The world's most prolific surrogate mother is pregnant again and carrying baby number thirteen. Carole Horlock is a 45-year-old British woman who has made surrogacy her life's work, and is currently pregnant with the child of an Italian couple, reports British newspaper The Sun.
Horlock, who now lives in Bordeaux, France, also has two of her own adult children and a partner of fourteen years, but has continued serving as a surrogate mother because she says the process is incredibly rewarding.
"They tell me I give [the parents] a precious gift and you can see the joy in their faces when they hold their baby for the first time," Horlock tells the Sun. "It's a highly charged, emotional moment. That's the reason I do it."
She first heard about the practice in a 1995 newspaper article while working at a laundromat.
"I was never going to change anybody's life working in a launderette but becoming a surrogate has enabled me to look back and think I've done that and helped so many couples," says Horlock.
Paying a surrogate to carry a child is illegal in Britain, but providing expenses is allowed, and Horlock receives between 10,000 and 15,000 pounds for each pregnancy, but says she doesn't do it for the money. The same rule applies here in Canada — paying for surrogacy was outlawed in 2004 — but becoming a surrogate for altruistic reasons is perfectly legal, and many Canadian women have done so multiple times.
To carry a child is such a huge physical and emotional commitment that it's easy to wonder why women chose to become surrogates. Much of the coverage of surrogacy focuses on potential negative outcomes. There was the 2011 story of a New Brunswick surrogate mom who was deserted by the intended parents once she was pregnant, and a report by the Canadian Fertility & Andrology Society finds that many surrogate moms suffer separation anxiety and depression after giving birth, reports the National Post.
But despite these much publicized possibilities, many Canadian surrogate mothers describe carrying someone else's child as one of the most rewarding experiences of their lives.
"You get a rush! Why would anyone be a doctor? Or a police officer? It's the same thing," says Ontario surrogate mom Judy Rochard.* "You feel a sense of accomplishment that you are doing something so personal for someone that no one else could do."
For Rochard, surrogacy has given her a sense of purpose.
"I just know that when I die one day, people won't show up at my funeral because they feel obligated, they will show up because they were glad I was born," says Rochard. "I did something in my lifetime (other than having my own children) that was worth being born for!"
Canadian surrogate Ashlyn Carr* says after struggling for six months to become pregnant, it was the birth of her own child that motivated her to become a surrogate.
"One night while she was asleep in my arms, I began to wonder as I looked at her sweet face, what if I couldn't have had her? What if six months was actually six years?… I think the reward at the end is what makes women do multiple surrogacies. Watching the babies grow up with their parents makes that nine months of pain, stress, and sickness vanish."
Ontario mom Lisa Marlow* is in the process of beginning her second surrogacy, and agrees that seeing the family she helped create is a huge motivating factor.
"I love seeing the couple I helped and being included as part of the family," says Marlow. "They're always expressing how thankful they are and I love seeing how much they love being parents."
Marlow does caution that her experience is not universal.
"Unfortunately, there are some women who are solely motivated by money," says Marlow, "and some intended parents are only interested in having someone carry their baby and not have a relationship with their surrogate."
Intended parents often draft up a legal agreement as a precaution to ensure that if the surrogate mom has a change of heart during pregnancy, the child will be theirs after birth. In Canada, the validity of this type of document has never been tested because no surrogate in Canada has ever contested custody of an infant in court, according to the National Post.
As Rochard puts it, "I did not give up babies or sell babies — they were never mine to give away."
*Names have been changed.