Surrogate mum of 13:
“Another baby could kill me – so now I foster pets”
When 54-year-old Carole Horlock decided to have a 14th surrogate baby – 25 years after having her first – she went to doctors for a health MOT in preparation for hormone therapy.
But when doctors checked her hormone levels last February they found her oestrogen was sky high as a result of having acted as a surrogate 13 times, plus having her own daughters Stefanie, 26, and Megan, 25. And she was warned that having more rounds of hormone therapy would put her at high risk of developing breast cancer.
So now, Carole has turned her nurturing instincts to “fur babies” – saving the lives of abandoned cats and dogs in Greece, where she lives half the year. Carole says, “After 25 years, my surrogacy career is over. The doctor was unequivocal – my oestrogen levels are so high that he warned me if I have another baby I’d almost certainly get breast cancer which could likely kill me.
“I’m bereft as I was certain I could have at least one more baby. I’ve spent half of my life being pregnant for other people, and having babies is addictive because of the joy it brings – there’s nothing like it and luckily my family have always supported my decision.
“But when I was told I couldn’t have any more, I was left with such a devastating void in my life that I’ve become a surrogate mum for orphaned puppies and kittens. They’ve become my fur babies. It’s a much tougher gig though than having human babies, as while I looked after them inside me, I handed them over once they were born – so there were no sleepless nights! But these animals need me every bit as much. I simply can’t understand how cruelly they’ve been treated – it breaks my heart.”
Carole’s surrogacy journey began in December 1995. While reading a newspaper she spotted an advert asking women to help childless couples have a child and she thought, “I can do that.”
Carole recalls, “When I handed my first surrogate baby to the couple as soon as he was born, I didn’t feel any regrets. When I saw how happy they were, I felt elated. That’s what kept me going through the decades. I love feeling a baby moving inside me; the idea of growing a new life. I also love doing this for someone who appreciates what I’m doing for them.”
After her first surrogate baby, Carole went on to have twin girls for the same couple in February 1997 and they continue to have a close relationship to this day. She then had five more babies for four couples in six years. She went on to give birth to triplets – two girls and one boy – in 2008 using a new couple’s embryos, followed by a 13th baby boy in April 2013 via an emergency C-section.
Her last birth was when she was 47. But she’s had several failed attempts since then, including one just six months ago. Once she realised
her surrogacy days were over, Carole decided to become a “mum” for unwanted puppies and kittens in January of this year. She says, “At that point I’d had a failed pregnancy and I was looking to fill a void in my life
– I love creating life and it had been seven years since
I last had a baby. Fostering puppies or kittens has similar principles – I’ll nurture them until they’re healthy and then hand them over to their forever homes in the UK.”
Carole and her husband
Paul, 65, already have three sheepdogs, rescue dog Patch, nine, Diesel, seven and another rescue dog five-year-old Coco. They spend six months of the year in Colchester, Essex, and the other six living in their five-bed villa in Crete. When they’re not in Essex, Meghan takes the reigns and looks after the dogs. And in Greece, Carole approached The Souda Shelter in nearby Chania offering to help orphaned puppies, which need round-the-clock care.
The shelter, which has brought hundreds of dogs to the UK for rehoming is under threat of closure due to a desperate lack of funds.
Carole says, “So many dogs have been saved by them and given wonderful homes. The animals go all over Europe but mainly to the UK. People who are interested in adopting can get in touch with the shelter and a vet that the charity provides makes sure it’s a good enough home for the animals to go too. The organisation also organises all the transport to get the dog or cat to their new loving family. The work they do is incredible which is why I decided to help them. They are completely full at the moment and are desperate for donations to build a new shelter.
“Some of the animals have harrowing stories such as a dog whose owner castrated him using garden shears. There are also endless puppies and kittens dumped in bins unable to fend for themselves – the youngest kittens I’ve taken in were just days old so I was up through the night bottle-feeding. It’s been a few decades since I’ve done that but loved it!
CARING FOR PUPPIES AND KITTENS ISN’T THE SAME, BUT IT’S STILL BRINGING LIFE AND JOY INTO THE WORLD
“Initially I took in two newborn puppies – Boris and Billy – who’d been tragically dumped in a bin and were on the brink of death at the start of this year.
“It was three hourly feeds for the first two weeks day and night and it was touch and go for Billy, but he’s pulled through.
“I then took two three day old kittens, which we named George and Polly as they were found in a town called Georgioupoli, dumped in a bin bag and I bottle-fed them too.
“Since then I’ve taken back to back litters of kittens and puppies – and campaigned to help save the shelter, which survives on a shoe string and has saved the lives of thousands of abandoned dogs.
“In the past few days we’ve taken in two tiny puppies who we’re yet to name. They had been dumped in a bin. Paul had said to me, shall we have a break for a few months from puppies – but I just can’t say no.”
And Carole admits that taking in these animals is helping her as much as them.
She says, “Nothing gave me more pleasure than carrying a baby inside me and helping couples have the baby they so desperately wanted. I even like giving birth as I adore that magical moment the baby takes it first breath and meets its parents – there’s nothing like it.
“But it’s never going to happen again. And that’s been hard to come to terms with. Looking after the puppies and kittens is not the same as carrying a baby, but it’s still bringing life and joy into this world though and creating families with pets – so it’s incredibly fulfilling too and
I’ll carry on doing it for the rest of my life.”