Surrogacy – In The Extreme

As we await news on the reform proposals, we thought it useful to look back to see how we got here and remind ourselves of examples of the extremes in surrogacy in the UK.

The First Surrogate Mother

In 1985, a woman called Kim Cotton sold a baby to a couple she had never met.  Often referred to in the national press at the time as exchanging a baby for ‘carpets and curtains’, Cotton was paid approx. £20,000 in today’s money.

That same year laws were put in place to prevent a baby from being sold again, Cotton went on to found COTS and has since spoken on many a TV and radio interview that surrogacy is based on friendship and trust, but she remains unaware of what happened to the little girl she gave away, she doesn’t even know her name.

The First Single Commissioning Father

The UK’s first single father might be considered to be David Watkins, but actually the first single father to obtain children through surrogacy was actually Ian Mucklejohn.

His triplet sons are now 20 years old. Their father was 54 when he had an agency in California arranged the surrogacy pregnancy with an egg donor (a 27 yr old civil engineering student) and surrogate mother (aged 30). Nannies were employed to care for the boys when they were young. Their mother suddenly died from a stroke aged 45. Her name was Tina Price.

The Youngest Surrogate Mother

The UK’s youngest surrogate mother to date is Shaniece Sturdy. As a single mother of one, she was 19 when she decided to participate in surrogacy. Aged 21 she gave birth to triplets (from one embryo) for a couple she met through an agency, via C section as the triplets were born prematurely. According to a recent TV appearance, Shaniece said she never held them and is no longer in touch with the family, she also spoke about post natal depression and how she should have not been on a post-natal ward after giving birth. 

The Oldest Surrogate Mother

Harriet Stole was 66 years old when she gave birth to her own grandson in April 1999.  Harriet was post menopause when had an embryo made from her daughter in law’s egg ad son’s sperm, implanted in her uterus. (The oldest surrogate mother in the world is believed to be a grandmother from Greece who gave birth to her grandaughter via C section, weighing 2.6lbs. )

The First Gay Dads

Tony and Barrie Drewitt-Barlow were UK based when an American woman, Rosalind Bellamy gave birth to twins for them. They are now separated, having had more children born via a different surrogate mothers, but they live together with Barrie’s fiancé (his eldest daughter’s ex-boyfriend) with whom he has a second daughter and plans for more children via surrogacy.

Mother of the most Surrogate Babies

Carole Horlick is the most ‘prolific’ surrogate mother in the UK and has had to date, it is claimed, 15 children in 24 years. She hoped to have her 16th and 17th before she turned 53 and despite the risks and her Doctors advice, she sought embryos implantation in Greece. With two daughters in their 20s and a son (from a surrogate pregnancy, Carole and her partner decided to give him to the people she had the pregnancy for) Carole has had miscarriages at different stages of pregnancy, as well as multiple pregnancies (twins and triplets). Her youngest daughter has spoken about following in her footsteps and also being a surrogate mother but also calls her mother’s surrogate pregnancies as a “borderline addiction”.

Surrogacy for a Gap Year

A young British surrogate mother called Kim had a son for a couple so to receive paid maternity leave and be able to take a year off to travel. She follows in the footsteps of her mother do had six surrogacy pregnancies between the ages that Kim was 5-11. Both women used their own eggs for their pregnancies. Kim vlogs about her experiences here.

Surrogacy and ‘expenses’

A 2019 research study from the University of Kent revealed that:

“The survey of 177 sets of parents by the University of Kent showed that the largest group – 30 per cent – paid between £20,000 to 30,000 during the surrogacy process, while 25 per cent paid between £10,000 and £15,000, and 21 per cent paid £15,000 to £20,000.

Meanwhile seven per cent paid up to £40,000, and in five cases couples paid up to £60,000.

Oldest Commissioning Parents

A couple in their 60s had a one year old child removed from their care by social services. The couple used the services of an overseas fertility clinic, bypassing UK restrictions, to conceive the child. The Surrogate Mother and her husband signed a parental order and legal rights were granted to the couple.

Aside from mainstream news, another example of extreme circumstances in surrogacy is shown here. The Commissioning father dies suddenly, prior to the birth of the surrogate-born child. As the father was the only genetic parent applying for legal parental rights the Commissioning Mother had to apply to the courts for a parental order to be granted, outside of the current laws.

Outside of the UK, there have been some recent extreme surrogacy stories in other parts of the world, such as this couple in Georgia who have 21 children born through surrogacy, and the Japanese Businessman who had 16 children via surrogate mothers, however we would like to end this by remembering the lives of the women who have died. I dedicate this blog to them, including the women we don’t hear about.

Jenny Craft – October 2021

Lydia Cox – July 2021

Surrogate mother – name unknown – died May 2021

Michelle Reeves – died January 2020

Crystal Wihite – died Feb 2017

Brooke Brown – died October 2015

and from the UK, Natasha Caltabiano who died on New Years Eve 2005.

Perhaps, in time, the reporting of Maternal Death in the UK will record connections to surrogacy so more data will become available, so we can understand what links IVF drugs and surrogacy pregnancy conditions has to the deaths of these women.

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