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On Parenting
Posted at 02:01 PM ET, 07/25/2011

From test tubes to social networks, fertility’s journey

Today is Louise Brown’s 33rd birthday. It’s been 33 years of life for the woman whose existence proved that her test-tube origination was viable and 33 years of exploration and innovation in the world of fertility.

“Test-tube baby” is now considered a quaint term for the experiment that led to a proliferation of options for families who would not have been able to conceive.
A family photo of Louise Brown and her parents, Lesley and John. (Courtesy of The Washington Post)

Last year, the Nobel Prize committee awarded one of the original researchers for his work and his perseverance in the face of intense criticism. Brown’s birthday may be a good time to reflect on the perseverance of the families who are and have been part of the community those doctors created. Enduring fertility treatment, I know, is often a wrenching experience that may or may not lead to a child.

When my husband and I struggled with these challenges a few years ago, most people close to me assumed I preferred discretion and privacy. I didn’t. I wanted to talk, sometimes scream, about it. Apparently, I had company.

“Talking about my infertility is one major step in getting through this emotional roller coaster,” Marni Hotchkiss wrote to me in an e-mail conversation about her new online forum BridgeToBaby.

When the Bethesda mother first entered the world of fertility treatment — her first child, now 3-years-old, was conceived naturally after a miscarriage and several unsuccessful intrauterine insemination attempts — she found few outlets to share her experience and connect with others in a similar situation.

As a web designer and developer, she decided this spring to build what she calls a Facebook-like Web site. Users can create their own profiles, blogs and connect, or “bridge,” with each other in their own social media network. They also trade recommendations for doctors and look for egg donors and surrogates. It’s a forum I might have spent hours perusing a few years ago.

“It’s a place to connect, share stories and resources and … and not feel so alone,” she wrote.

Hotchkiss, who has had medical and fertility difficulties since the birth of her son, and her husband are now hoping to expand their family by pursuing surrogacy. The ups, downs and strange reality of that journey she is, naturally, chronicling on the site.

By  |  02:01 PM ET, 07/25/2011

 
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