Page last updated at 17:00 GMT, Tuesday, 27 January 2009

'I enjoy being a surrogate mum'

By Paul Burnell
BBC File On 4

When Carole Horlock first became a surrogate mother she never dreamed that she would have 11 more babies for other women.

Carol Horlock
Carol Horlock has given birth to two of her own children and 12 surrogates

"I enjoyed it so much, I kept doing it, I didn't see a reason to stop," Carole, 42, told BBC File On 4.

Carole had always sympathised with childless couples because of the plight of a couple her parents knew.

"When I first read about surrogacy I thought what a wonderful idea," she said.

"I am pleased to be part of helping somebody have the babies they want so desperately."

Carole, now based in France, but originally from Stevenage, admitted when she first began as a surrogate she questioned whether she might experience any emotional hurt at handing over the baby to its new parents.

Baby bonding

But she added: "Then I remembered with my own babies that the bonding came with the nurturing of them after they were born, it didn't come with being pregnant."

Part of the agreement she normally makes with the parents is that they will send a yearly newsletter and photographs of the babies.

Some of these children also keep in touch with her own daughters, who were born in 1990 and 1993.

Apart from a three year gap, she has been barely out of the delivery room since the 1990s, with nine surrogate pregnancies including a set of twins and a set of triplets.

Until she gave birth to the triplets - she had always donated her own eggs.

Yet although she has thoroughly enjoyed the experience there has been a personal cost.

Although most of the family support Carole, she said her father has never been able to accept what his daughter does.

During one surrogate pregnancy, tests showed the baby she was carrying for a couple had her partner's DNA.

Carole said she would only have claimed her legal right to the baby if she felt it was not wanted or loved.

'Ridiculous money'

The incident also led her to go public about what happened.

"I didn't want to keep quiet about it as it needs to be discussed as part of the counselling couples receive before surrogacy," she said.

Under UK law Carole is not allowed to receive payment but claims expenses.

"It does annoy me that some surrogates do take advantage of their situation.

"I put an advert on the web and heard from a British woman looking for a surrogate with a list of stipulations - she sounded exasperated by her experiences - I had to be under 35, mustn't have had any caesareans, mustn't have had more than five pregnancies and I mustn't be asking more than 50,000 euros - at which point I was thinking 50,000 who is asking this?

Foetus generic

I do like being pregnant and I do like helping other people, I really enjoy the buzz from being part of this huge event in their life.

Carol Horlock

"Obviously some surrogates who are advertising on the net must be asking this otherwise the woman would not have said this - that's an extortionate amount of money and a ridiculous amount to be asking anybody."

Carole has come across situations where surrogates have tried to exploit desperate couples by asking for a new car half way through the pregnancy.

"They will ask for extra things such as a holiday for their family - I think it is totally unacceptable for surrogates to hold couples over a barrel."

Carole believes legally binding contracts acceptable to UK courts are needed to stop surrogates keeping the baby or claiming extra money.

In the next few weeks she is due to travel to Greece to begin the legal formalities that could see her embark on another pregnancy to produce a 13th surrogate child.

'Birth addict'

"I'm hoping it will be only one - after triplets one will seem like I'm not really pregnant."

She added: "I think it could be my last, I will be 43 by the time I give birth and the doctors have stressed the dangers to me."

However she conceded she could be addicted to this lifestyle.

"I do like being pregnant and I do like helping other people, I really enjoy the buzz from being part of this huge event in their life.

"I can stop anytime I want as long as I don't talk to any childless couples who need my help because I find myself saying, 'they would be such wonderful parents, I'll help them.'

"I wouldn't risk my health to do it but if I thought my body was ok for one more time than maybe I could be dragged back into it."

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