When Melissa Holman arrived at work one day to hear crying, she followed the sound.
It was coming from the bathroom.
Upon walking in, Mel stumbled on a young woman. She had just had her IVF results come back negative and was mourning the loss of a role she’d never play, the child she’d never have. She told Mel it was her dream to become a mother, and it was a dream she would never achieve.
In Mel’s story, this conversation is an important one. It sparked a desire — an obsession, even — for women across the country to experience motherhood. She herself was a mother-of-two living on the Gold Coast and knew how much joy her two daughters brought to her life.
On Radio National’s podcast This Is About, Mel talks about how the young woman was “broken and tired and angry” and that their conversation “stuck” in her mind.
Growing up, her mother had always referred to her as “fixer”. She would fix things for others, would always make things right.
So, in conversation with one of her young daughters, she posed the idea: What if mum could help other women become mums? That makes sense, her children said. Why not just give them some of your eggs?
“I couldn’t help enough of them quick enough,” she told the program. This is what she wanted to do.
Holman went on to found Egg Donation Australia in the hope the women who were struggling to become mothers could connect with those willing to donate. In Australia, it’s illegal to receive payment for your eggs or surrogacy services.
Mel went on to donate 19 of her own eggs, and to become the unofficial world record holder in egg donation. And if her story stopped there, it would stand alone as a remarkable tale of generosity.
But her story goes far beyond this.
Through her Egg Donation network, Mel met Tereasa Trevor who had been trying to have a baby since she was 30 and had experienced “quite a few miscarriages”. It wasn’t until another of her pregnancies had failed and doctors found a 15 centimetre blood clot in her body, that Tereasa realised she may never be able to be a mother.
“My doctor looked at me gravely and said, ‘You’ve got to stop doing this, you’re going to end up killing yourself.
“I fell into the warm embrace and safety net that was Mel, who said: ‘We’re okay. We’re going to get this done.'”
And got the job done they did. Mel decided to be not only Tereasa’s egg donor, but her surrogate too.
Like a parallel universe, Mel’s life was essentially split in two. On the outside, she was the egg donor who made so many dreams a reality. But on the inside, she was fighting an ugly and violent battle she was determined to hide from the masses.
“It had been 12 years of violence, And it was our normal,” she recalls on the podcast.
Rosie Batty on her experience with domestic and family violence. Post continues after audio.
12 years of her husband abusing her.
“I did not fit the stereotype. I was employed, I was educated and I had just tried to get through it the best I could.
“That fixer girl kept coming back. I kept trying to fix things,” she said.
The months she was pregnant with Trevor’s baby were some of the most chaotic and terrifying of Mel’s life. She had fled, with her two daughters, to a friend’s place. She was desperate to escape the throes of violence that held her hostage in her own home.
“I remember caring for a woman who had been punched by her partner. We were treating her with head injuries… she had a little boy at home,” Mel recalled.
“I remember looking at her and going: that could be me if I don’t do anything about this.
“I was sleeping with one eye open.”
So she made the choice, and put her safety first. All the while her belly swelled as she made someone else’s dreams come true.
“When everything is falling down, it’s easier to channel your energy elsewhere.
“I was in the pursuit of other people’s happiness, determined to focus on other people’s happiness rather than dwell on my own pain.”
By her friends’ own admission, Mel “had to go through hell” as her relationship deteriorated throughout the pregnancy.
“It was complicated and it was simple. I had committed to this, and she was my dear friend. I knew she would support me, no matter what.”
Mel delivered a healthy baby for her friend. Since then, she moved on. She got engaged, she has been a surrogate one more time and has gone back to study.
To be a midwife, of course.
You can listen to the whole incredible episode here. Seriously. Do it.