Further questions to Louise Joy Brown
Dear Ms Brown, your birthday is a day of great importance in the history of reproductive medicine and was a sensation 40 years ago. Your birth as the first person conceived by in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) has given hope to millions of people with an unfulfilled desire to have children, while triggering a revolution in reproductive medicine. Today, you yourself are the mother of two children and are actively involved in educating people about IVF through your life story. We look forward to learning more about you and your special past.
When did you learn that you had been conceived through IVF? How did your parents explain this to you?
My mum and dad sat me down when I was four years old and showed me the film of my birth. They simply said mum needed help from Robert Edwards and Patrick Steptoe in Ryder for me to be born. That film is now on Youtube might think watching it! I was about to go to school and they knew others would mention it. I think I was around 10 years old before I appreciated just what it meant. I don't think my mum and dad could ever have imagined the way that IVF has developed. Latest announcements say there are eight million IVF babies in the world. I am just an ordinary person with a job, a husband and two children and it is a bit scary to think that people all over the world know about me.
Tell us your story - what was it like to grow up knowing you were the very first person to be created through artificial insemination?
After a few years of travelling around the world my parents took me out of the spotlight so I could have an ordinary life. Most of the time I am just at work or with my family and then suddenly there is a press enquiry or invitation to an IVF clinic or a student wanting to question me. These days I have someone to handle the constant attention and interest, which is worldwide. The 40th anniversary has meant I have had invitations from four continents where I have seen first hand the amazing work being done to help people with fertility problems. I set out the full story of what happened to my family in the book "Forty Years of IVF – My Life As The World's First Test Tube Baby" so that people can read all the crazy things that happened to us – and still keep hap-pening to me because of the world reaction to my birth. Mostly people are friendly and polite but there are still some negative comments, especially online, about IVF.
You are very committed to educating people about IVF and empowering couples who wish to have children - based on your experience, what advice would you give people with an unfulfilled desire to have children?
My mum always believed she would have a child. Even though the technique had never worked before she kept her belief and hope. She always said that helped her a lot. All I can say to people is to keep believing that it will happen for you.
What do you think? How has your life story positively influenced other people?
Really it is my mum and dad who should get the praise. All I did was be born a healthy baby! My name is always the first one people think about when IVF is mentioned but the real pioneers are Robert Edwards, Patrick Steptoe their assistant Jean Purdy and my mum and dad, Lesley and John Brown. They changed the world.
Thank you, Ms Brown, for taking time to answer our questions. We wish you everything of the best for your birthday and many more successful and happy years together with your family!