ON DECEMBER 28, 1981, ASSISTED REPRODUCTIVE TECHNOLOGY (ART)
BROUGHT INTO THE WORLD A CHILD OF IN VITRO FERTILIZATION. This came from the work of the Drs. Jones, practice, determination, and a bit of luck. My birth was touted to be a miracle of science and technology. Yet, aren’t all couples trying to conceive faced with the same characteristics my parents were faced with, the help of doctors, practice, determination and a bit of luck? The circumstances of my conception were new in the medical field, but children of assisted reproductive technologies are not different from or more special than every other child born throughout the world, no
matter what the circumstances are.
At age five I asked my parents where babies came from, a normal question that many parents dread answering. My parents had a uniquely difficult task of explaining my birth, something I hadn’t really thought about. I wanted to play outside in my sandbox and pretend to be a cook. I didn’t remember being on the cover of Life Magazine at age two, and I wasn’t told every day by my parents that I was special or unique for any other reason than being their child. My parents answered my question in the best way they could: they told me that Mommy and Daddy couldn’t have a child without the help of
some special doctors. That was it. That was good enough for me.
When I got a bit older, that explanation just wasn’t enough. I pressed further, but I don’t remember exactly when they told me I was the first IVF baby in the United States; it seems to me that I just always knew. What I was more curious about was the procedure my parents went through. That was where Drs. Howard and Georgeanna Jones came in.
One Mother’s Day Howard sat down with me to watch the Nova documentary about my birth. I had seen it before but had not really understood what it all meant. It was then at age seven that Howard explained just what IVF was and how I was conceived. That was it and that was good enough for me.
The fact that I have been featured in the media while growing up never made me feel any more special than my parents made me feel just by being their child. No matter what the case, children of assisted reproductive technologies all seem to feel the way I do. If my parents had told me every day that I was better than other children because I was special I wouldn’t be here today, I would have been beaten up on the playground years ago. Even with extraordinary circumstances surrounding the conception of children of assisted reproductive technologies, the results are the same: ordinary children doing extraordinary things.
Let children be children. We don’t need pressure placed on us to be more well-adjusted than other children, or smarter, or not to have birth defects or learning disabilities. When we’re naughty our parents scold us; when we’re good, we’re praised. When we’re horrible at math like I am, sometimes we fail. Since children of ART are not different, don’t expect perfection all the time. We always try our best because our parents have taught us to, but if sometimes our best isn’t good enough that’s OK, too. We’re just children.
Parents face many decisions when experiencing infertility and going through fertility treatments, and yet if they are successful, they face many other decisions as well. My parents didn’t know I was going to be the first IVF baby until after my mother got pregnant. They had always known they were going to tell me of the origins of my conception and, since I was the first, they didn’t really have an option after going public to let other couples know this procedure was available. But parents not in the same shoes as mine can choose two paths. First, they can tell their children how they were
conceived, or second, they can just let the children think they were conceived naturally. I’m not going to tell you what I think is wrong or right: I’m just going to say that whatever the parents choose will not matter in the long run if they treat their child the way they would treat any child born to them in any way. Children of ART can’t be picked out of a crowd, and really, who would know the difference? I think I would have missed out on some great relationships with people like the Drs. Jones and other people my family and I know because of IVF, but I would still be the same person.
Every day babies are conceived and born throughout the world, and what percentage of those are born with the help of assisted reproductive technologies doesn’t matter. What matters is that these techniques are available to infertile couples. It matters that wonderful doctors are helping people have a child, but it doesn’t matter how those children were conceived or born. What matters is that they are coming into the world at all. People get wrapped up in the ethics of reproductive medicines, and there are some things that the medical profession has had to grapple with over the years and is grappling with now, but what ART comes down to is helping a couple bring a normal, healthy child into the world.
My baby book may not look like other children’s because not many people can say they’ve seen pictures of when they were four cells old, but to me, that’s normal.