(AFP) – Jul 22, 2008
LONDON (AFP) — The birth of Louise Brown, the world's first IVF baby, hit headlines around the globe three decades ago -- but the married mother-of-one wants to keep her 30th birthday Friday low-key by contrast.
Brown -- who lives in Bristol, south-west England, with husband Wesley Mullinder and 18-month-old son Cameron, working as a shipping company administrator -- remains reluctantly in the public eye despite her modest lifestyle.
Although her birth opened the door for millions of infertile couples worldwide to give birth to IVF (in vitro fertilisation) or test tube babies, Brown has no big plans to celebrate the landmark date.
"I'm not really thinking of it as my 30th," she said. "I'm just carrying on as if this is a normal birthday.
"I might go out with my friends or I might have a meal with the family. I'm planning on having a quiet one."
Louise Joy Brown was born on July 25, 1978 at Oldham and District General Hospital in north-west England by Caesarean section, weighing five pounds 12 ounces (2.61 kilograms).
Her parents, Lesley and John, had been trying to have children for nine years but could not because Lesley Brown's fallopian tubes were blocked.
The couple's breakthrough came when they heard about research being carried out by Cambridge University physiologist Robert Edwards and gynaecologist Patrick Steptoe and signed up with them for fertility treatment.
Researchers created a fertilised embryo from the couple's egg and sperm in a laboratory and then implanted in Lesley Brown's womb.
The baby it created was Louise, who was told about her unusual conception by her parents just before she started school.
"Mum and Dad showed me the video of when I was born and tried to explain it to a four-year-old," she said.
"I think it was just in case children at school knew, because children can be quite cruel...the children used to ask questions like 'how did you fit in a test tube?' and things like that".
Brown insists she had a normal childhood, "the same as any other child". She was not unusual in her own family, at least -- her younger sister Natalie, born four years later, was also an IVF baby, the 40th in the world.
Natalie Brown later went on to become the first IVF baby herself to give birth -- naturally -- in 1999.
Louise Brown soon caught up. She married Mullinder, a nightclub doorman, in 2004 and had baby Cameron in 2006, also after a natural conception.
Despite her shyness over being the world's first test-tube baby, Brown remains close to Robert Edwards, the eminent researcher whose work helped bring about her birth.
His colleague Steptoe died in 1988, but Edwards has kept in touch with the Brown family, even attending Louise Brown's wedding.
They were reunited again earlier this month at a ceremony celebrating 30 years of IVF at the Bourn Hall Clinic, a conception centre in eastern England co-founded by Edwards and Steptoe.
"Bob is really busy all the time but we really like to see him," Brown said.
"It's nice to have a close relationship. He's like a grandad to me."
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