Jul. 25, 2008

From the Garden

by Anne Sexton

Come, my beloved,
consider the lilies.
We are of little faith.
We talk too much.
Put your mouthful of words away
and come with me to watch
the lilies open in such a field,
growing there like yachts,
slowly steering their petals
without nurses or clocks.
Let us consider the view:
a house where white clouds
decorate the muddy halls.
Oh, put away your good words
and your bad words. Spit out
your words like stones!
Come here! Come here!
Come eat my pleasant fruits.

"From the Garden" by Anne Sexton from The Complete Poems. © Houghton Mifflin Company, 1999. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the 30th birthday of the world's first baby conceived by in vitro fertilization, Louise Brown, born in Oldham, England (1978).

Her parents had been trying to conceive for nine years. A doctor told Lesley Brown, the future mother of Louise, that she had a blocked fallopian tube and referred her to Dr. Patrick Steptoe, who had been conducting research on fertilization for many years. The Browns decided that they would have Dr. Steptoe harvest an egg from Lesley's ovary, which would then be fertilized with her husband's sperm in a laboratory. Dr. Edwards would perform this fertilization in vitro (from Latin, literally "in glass" — coined in reference to the test tube in which experiments were performed). A few days later, Dr. Steptoe would transfer the newly formed embryo back into the uterus of Lesley Brown.

The research leading up to successful human in vitro fertilization spanned many decades. In the late 1800s, a research doctor had extracted embryos from an Angora rabbit and placed them in the uterus of an already pregnant Belgian rabbit. The litter this pregnant Belgian rabbit produced consisted of four Belgians and two Angoras. Through this, the doctor proved that it was possible to take embryos at a certain early stage and put them into a gestational carrier — in other words, a biological surrogate mother — and that these transplanted embryos would develop normally.

Scientists began to study eggs and embryos widely in the laboratory. It took researchers two years to figure out correctly the timing of human egg maturation.

In 1959, Dr. M.C. Chang, a reproductive biologist, performed an in vitro fertilization that resulted in the first successful live birth. He took eggs from a black rabbit, fertilized them in the lab with sperm from another black rabbit, and transferred the resulting embryos to a white rabbit, which gave birth to a litter of young black rabbits. His experiment formed the basis for the first successful human in vitro fertilization.

The procedure done by Dr. Steptoe and Dr. Edwards was successful. Louise Brown was delivered on this day in 1978 at 11:47 p.m. by Caesarean section. She weighed 5 pounds 12 ounces. When she was four years old, her parents told her about the manner of her conception and showed her the famous video of her birth.

She has a younger sister, also conceived by IVF. In December of 2006, Louise Brown gave birth to a son, conceived without any fertility treatment. For many years she earned a living taking care of children at a nursery. Today, she is a postal worker near Bristol, a job that leads to puns about "deliveries," according to sources. Today, there are over a million children that have been conceived by in vitro fertilization, and the birth rate of IVF conceptions is now near 1 percent.

It's the birthday of writer and philosopher Eric Hoffer, (books by this author) born in New York City (1902). His mother died when he was seven years old. Shortly afterwards, Eric Hoffer mysteriously went blind. He finally got his eyesight back eight years later, and he was eager to catch up on his education, so he read every book he could get his hands on.

He moved to California and worked as a dishwasher, a factory worker, a farm hand, and a longshoreman. His plan at each job was work long enough to save some money and then take the time to do nothing but read. He held library cards in six different towns in California, so he could always have access to books no matter where he was in the state. His favorite book was the Essays of Montaigne, and he carried it everywhere with him in a rucksack. The first book he submitted for publication was a handwritten manuscript, and it was published in 1951 as The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements.

Eric Hoffer said, "When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other."

It's the birthday of Elias Canetti, (books by this author) born in Russe, Bulgaria (1905). He's best known for his novel The Tower of Babel (1935). The area of Bulgaria where Canetti he grew up was so ethnically diverse that his grandfather had to speak 17 languages in order to run a grocery store. In 1927 he was caught up in a street riot in Vienna, which became the formative experience of his life. He started researching crowds and their importance in history and published Crowds and Power in 1960. He won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1981.

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