Thoughts after attending RESOLVE The National Infertility Association’s “Night of Hope”
How did your parents tell you?
That’s the number one question I get when people find out I was America’s first IVF baby.
I am asked that question by soon-to-be parents, new parents, health care providers… asking me simply because my parents were among those who had explain it all when no one was even talking about infertility (or were doing so in much more hushed tones).
The simple answer I give is: I cannot remember NOT knowing how I was born.
The less simple answer is that it is just my life. It is my normal.
Plus, I’ve seen the footage so many times now I have it memorized.
A young mother quietly walks beside her husband, cradling her tiny newborn daughter in her arms.
The dark-haired pair takes their seats in front of hundreds of news reporters.
Camera crews from local and overseas television and radio stations crowd around them. They don’t seem overwhelmed by all the press, but instead are too busy gazing down at their daughter to look up in order for the photographers to get the perfect shot of the new family.
The sound of constantly-clicking camera shutters is lulling the baby girl to sleep. She is three days old, and this will be her first — but not her last — press conference.
I don’t remember that day. But I do remember the first time I watched that scene.
I also remember thinking there was no way that little baby was really me. Because I was just an average girl and judging by all the fuss everyone was making, this baby on film was special: She was the first.
On Dec. 28, 1981, I became the first baby born in the United States via in-vitro fertilization (IVF.) The infertility treatment was
controversial at the time, and as yet unproven in the United States, although there had been successes overseas years earlier with the birth of the world’s first IVF baby, England’s Louise Brown.
The first time I realized I was not born like everyone else was also the first time I watched a NOVA documentary – “A Daughter for Judy” — of my own birth.
It is my only “home movie,” even though it went through months of filming, editing, and post-production.
The experience of watching it for the first time, however, was not like popping in home movies that make you nostalgic.
To outsiders, the fact that I have 10 giant volumes of scrapbooks documenting news articles written about my parents and stacks of VHS tapes and DVDS of my various television appearances may seem odd.
And, as a parent now myself, I can tell you it is indeed a strange feeling to not know what my first word was since I have meticulously documented every bit of baby-babble my he has ever uttered (my son’s first word was hi!)
I don’t have a baby book.
Instead, I can tell you what my first headline read: “She’ a cutie!” (Thank you, Virginian-Pilot)
When the documentary was finished, I remember everyone in the room watching with us turning around to see my reaction: What did the 5 year old girl who was the central character of this history-making event think of herself?
I think part of me must have known that everyone in that room with me that day was looking to me to utter something poignant or profound about my own existence.
And, I’m half convinced I must have known these reporters were all just looking for a really excellent quote (because as reporter myself now, I know I always am).
Instead, I remember quite vividly, with all those reporter’s eyes in the room trained on me simply asking my doctors: “Are all babies that slimy when they come out?”
Everyone in the room laughed. Reporters scribbled furiously.
It was, of course, just what the reporters needed.
But it was also completely normal. It was just my life. On film.
Everyone has their own normal. This is mine.