Surrogate who had 13 babies for other people accidentally gave away her own son
"This little boy was different because he was my partner’s too."
The world's most prolific surrogate, who made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for having 13 babies for other people, accidentally gave away a baby conceived by herself and her husband.
Carole Horlock, from Colchester, Essex, gave birth to a baby boy weighing 9lb 4oz in June 2004 after agreeing to become a surrogate for another UK-based couple the year prior.
She believed he was another couple’s child, created using her donated egg and the sperm of the man from the couple, as was the case in some of her other pregnancies.
The couple were delighted when she became pregnant after self-inseminating, attending scans throughout the pregnancy and being there for the baby's delivery. Carole even stayed with them for a week after the birth.
But six weeks later, the boy's would-be father furiously called the surrogacy agency to tell them a DNA test showed the baby was not his.
A second test confirmed the baby was biologically the child of Carole and her husband Paul.
Surrogates had been advised not to have sex until they knew they were pregnant with a couple's child, but Carole says thought this was unrealistic.
She told the Mirror, “I never promised that I would never have sex, but my husband and I took precautions.”
She added: “It was just a terrible situation for everyone. I remember repeatedly saying to the surrogacy agency, ‘Do they want him?’
“As a surrogate you are having a baby for someone else – you don’t bond, you haven’t prepared for a child, in fact for nine months you are mentally distancing yourself from the baby.
“But we also had to make a decision – what were we going to do if they did hand him back? And what were we going to do now we had the knowledge he was biologically ours?”
Carole, now 55, and Paul, now 69, had no children together, though both were parents from previous relationships.
“We had an honest and open discussion about whether we would keep him or put him up for adoption," she said, adding that in the end Paul made the call that they'd bring him up if the couple no longer wanted to raise him but that if they loved him and still wanted him, he'd be their son to raise.
“The decision was immense, as this little boy was different because he was my partner’s too – and we hadn’t had a child together,” she continued.
“While it was an agonising decision, I still think it was the right one for him and his parents. I’d spent nine months believing this child was theirs and psychologically distancing myself from him.
“I didn’t emotionally invest in the pregnancy, as it would break your heart every time you handed a child over. He’d been with them for six weeks – and I’d already begun thinking of the next couple I was going to help.
“They’d loved him from the moment of his conception and nurtured him – I’d just provided the womb. I was able to carry a baby without emotionally connecting with them.”
The couple adopted the boy and kept in contact with Carole and Paul by post for a few years. But after a while, Carole says “relations were completely broken down” and the contact stopped.
Though Carole does not regret their decision to give their son up for adoption, she says she was devastated when contact broke down and thinks of her son “all the time”.
As he will turn 18 this year, she is now on the Adoption Contact Register hoping he would eventually like to meet his biological parents.
She says it would break her heart if he never got to meet Paul, who has since developed a heart condition.
“This little boy was accidentally created with an act of love between my partner and I. We didn’t know it when we handed him over,” she said.
“...People have asked, ‘How could you give this baby away as this one is yours?’, but many of the surrogate babies I have given away have been mine biologically. The difference was he was also Paul’s.
“We have never stopped thinking about him. We live in hope he is aware of us and, when he turns 18, he’d like to see us.”
Carole says she wrote a letter for him on the Adoption Contact Register and is hopeful he'll get in touch after turning 18.
“I have thought more about this surrogate child than any of the others. I can honestly say I’d be heartbroken if he didn’t want to know us.”