Your Life brings together 25 of the 5,000-plus children conceived at the Midland Fertility Services
Tomorrow is the 34th birthday of Louise Brown, the world’s first test-tube baby.
Since that momentous day in 1978 more than five million babies have been born worldwide through IVF.
This year it’s 25 years since Midland Fertility Services in the West Midlands, one of the UK’s first fertility clinics, opened.
From just five babies in 1988, it now has 30 births a month. Here, Your Life brings together 25 of the 5,000-plus children conceived at the clinic since its opening.
1+4: Clinic’s first baby and siblings: We sold our house to pay for IVF Brett Rigby, 23, and his sister Michelle, 21, were the clinic’s first siblings. Their parents Pauline, 52, an educational worker, and Martin, 53, an office manager, live in Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands.
“After five years of trying to conceive, tests revealed my fallopian tubes were irreparably damaged,” says Pauline. “We were told to go away and forget about having children.
“In vitro fertilisation was still quite new.
Louise Brown had only been born six years previously.
“One attempt cost us £1,350, a fortune then. We downsized to afford treatment in London. In 1987, after two failed attempts, I asked to be referred to the new Midland Fertility clinic. On my third attempt, I got pregnant. The doctors were as excited as us!
“Brett was six weeks early. The clinic sent us flowers. Two years later we tried again and Michelle was born in 1991. We feel so blessed.”
Brett, a computer technician, says: “Whether you’re conceived naturally or with a little help in a test tube doesn’t matter. I’m proud to be the clinic’s first IVF baby.”
2: Amy Barlow, a teacher, and Chris, a student, both 22, were the clinic’s first twins. Mum Linda Barlow, 54, lives in Aldridge, where the clinic is based, and conceived on her second IVF attempt.
3: First frozen embryo transfer baby : We were on the verge of adopting
Michael Robinson, 21, a lifeguard, lives with parents Karen, 56, a hairdresser, and Howard, 57, a builder, in Wolverhampton.
“After 10 years of trying, tests revealed my fallopian tubes were blocked,” says Karen. “We were about to adopt when a new GP suggested IVF. I got pregnant on our first attempt but miscarried. I cried for two days. Even my GP cried. Then the clinic suggested thawing frozen embryos from a previous attempt and transferring some to my womb. It worked first time.
“Holding Michael in my arms after the birth was magical, especially as he was the clinic’s first frozen baby. We were all over the papers and he was nicknamed Frostie.”
5: Sarah Gentle, 16, from Shrewsbury, was the clinic’s 500th baby. She was born after the second embryo transfer attempt by her parents – Janet and John, both pharmacists aged 49.
6+7: Clinic’s 1,000th + 1,500th babies: We used the same sperm donor
Ben Wilson-Walker, 14, and Samantha, 13, live with their birth mum Marian, 43, a mental health nurse, and her civil partner, retired police officer Julie, 49, in Harborne, Birmingham, along with sister Sophie, four.
“I’d had a hysterectomy following a car crash so Marian had to be the birth mum,” says Julie. “After considering family members to be the sperm donor, we opted to keep it anonymous. The clinic selected a donor based on height, eye and hair colour.
“The IUI treatment, where sperm is inserted into the woman’s uterus at the time of ovulating, worked first time. Ben was born by Caesarean and a year later Samantha was born using the same sperm.
“At the 10-year storage limit for frozen sperm, we tried again, but it didn’t work. By then sperm donations had dropped due to a change in the law, meaning donor children could trace their natural fathers. So we used a supply from a European clinic. Sophie was born in 2008. Sadly she has heart problems and will need a transplant.
But we can’t thank the clinic enough.”
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