Fertility problems affect as many as 7.5 million women in the United States alone, according to the CDC — 12.3% of the population who are reproductive-aged — with as many as 1 million married women who are completely infertile. For some of those women, surrogacy is the only way they can have a baby.
Now, one woman who has acted as both a surrogate and an egg donor multiple times has opened up about her experience and how it changed her outlook on being both a woman and a mother.
Mel Holman's story was first shared on her personal blog, in a post called "The Strength of Women and the Motherhood Dream." After Australian lifestyle blogger Constance Hall shared it on her Facebook page, it quickly went viral.
The surrogacy and egg donation advocate recounted the story of her most recent surrogacy birth a few weeks ago, accompanying a photo of herself holding the baby (a "perfect" child and "screaming newborn mess") and standing next to the child's mother. The child pictured was the second baby that Holman (who has also donated eggs that resulted in the birth of 18 other children) had carried as a surrogate.
"Maybe you can't change the world. But you can give the world to someone and change their life."
For Holman, her experience as a surrogate and interacting with women suffering from infertility gave her a a new appreciation for how resilient women — especially mothers — can be. "Being a woman is so much more than having children. But for many women, being a mother is the most important and satisfying role that they will ever get to play," Holman wrote. "Mothers are often expected to do it all and make it look easy. But it's not easy. I've learned it's not always simple to become a mother."
The Australian mom of 3, who was able to have her own children easily, revealed that "it never occurred to [her] that it might not be so easy for everyone." Working as a nurse years ago, she encountered a woman who'd broken down crying after her latest attempt to conceive via IVF failed. That experience led Holman to donate her own eggs and, eventually, become a surrogate, helping other women achieve their dreams of motherhood.
She's now a passionate supporter of the process, and wrote about how moved she was by how tirelessly women who have suffered infertility fight for what they want.
"For many, their perseverance paid off. Now, they're Mums who get a rainbow macaroni necklace on Mother's Day, just like I do. But it wasn't easy," Holman wrote. "In all these women, donors, recipients, those who never conceived... I found the meaning of strength. Resilience. And love. Maybe you can't change the world. But you can give the world to someone and change their life."
After her first experience with egg donation, Holman went on to found Egg Donation Australia, an agency to help connect women with potential donors. In an interview with the Daily Mail, Holman shared her advice for women considering being surrogates: "I'd say to anyone who thinks they'd like to be an egg donor, talk to other women who have done it and don't jump in. If you understand the gift you're giving, it's right for you," she said. "Alone we can move stones, and together we can move mountains."