Happy Birthday Louise Joy Brown, First IVF Baby
Louise Brown celebrated her 36th birthday on Friday, July 25, 2014. Her full name is Louise Joy Brown, although now she is married to Wesley Mullinder.
I’ve written before about Louise. She is, after all, the first in vitro fertilization (IVF) baby in the world. First test tube baby. You can read about it on Pathtofertility, on other blog dates to learn more about the first IVF baby in the news. Her parents led the way, as did her doctors, to a course of fertility treatment that has enabled over five million babies to come into the world.
Louise Brown went on to have her own children, with no need for medical assistance and certainly not needing IVF. Infertility, in her case, was not genetic. I wonder about the big sigh of relief from her parents when they discovered that Louise would not need the help that they did. Perhaps they would have just continued to be grateful that IVF was there for Louise had she needed it. How grateful the rest of the world is that IVF exists.
IVF Pregnancy Success
There’s always a first and for IVF pregnancy success stories, Louise Joy Brown is it.
We celebrate her birthday and her parents and her doctors. While everything might not have been perfect every step of the way, they took the brave steps none the less. In fact, it might be very well true that if we looked at the procedures and information available now, we would be aghast at the protocols followed and not followed with Louise’s conception.
I’m pretty sure that’s called Monday morning quarterbacking. It’s important to remember that there was no example to follow. No how to manual. That’s what they were creating together. Looking back is a great way to learn though. Informed consent was not delivered to Louise’s parents the way that it would be in a responsible and ethical IVF fertility program today. First time, there was no role model to follow. That’s what the combination of doctors and patients created. The first, perhaps not perfect, model of how to perform IVF on a woman who had no other way of becoming pregnant.
Flawed consent, flawed protocols or not, the medical team was impeccable as proved by their ivf pregnancy success, the birth of a healthy child. We applaud them for their willingness to create a practice that has been refined, discussed and labored over ever since, in the quest of making fertility treatment the most effective and ethical it can be.
Happy birthday to Louise Brown. First IVF baby in the world. We’re glad that you’re here.
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Fertility Wishes from Meditation Reflections
I did a meditation today online. Amazing how high tech everything now is.
A free online meditation course by Osho, who describes himself as a contemporary sage or guru and has written many, many books. The course started on July 21 and I started it today with today’s meditation.
Free though it is, I did not find the time for it in the last three days. Although I believe that it will offer something substantial in my life, I did not take the few minutes to use the program.
How many of us do just that? Know that something will help and don’t avail ourselves of that help? How many times do I have an idea that something could help and yet I don’t reach for it?
Do we get frozen? Does an infertility diagnosis or cancer or heart disease or mental illness make our very beings slow down to a stop? Does inertia then take over?
Infertility Feelings and Honesty
Infertility made me feel numb. I don’t think I would describe it as frozen. I still got up and went to work. Most days. I still participated in family functions. Some of the time. I still saw and spoke with my friends. But not with as much honesty about how I was feeling.
It’s odd to talk about being frozen on a warm, muggy summer day. For me, it was more about being numb. Because if I was numb, I couldn’t feel as deeply. And I was willing to give up the happy part of my life to avoid feeling how bad it really felt when my fertility treatment cycle failed. Again. And again.
Numb meant that nothing penetrated as fully as it might have. It felt like there was a grey filter between me and the rest of the world. I actually avoided doing fun things because if I cracked the door open to my feelings, I was afraid of what might pour out.
I was deeply afraid of the depth of my sadness and grief around infertility and loss of fertility.
Maybe you feel that way too?
Maybe it’s scary to think about feeling happy or even ok. Maybe it’s reassuring to stay numb and not let anything penetrate too deeply. I know I felt it was necessary. That it was a survival skill that I needed to employ.
Fertile Birthday Wishes for Fertility Treatment
Today’s my birthday. What an awful day while I was in fertility treatment. Another year with no baby. It was awful. I hid from my birthday while I was in the throes of medication, ultrasounds, procedures and treatment cycles.
Thank goodness for the sunlight that crept in anyway. That sunlight was hand delivered by my sisters, my parents, my husband and my best friends. The light that they brought in reminded me that I was a person. A person in pain, yes. Still, a person, worthy of a birthday candle. A birthday present. And a birthday wish. We all know what I was wishing for, no secret there. You know too, don’t you?
Today, I offer my birthday wish to you. For you. To have the baby that you are wishing and dreaming and hoping for. To find and allow that bit of sunlight in, at least occasionally, in safe places and safe ways.
May I offer a suggestion?
It's Fertile Yoga. Three times a week, free. A safe place to feel just a little bit. To feel just a little less numb.
I will hold you there, I promise.
May my birthday wishes for you come true.
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Fertility Loss and a Mom's Love
Today’s my mom’s birthday. It’s not an easy birthday this year. At least for me, not sure about for her although I will ask her later.
I’ve been grappling with emotions, actions, decisions and yes, words and terminology ever since my sister died less than two months ago. Do I still have two sisters, only one is deceased? Am I still one of three sisters? One of three daughters? Do I have to preface a comment with “younger” anymore since I no longer have an “older” sister? No answers to any of those questions yet and of course they have me wondering.
The loss of a child or a pregnancy loss demands a certain thoughtfulness around these questions because it hurts when we don’t acknowledge a life or even the beginning or possibility of a life. For those of us who have undergone fertility treatment, IVF particularly, we see embryos that are dividing and “growing”. Yet they are not children or even babies and will not be until they are born.
So why do they so often have names? And without question, these embryos carry our hopes and dreams for the children that they could become. If they just would. If they just would continue to divide and implant and thrive and continue developing to become the baby we are hoping for.
