Today is the 30th birthday of Louise Brown, the world's first "test tube baby." Born in a U.K. hospital in 1978, Louise was a miracle of science. Her mother underwent egg retrieval, and her doctors were able to retrieve only a single egg for fertilization. They transferred it back to her uterus, and Lesley Brown became pregnant. While another woman had became pregnant from IVF just a few short years prior, her pregnancy sadly ended as an ectopic. But Lesley Brown carried to term, and her little girl Louise was born nine months later.
As someone who struggled for two years to conceive, I owe Lesley Brown's doctors a debt of gratitude. Doctor Edwards and Doctor Steptoe and their team fought tirelessly for years to perfect IVF, to make parents out of couples who so desperately longed for a child, despite growing pressure from a number of groups and the media to end their reproductive research. 30 years ago today, they succeeded, and now millions of parents all over the world, including me, reap the benefits of their courage.
Lesley Brown and her husband also deserve thanks, for their strength and willingness to take part in an as-yet-unsuccessful medical procedure. Pioneers often take on a great deal of criticism when their choices buck the moires of the established culture, and I'm sure it wasn't easy for them to decide to undergo IVF when so many were calling for an end to their doctors' research.
Today, IVF is still a lightening rod issue. I have no problem telling anyone how Isabella was conceived, or how I came to be pregnant with twins, but it's clear from the reactions I receive that not everyone believes in medical intervention to achieve pregnancy. People tend to have very strong opinions on the topic, opinions based on moral values, or on the belief that infertile couples seeking years of treatment as I did should instead "just adopt," an idea I find hard to swallow based on its belittling characterization of adoption, the belief that it's somehow easier than infertility treatment (it isn't), and that babies are immediately available for anyone who wants one (they're not). The audacity of anyone telling another person how to build her family is pretty repulsive to me as well.
My daughter is an IVF baby. The twins I'm carrying are too. I will never, ever forget this fact, or take for granted how very lucky I was (twice over), nor will I forget the two dark years I waited for what I thought I would never have. IVF made me a mom once, and God-willing, I'll be a mother to two more sometime this fall. Thank you, Dr. Edwards and Dr. Steptoe, and Mr. and Mrs. Brown. Without you, I wouldn't have this little face to wake up to each morning.
And happy 30th birthday, Louise.