Meet the Woman Who Gave Away Eight Kids

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The British Daily Mail, perhaps in honor of the Nobel won Monday by IVF pioneer Robert Edwards, brings us up to date with the slow-food version of the Octomom. Jill Hawkins, a 45-year-old legal secretary, recently gave birth to her eighth child in 19 years, all now being raised other people.The last birth was a tough one, the paper notes, in that she couldn’t work for most of the year and was admitted to hospital two weeks before she was due because she was so sick; she had high blood pressure and frequent vomiting, and the baby’s heart rate was too fast. Partly because of these difficulties, Hawkins, who is single, is pretty sure that this pregnancy will be her last. This was also the only pregnancy that didn’t involve her own fertilized egg, but an implanted embryo. (More on 5 Pregnancy Taboos Explained (or Debunked))

The British paper gives Hawkins the title of “Britain’s Most Prolific Surrogate Mother” — presumably because the other surrogate mom the paper wrote about a few years back, who bore 12 children for other people plus two of her own, now lives in France.

First let’s salute what must be one heckuva womb: seven go-rounds, one of them with none of her genetic material. Enormous props on the uterine utility. And then, the selflessness; all those labors, all that morning sickness, all those months of muumuus and flats and crying at TV commercials and abstaining from sushi, and still, no kids. That takes some altruism. (It’s technically illegal in Britain for her to have been paid to carry a child for someone else, but in practice it’s a legal gray area.)

Then, though, we have to ask, um, why? Eight pregnancies, really? It’s not as if they’ve been without cost to her. Hawkins has suffered from depression and at one time tried to kill herself with pills. She claims this was brought on by her struggle with her weight and the death of her cat, but her family believes that all the pregnancies have taken a toll on her mental health. (More on Health Check-Up: Women & Health)

“Being pregnant has given me a purpose,” Hawkins told the Mail. Even after the difficulty of her most recent birth, she said, “When I saw the couple’s faces I forgot all about the difficult pregnancy and saw that it was all worthwhile.”

She has said before that she’s not having any more kids, but this time she says she means it. “Now I will have to find something else to do,” she said.

I guess the upside of not actually raising eight kids is that she’ll have the time to figure out what that might be.