We mourn losses that may not make sense to others. We mourn menstruating each month when we are hoping that this will be the month that our journey towards parenthood will begin. We mourn our embryos not turning into our daughters and our sons. We mourn pregnancy losses, no matter how early, when they do not continue into becoming our children.
And we mourn the death of a child. Whether an infant loss or a two-year-old or a seven-year-old or a fifty-four-year-old. It is not our expectation to outlive our children. It’s not what we believe is the natural order of things.
Happy Birthday to Our Mom
It’s my mom’s birthday today and she has two living daughters who are here to celebrate it with her. My sister Shari believed in heaven and I have no doubt that she is where she wanted to be; with my father and uncle and grandparents. I have no doubt that Shari is sending my mom love and smiles and sunshine and warmth and hugs and kisses today. I have no doubt at all. I never, ever would doubt either of my sisters' ability to continue to be a loving presence, no matter what the circumstances. And I have enough faith for us all.
I have faith that my mom is wrapped up in love today, that the cool breezes and the spring sun and emerging buds are my sister Shari wrapping her up lovingly. I have faith that this is a glorious day because she was born and that there is joy today because she is still here with us.
I know this is a hard birthday without the physical presence of my sister Shari. I know that losses feel like the bottoms of our lives have dropped out.
Another thing that I know about my sister Shari is that she would want my mother to enjoy her birthday. My sister Shari was a joyful person despite pain, setbacks and difficulties. She would have wanted my mom, our mom, to feel loved today.
I’d like to think that all of us who have experienced losses have that additional resource of feeling loved by those beings not here with us on the earth. And if you don’t believe that or can’t feel it, that’s ok, I don’t want to impose my belief system on you.
I will just hold some extra space for all of us who are feeling those losses. Imagine that space as a vast reservoir of love and peace.
To my mom, today, a special birthday wish from all three of her daughters. We love you. We cherish you. We appreciate you. We’re so blessed to have you as our mother.
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Today is my husband's 55th birthday. Which makes him older than my father was when he died. Astonishing to think about. I've been good. I haven't made him go for a stress test or see a cardiologist (he has no heart disease in his family, which is what my Dad died of). It's been a long enough time since my father died that I don't project it on my husband anymore. Or at least not too often.
It is interesting to see the connections the brain makes. What one thinks about as it moves in and out of the past, present and future. The grandchildren that my father didn't get to meet, that he didn't even know about. The grandfather that they didn't get to meet, but only hear about second and third hand.
What infertility takes away and the unexpected gifts that are also offered. The loss that we are sure we are going to continue to feel. That sense, that absolutely knowing sometimes, that this will never work. The dread of not making our parents into grandparents. The understanding that we ourselves will not be grandparents either. Our families, our genes will not be continuing on, nor our heritages or lineage.
Except when it works. I know you know that it will never work. You will never become pregnant. Except that so often, so incredibly frequently, we do become pregnant. Treatment works, cycles succeed, we do become pregnant. We do have babies. Our families do continue. Our parents become grandparents, we become parents, our sisters and brothers become aunts and uncles and often, we watch our children play with their cousins.
Why are we in treatment? Because it works. Very often. Very frequently. It works. And we become parents.
For no other reason than it's my husband's birthday and he is now older than my father was when he died and that it's the second to last day of 2010, I offer up a wish for all of us.
That this is the year we become parents.
In the midst of infertility treatment, I refused to tell people my age. I was young, very young. A fact that every reproductive endocrinologist I ever saw was always happy to tell me. I know that my age made my fertility doctors hopeful for a few reasons.
It made my chances of becoming pregnant higher as maternal age is a predictor of success and I had age on my side.
There was time to work with; the doctors didn’t feel as much pressure as they would if I had been older, with my ovarian reserve diminishing each month.
And I felt old at 26. Old, incapable, insufficient, blighted. Old, old, old.
When I would meet someone, I would not mention my age. When it came up in conversation casually, I would not tell people my age. When I was asked pointedly, I refused to tell people my age. I would smile and say that it wasn’t something I talked about. I had one friend who truly was driven crazy by my refusal to tell her and I admit to a fairly medium size dose of satisfaction out of torturing her about it. After all, I was feeling my age in ways that she never suspected. Anyone who wanted to know my age that badly was not going to be someone I wanted to share my infertility pain with. No way.
Infertility ruined every birthday for six years. I hated my birthday, more even than New Year’s Eve, which was also an official marking of time. Every birthday confirmed my feeling of how old I was. Old, not young. Because it was clear, quickly with infertility treatment, that age was my enemy. I was beautiful at 26, lovely unlined skin, graceful and strong body. The pictures I have of myself of that age do not tell you the whole truth. Think Dorian Grey. Think of how that portrait aged and became scarred and ugly. That was how I felt. At 26, I felt old and ugly.
Therapy helped. Yoga helped. Friends who were able to listen and not advise helped. My best friend in the throes of her own infertility helped. My family helped tremendously. My mother helped. For my 30th birthday, my present was her Grandmother’s diamond wedding band. Having my mom pass down an heirloom to me at that time was critical. It wasn’t being saved for my sister who one day might be able to give her grandchildren. It was being given to me, with love and affection for who I was, right there, in the middle of being old and ugly. Boy, did that help. Thanks Mom!
Fighting for how I felt helped too. That is was ok to feel how I felt. That I didn’t have to judge how I felt on top of feeling how I felt. In yoga, we observe our breath, not to change it or judge it, but to notice and even appreciate it, just as it is.
And that’s where I got. I started to have moments of appreciating my strength, beauty and yes, youth. Moments when I was 27, more moments at 28. And I remember feeling quite lovely, beautiful and young at 31. Much younger than when I was 26.
Tomorrow I am 49. I understand that it’s a significant age. Multiples of 7, prime numbers, cycles of 7. All I know? Is that I feel beautiful. And young.