When it got to the point that she wasn't getting up in the morning, Barbara Brooks had to tell herself she was allowed only two hours a month to be depressed.
Two hours for freely going over whatever unknown trick of fate had left her and her husband, Dan'l, unable to have children. Two hours to indulge the hurt she stifled when an unknowing acquaintance would blithely strike with the dreaded question: So when are you and your husband going to have children?
Today those hours were but a distant recollection as Brooks, her husband, and their 13-month-old son, also named Dan'l, joined about 100 other proud parents of "test-tube babies" at a jubilant gathering at the Omni International Hotel this day before Mother's Day.
Brooks, 42, of Springfield, helped to arrange the gathering to honor two physicians who set up the first program for in vitro fertilization in this country five years ago -- Drs. Howard and Georgeanna Jones.
"They made it possible for us to enjoy the joys of teething, toilet training and training wheels," said Roger Carr, father of the first test tube baby in this country. "They provided us all with hope when there was no hope left."
To the women who came to honor the couple who made them mothers, the process remains nothing short of miraculous.
The Joneses' feats of fertilization, which followed in vitro successes in Britain and Australia, have resulted in a total of 116 babies.
Howard Jones, 74, says that since he and his wife, 72, began their pioneering efforts at Eastern Virginia Medical School, partly to "keep from fading away" after retirement, close to 100 programs have sprung up elsewhere in the country.
Patricia Grimaldi of Silver Spring had believed for almost 10 years that she couldn't have children because her fallopian tubes had been removed.
She would see a pregnant woman "and break into tears." Then she heard of the Joneses' success in December of 1981 in producing America's first test-tube baby, 5-pound, 12-ounce Elizabeth Jordan Carr. She told her husband on Christmas day 1982 that the Joneses had accepted them as patients.
Grimaldi was lucky. The procedure, which costs about $5,000 including hospital costs for each attempt, gave her a successful pregnancy on the first try. On October 26, 1983, she gave birth to Grace, now an adventuresome toddler. Others have not been so fortunate.
According to Jones, the odds are one in four for getting pregnant on each attempt. Judy Cremeans, 36, of Jackson, Mich., was back in Norfolk yesterday on her fourth attempt for a child.
"This is the fourth time and it's going to work this time," she said, tears welling up in her eyes.
The trials of the process created strong emotional ties among the couples during their trips to the clinic. They renewed those ties yesterday in a chaotic scene of strollers, bottles, and cries of "oh, she looks like you."
"You hugged me and told me to hang on on my first day," Kathy Dwyer, 32, of Milwaukee, Wis., told Barbara Brooks in the hotel lobby. "I did and now I have twins!"
Babies were by no means the only ones crying during the reunion. "I'm going to cry all weekend," said Linda Applegarth, 38, who was so superstitious she insisted on wearing the same perfume as other successful participants, and who gave birth to a girl 15 months ago.
Intended mothers are given hormones so they will produce more than one ovum. Doctors then extract ripe eggs, fertilize the eggs in a laboratory dish and reinsert them into the mother's womb. With luck, an egg attaches itself and develops.
Those who drifted today through the hotel lobby, where the squealing results of the procedure gathered with their parents, reacted with astonishment. "They're test-tube babies. That's marvelous," said one onlooker. "I didn't realize there were that many of them."