Their births sparked a wave of controversy in the 1970’s and 1980’s, and two of the world’s first people conceived via In Vitro Fertilization met face-to-face for the first time on Friday morning.
The women, Louise Brown and Elizabeth Carr, met at the annual Midwest Reproductive Symposium, which is taking place at the Drake Hotel in Chicago. They shared a big, tearful hug, and they sat down to talk about their remarkable shared experiences.
“It’s hard to describe it. It’s so emotional,” Brown said.
Brown, a native of England, was the first baby ever conceived and born using the IVF procedure. Her birth in 1978 sent shockwaves through the scientific, religious, and political communities, and created a controversy over the appropriate role of science in human reproduction.
“Mom just wanted a baby,” she said. “In interviews she said if a doctor told her to go to Trafalgar Square in London and that standing upside down on her head would have gotten her pregnant, she would have done it. She believed she was going to have a baby at the end of it, and I definitely think that’s what helped.”
Carr, a Boston native, was the first American baby born after being conceived by IVF. She was born in 1981, and her birth was so controversial that her parents checked in under an assumed name at the Virginia hospital where she was born.
“IVF was illegal in Massachusetts at the time, and they had to fly down to Virginia for all of her appointments,” she said. “They worked hard to get me here and tried something that had never been tried before in the U.S. My mother jokes that if she had really known what was going on she wouldn’t have done it. She was blissfully unaware that she was going to be the first.”
The births of the two women helped pave the way for millions of couples to have a chance at parenthood even in the face of infertility, and both women are advocates for making IVF treatments more affordable and more accessible to the public.
“We’re still not there yet,” Carr said. “It’s still very hard to find the money to put together to go through a single IVF cycle, and a lot of times you have to go through multiple cycles. The more we can bring down barriers, the more successful we’re going to be. “