In Vitro Fertilization – Remembering Robert Edwards

My two babies – one of these became our daughter Peachy

This week women across the world lost a pioneer – a visionary leader who fought to give us hope. A brilliant mind that pushed past what others thought was possible to present women everywhere with life-changing opportunities.

I’m actually not talking about Margaret Thatcher, the former British Prime Minister who passed away last Monday (though I do think Thatcher is an pretty fascinating woman…the kind of lady I would love to drink wine and watch Downton Abbey with). I’m actually talking about a different Brit – Nobel laureate Robert Edwards.

What’s that you say, you’re not familiar with Edwards? It’s ok, I wasn’t either. At least I didn’t know him by name. But his life’s work and achievements – well that’s something I know pretty well. You see, my life would be profoundly different if it wasn’t for the work of Mr. Edwards.

Robert Edwards developed the science that is known today as In Vitro Fertilization, or IVF. It’s estimated that roughly 350,000 babies are born every year via IVF. And while I can’t speak for the other 349,999 that came to be in 2012…I can humbly thank him for one of them…my sweet miracle of a daughter Peachy.

Like so many working women do, I spent a lot of my early years laser focused on my career. That meant I married in my 30s, and started the journey to be a mom soon there after. I’ll cut to the punchline and say that we were not successful starting a family on our own. Nope, it turns out that getting pregnant, at least for me, was a heck of a lot harder than those middle school videos made it seem.

Since we were older – we sought assistance at the one year mark – which led to tests, fertility drugs, and candidly some of the darkest days of my life. As I was giving myself shots in the stomach in my office in between meetings, I watched countless friends welcome beautiful babies into the world. Consumed by my own depression and heartache, I missed baby showers, hospital visits, and early weeks when my new mom friends desperately needed my support. I was unable to celebrate joy for anything baby related. I became an aunt for the first time to two gorgeous twin boys, and cried so hard after getting home from the hospital after meeting them the first time that I don’t remember much else from our first encounter. These things haunt me today. I should have worked harder to be less self-consumed, to focus more on the great things happening around me, to be there for the friends that needed me. Hindsight is always 20/20.

When the “cheap and easy” fertility options didn’t work (and cheap and easy needs to be written in sarcasm font – because nothing about infertility is cheap or easy) – we turned to IVF. We fell into the category of unexplained infertility – which accounts for about 20% of the infertile population. That meant our doctor felt strongly that we would be successful with IVF. With a lot of hope, a ton of fear, and a significant portion of our savings we jumped in with both feet. And November 3rd of 2011, my sweet husband’s birthday, I had my egg retrieval surgery.

You can see where this is headed. It worked. We were one of the lucky ones – extremely lucky. Our first IVF took and both embryos we transferred took. We were pregnant with twins! I felt like I hit the infertile lottery. I would never have to go through that again…the depression, the drugs…the daily everybody-up-in-your-business office visits. The overachiever in me was basking in the fact that I was 200% pregnant.

One of our babies didn’t make it to see the second trimester. It was an unsettling feeling – to mourn the loss of a life while simultaneously celebrating another. And in July of 2012 our miracle baby arrived…happy, healthy, and a week late (I could’t get pregnant – but boy could I stay pregnant). She is the light of our lives, the greatest treasure we’ve ever known. But you already know that – the feeling we as parents have for our children is the same regardless of whether they entered our lives by accident, by assistance, or by adoption. It’s all the same all-consuming love.

So here I am, in tears over the death of a man I never knew. A man who can be credited for giving infertile couples everywhere hope. Thank you Mr. Edwards, for your intelligent and unrelenting pursuit of our dreams. May you rest in peace.

You can read more about Robert Edwards here.

If you are one of 7.3 million people in the US struggling with infertility, Resolve is here to support you.

4 thoughts on “In Vitro Fertilization – Remembering Robert Edwards

  1. Stephanie,

    This is such a lovely tribute. I am one of the (likely) many who didn’t know who Robert Edwards was. But wow – imagine the impact his discovery has had on the lives of so many families! His legacy will certainly outlive him.

    I’m so glad the IVF worked out for you and gave you a beautiful daughter. Families come in many different shapes, sizes and with any number of origin stories. Thanks for sharing yours!

  2. Just starting the IVF process my next cycle. I have a very similar story of being self consumed, jealous of new mothers, even my own sisters who have had four children since my husband and I started trying 3 1/2 years ago. I’m so happy for you and your successful story! Wish me luck!! 🙂 -Cari-

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