Fiona Falkiner and fiancée Hayley Willis’ first shoot with new baby Hunter

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Fiona wears Bassike dress,, Hayley wears Venroy shirt and pants,, Hunter wears Seed overalls and bodysuit, Image: Stellar, Photography: Steven Chee, Styling: Kelly Hume

The couple open up about overwhelm, wedding plans and why Falkiner’s experience of pregnancy was “hell”.

Fiona Falkiner knows that life with a newborn baby is not too dissimilar to life during lockdown, because when the model and her fiancée Hayley Willis brought their newborn son Hunter home from the hospital in March, she barely left the house.

“And for the first week, I think there were Amazon book deliveries of baby books coming in every day,” smiles Willis.

In Falkiner’s case, those books were helping the body-inclusivity activist deal with the anxiety, overwhelm, sleep deprivation and raging hormones that come with being a new mum.

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Especially since Hunter was struggling to feed because of an undiagnosed tongue-tie.

“He wasn’t latching correctly,” the former contestant and eventual host of The Biggest Loser tells Stellar.

“But I didn’t know at the time. All I knew was that he was feeding every hour. He was so tired and was not gaining weight. I was exhausted but everyone was telling me, ‘It’s fine, it’s normal!’ But I was like, ‘Something is not right. It’s not meant to be like this.’ I was beside myself. Those three weeks were really tough.”

Falkiner, 38, says once the tongue-tie (a condition present at birth that restricts the baby’s tongue movement) was seen to, Hunter became a different baby and put on weight quickly. But the experience still affected her mental health.

“I guess from him being underweight those first couple of weeks, it gave me a little bit of anxiety.” And Willis, 31, picked it up.

“She was like, ‘You’re not actually leaving the house with him and on your own.’ Obviously being a mother is the most rewarding thing ever, but it’s also a lot.”

Meanwhile, Willis, a sports journalist who had just taken up a position in the Sydney Swans media department, was also coming to terms with what it means to become a new mum when you haven’t birthed the baby.

“I found that a lot of people would ask about the [sperm] donor and I struggled with that because I felt like it was really taking away from the fact that I’m Hunter’s mum,” says Willis, who along with Falkiner shared the details of their conception through a sperm donor on the podcast What The IVF.

“People would say, ‘These features don’t look like Fiona; they must be the donor’s.’ And it’s not like I was angry with them for saying it. It’s more, why do we have to keep bringing that up?”

“Obviously we’ve been given this incredible gift of being able to have a son, so why do we have to be asked about the donor?”

With Hunter now four months old, the couple have settled into the rhythm of life as mums. And even though Hunter has appeared on Zoom calls with the Swans CEO, they are grateful that Willis can work from home.

“Given we are same-sex parents, I didn’t really know what the expectation would be for work and paternity leave. But from the very start the club has been very accommodating and it’s meant I’ve been able to spend more time with Hunter and help Fi more,” says Willis.

Falkiner adds that she is already thinking about growing their family, with plans for Willis to carry their next child.

“I’m going to put it out there, I had the most amazing birth experience. The pregnancy, not so much. The pregnancy was hell. I had pelvic girdle pain and towards the end I could barely walk,” Falkiner says.

“But the birth was amazing. I was induced and had an epidural, and pushed him out in about 30 minutes. Apparently I’ve set the bar high!”

Adds Willis, “She pushed him out so gracefully. Then all of a sudden he’s in her arms and I just couldn’t believe it. I guess having been through such a journey to get to that point, I didn’t believe it was real until he was in the world. It was very emotional.”

Another emotional moment came when Covid restrictions briefly eased and the Sydney-based family were able to celebrate Mother’s Day in Victoria with Falkiner’s mother Jill, who has Alzheimer’s.

“Her condition escalated quite quickly through Covid, which was devastating,” says Falkiner. “But when she met Hunter, what was really beautiful was it brought back a lot of her long-term memories of caring for babies.”

In the midst of all this, the couple, who met on social media and got engaged in 2019, are planning their October wedding, which was postponed from last year.

“I’ll be honest, it’s crazy how much has changed in our lives in the past year. For me now, the wedding is not as big a deal as it was when we were planning it last time. We’ve got Hunter. We are parents,” says Falkiner.

“I think because of Covid, sometimes you can just think of all the negativity going on and it can really get you down. But when you actually stop and think about the amazing things in your life, it makes you realise how lucky you are.”

This article originally appeared in Stellar and was republished here with permission.

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