This is the super baby; the worlds first IVF child Louise Brown, her story today!
When I was born in July 1978 it made headlines all around the world. Like many other childless couples today Mum and Dad had simply followed a process. They went to their local doctor, Mum had an operation to try to unblock her fallopian tubes. That didn’t work so she went back to the doctor this time suffering from depression. He realised that at the heart of the depression was her inability to have a child. He referred her to the local health clinic and Mum got a letter basically saying there was very little chance of her having a child, but thankfully the doctor there had heard of this “experimental” work going on in Oldham. Mum put herself forward and was accepted on to that programme but it wasn’t until after she was pregnant that she realised the technique had never worked before!
Mum’s story gave hope to millions of men and women all over the world that they could have a family. In fact not long before Mum died she pointed out that without IVF she wouldn’t have had a single blood relative left in the world. It is not just about having a baby – because of the success she had grand-children, sons-in-law and others that made up her family.
All her life she received letters from women around the world asking questions about her situation and wanting to know about IVF.
I’m not a scientist so I have no opinion on what is happening in IVF today and some of the new techniques being used, such as the three-person embryo technique. All I know is there was a lot of criticism of Bob Edwards and Patrick Steptoe when I was born and there will always be people criticising those who are doing something new. I think it is important to leave this sort of thing to the scientists so they can find ways of helping to solve the problems of the world. It is up to the politicians and the church leaders to talk about any other issues that come up as a result of the work of science.
Sadly the five people directly involved in my birth have died: Patrick Steptoe, Bob Edwards and my Mum and Dad (Lesley and John Brown) and Jean Purdy. Jean is often forgotten by the history books but she was assistant to Edwards and Steptoe and was the first to spot the cells dividing late at night in a laboratory – those cells became me! She was also a major character in setting up the first ever IVF clinic, making the technique available to many.
My only regret is that because of the controversy it was a long time before Edwards and Steptoe were recognised for their amazing achievements and what they brought to the world. Edwards was awarded a Nobel Prize for the development of in vitro fertilisation in 2010, by which time he was too frail to collect his award. He was knighted by the Queen in the 2011 Birthday Honours List, despite the fact I was born in 1978! Compare that with the honours handed out to UK sports stars from the 2012 London Olympics! Every one of them got a gong within a year!
In recent years I have been to IVF clinics in the UK, Brazil and Bulgaria and chatted to women who want a baby so much. It has made me realise how lucky I was that I was able to conceive my sons Cameron and Aiden without any help.
I think it is hard for the vast majority of people – me included – who had no real issues over getting pregnant to appreciate all that people, such as those in this group, go through when they enter into an IVF programme, with no guarantees of success.
Journalists try to get in touch with me all the time. My family toured with me to Japan and all across America when I was a baby and the press attention just got too much. I’m glad that Mum and Dad decided that I should be brought up in a normal way. They told me when I was four years old about my birth and showed me film of my birth that had been made by the Central Office of Information of the UK Government.
It was rare then for any birth to be filmed, or for anyone to have such early pictures of a baby. There were no mobile phones and digital cameras to capture such life events, as there are today.
I have a normal office job working for a shipping company in Bristol and my husband Wes is a night-club doorman. The press have written all kinds of rubbish about me over the years, especially in the early days when Mum and Dad were suddenly pitched into the worldwide interest in their baby. They had tried for 10 years for a baby and basically they just wanted to take me home and look after me. I understand why journalists try to get in touch with us all the time and as long as they are polite I don’t mind. I suppose I have just got used to the attention as it has been there all my life.
I miss my Mum and Dad a lot and I particularly miss Mum helping me with my two boys. She was fantastic with Cameron up until just days before she died she looked after him in the afternoon when he came home from school before I got in from work. Sadly her death was before I knew I was pregnant with Aiden. Mum certainly loved babies. Here is a picture of my mum.