Tell us about the best and worst part of being the first human to have been born after conception by in vitro fertilisation (IVF).
My birth is remembered for two reasons—a milestone in science and a hope to all the women yearning for motherhood. My parents were in the spotlight after my birth. It was also a bit sensational at that time and they received criticism due to debates related to the ethics of the IVF procedure. I feel people have an opinion and they are entitled to it. Infertility is a medical condition and if medical science can overcome it, I do not see any difference in trying to solve that with the help of medical treatment. Back then, I was subjected to more than 100 tests after my birth to ensure I was a ‘normal child’.
You were a much longed-for child. What was your childhood like?
I was born on July 25, 1978, at Lancashire. Barring the circumstances of my birth that my parents described as “bit different”, in all other sense I was a normal child, as normal as one can be. When I was born, the doctors suggested to my parents to keep my middle name as ‘Joy’. I am blessed to be the symbol of their joy on their hard work and their success story. While my parents kept me shielded from the criticism, they continued to receive it their entire lifetime. It motivated them to go on speaking assignments around the world as advocates for IVF.
How did it feel when you first realised that you are an IVF baby?
It was only when I started going to school that my parents told me that I was born through IVF. It was not a big deal for me as I always considered myself just like the other children around me. All my life, I have received media attention. While most of it has been positive, it surely has its own fatigue and strain—of being constantly followed around and having to constantly look over my shoulders. But as I grew older, I have been consciously using the media glare on me to be an advocate for IVF treatments.
There is still a lot of stigma surrounding infertility and IVF. How does it affect women?
Infertility is no more a condition associated only with women. Discussion around male infertility is always ignored. Couples suffer through a lot of emotional and psychological stress. I think no couple should be deprived of parenthood, and my birth was a ray of hope to millions of childless couples across the world. Through my association with ART Fertility Clinics India, I will be working towards the mission of making IVF the wise choice of treatment, enabling couples to realise the dream of parenthood. Another purpose is to assert that all those who need IVF should have access to it.
Is an IVF child different from any other child?
IVF children are as normal as other children. The only difference is the process of conception. It is impossible to distinguish between an IVF baby and other children born naturally. Despite being the first IVF baby, I gave birth to two young boys through normal pregnancy. Forty-three years of my life journey have been a testament of the success of IVF and how this medical intervention helped my parents enjoy the joys of parenthood, and me, my very life itself.
What is your typical day like?
A daily routine is honestly very hard to say. But I have always known I wanted to work for the cause of infertility and hence a typical day for me usually starts with planning meetings with my team at National Fertility Society. I do believe in work-life balance, and after a busy day I look forward to going back home to spend time with my husband and my two boys.
Do you have a bucket list?
I do not have a bucket list per se. But as an instant symbol of hope for couples across the world, my purpose is to assert that every woman has the right to have a child, and that treatment for fertility problems is a ‘right’ that should be made available to all women because IVF not only creates a child, but a family.