnant with her own baby … on her own, naturally! The joy was overwhelming! She was to be a mum of three baby girls all under a year old!
At the same time, I was having post-natal complications. I developed a uterine infection and was admitted to hospital, again away from my husband and three children. The pain was awful. I didn't stop bleeding. After weeks of antibiotics I still wasn't getting better so I went back to see my own gynaecologist/ fertility doctor. He booked me for a laparoscopy the next day and subsequently discovered left-over placenta and scar tissue inside my uterus. He tidied up as best as he could; he advised me if I wanted to achieve our dream of having four children, I should do it sooner rather than later.
My husband and I had always wanted four children and my god mother had always told me “you will know when you are done having children”. I wasn't done, so we didn't hesitate and after the previous complications we got a little help conceiving our fourth baby using IUI. We had a little girl, who was born via yet another emergency caesarean section after a complicated pregnancy in 2012.
Unfortunately, my complications resurfaced after her birth. I developed mastitis along with fevers and heavy bleeding. I developed another uterine infection and had a blood clot inside my uterus. I had three laparoscopies in three weeks, specialists were consulted and it was decided I was to have a hysterectomy and I was only 27 years old.
My baby girl was only 5 weeks old at this point and I was so sick I had to stop breastfeeding her. During my hysterectomy my husband was told I was lucky to still be here as it was a matter of days before septicaemia would have taken hold and taken my life. Three days after my hysterectomy everything looked good and I was discharged. I was thrilled to be going home and to be able to start being a mother to my kids and newborn baby again.
It wasn't until I got home and that night that I felt like something was still horribly wrong. It felt like my whole body was shutting down and I had no control over it; the feeling was the scariest thing I have ever felt in my entire life; I was convinced I was dying. I went straight to emergency and was diagnosed now with Peritonitis, a life-threatening infection of the internal stomach and organs. I was so sick, specialists were called in from interstate and the entire “war chest” of antibiotics was used. At first I wasn't responding and the doctors told my husband that I may not make it home to him and my children. It was a terrifying emotional roller coaster. Our business was collapsing post GFC and as my husband tried to balance it and being a full time single dad of four kids, one being a newborn.
Our friends and family were amazing support to my husband and kids throughout the difficult time. I had three more laparoscopies and at this point, I felt like I was a failure as a mother and wife. I found solace in a boy band that to this day I will harp on about how they helped me recover; I still love them and they mean a stupid amount to me and always will, at one of the most loneliest and terrifying times in my life when my husband couldn't be next to me like we both wanted, they were there for me and I will forever be grateful for that.
After three weeks and several different antibiotics, I finally started responding and the doctors were hopeful that I would fully recover.
I had been in hospital for three months and my baby girl was now 14 weeks old. I was thrilled to be heading home to my family who I hadn't really seen in three months. As we were driving away from the hospital my son said “Mum, are you living with us again”? And for the next few months when we would drive past the hospital one of the kids would pipe up and say ” Hey look! Mum used to live there!” That broke my heart.
It took me a while to get back into the swing of motherhood and a full year to start functioning properly again. I came home to complete financial ruin; we fought on as we slowly lost so much, our house, our cars and our financial stability. We were fighting a losing battle to save our business as it endured a slow and painful death as we tried to manage the relentless flow of medical bills and other expenses of me being out of action.
Four years on and we are still struggling to get back on our feet but the future is starting to look a little promising. My husband fulfilled his goal of becoming a Queensland fire fighter and now it’s my turn to pursue my goals.
I decided to take up promotional work to earn some extra money at the start of 2015, a couple of shifts in and I was starting to be approached for modelling work. I worked hard to get my body back into shape after having six babies. The people I worked with and clients I worked for would always assume I was a 20 year old or even still in school! It was a dream come true, I couldn't actually believe it was happening. I decided that if I ever wanted to pursue my goal it was now or never. I'm lucky to be here and I can’t take that for granted, I believe in fate and now is my time to do this. I have done my fair share of TFP work, travelling at my own expense and investing (not losing) my money to get myself a portfolio together. I work hard, networking and making the right connections in the industry. I made sure I was on time, I said yes to everything I could and I continually stepped out of my comfort zone to achieve my goals. Why? Because you only live once and as terrifying and hard as it is, just putting one foot in front of the other works. I've had my fair share of people both friends and people in the industry tell me that I'm too old and doubt me either to my face or behind my back about me chasing my goals, but I've proven them wrong and I will continue to do so.
Today I can honestly say I have worked with some amazing industry professionals, I have an Instagram following that I never thought I would ever achieve. I've featured on the cover and inside magazines, been approached to model overseas. I've worked with some big named Australian brands and even done a few commercials. I have started my own website and blog about balancing motherhood and my dreams and I have some amazing projects in the works. I see all of this as just the beginning, I want to take this as far as I can, and the sky is the limit. I want to inspire other models that just because you might not fit the typical characteristics of a famous model it doesn't mean you can’t be successful. I want to inspire every single mother out there who is scared or doubtful or thinks it’s too late to turn their dreams into goals and chase them, just take the first step and stick to it. I am living proof that hard work and determination pays off. I want to also inspire anyone with financial issues stopping them from living their dream, I've slept in airports because I can’t afford accommodation but have taken the job to get further in my career. I've paid for fuel with 5c pieces just to make that casting on the off chance I could be successful. I've lived off 2 minute noodles and gum for two days because I spent my last $10 on cab fare. This still happens and It’s tough, I've sacrificed a lot to pursue this but I'm here and I'm doing it and I couldn't be happier. I have a wonderful supportive husband, amazing kids and the chance to do something amazing with my life, I want my kids to know that whatever your dream is it doesn't matter, you can be and do anything you want and no one has the right to tell you otherwise.