Headlines of the Past – Dec. 29, 1981: Its a girl! Westminster test-tube baby Elizabeth Jordan Carr born – The Gardner News

The final part of a yearlong series

The arrival of Westminster newborn Elizabeth Jordan Carr to the world was met with a little more excitement than your average birth announcement.

At 7:46 a.m. on Dec. 28, 1981, Elizabeth became the first baby born in the United States from the in vitro fertilization procedure, and the 15th in the world.

The procedure was conducted at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Va., and she was delivered at Norfolk General Hospital by Dr. Mason Andrews, weighing 5 pounds 12 ounces.

Elizabeths mother, Judith Carr, a 28-year-old schoolteacher at the Applewild School in Fitchburg at the time, had been unable to conceive normally because of complications during earlier unsuccessful pregnancies.

She and her husband, Roger, sought this method, which came some three years after Englands Louise Brown became the worlds first test-tube baby, as the press tabbed her.

To this day, Elizabeth still bristles when someone refers to her as the nations first test-tube baby.

Ive always found it funny because no test tubes were actually used in my conception, she noted with a chuckle. Ive always joked that some reporter likely came up with that term and it stuck.

The technique was conducted at Eastern Virginia Medical School under the direction of Dr. Howard Jones and Dr. Georgeanna Seegar Jones, who were the first to attempt the process in the United States.

When Judith Carr was in her early years of college, she had her appendix out and the scar tissue from the operation caused many of her issues.

She ended up having several ectopic (tubal) pregnancies prior to my being born, Elizabeth noted.

The Carrs sought the assistance of the Joneses in Virginia because, at the time, the in vitro fertilization procedure was illegal in Massachusetts.

Three days after her birth, Elizabeth was the guest of honor at her first-ever press conference with her parents, as she blissfully slept to the whirring and clicking of the cameras.

From that moment on, the youngster from Westminster would have much of her early life commemorated in the news media: from the Nova documentary A Daughter for Judy to the Smithsonian Institute requesting her baptismal gown for its permanent display.

At a very young age, Elizabeth soon realized that her life was a bit different from other youngsters. However, doctors helped her understand and eventually explain her unique entrance into the world to others.

I was taught at a very young age from one of my doctors how to explain the procedure, Elizabeth said, recalling her response when asked. The egg and the sperm are fertilized in a petri dish, the egg is placed back in the mothers womb and, ta-da, out pops a baby nine months later.

I was about 5 when (the doctor) explained it to me in very simple terms and its just always stuck with me, she added.

It also helped to produce a rather comical recollection from her fourth-grade health class at Westminster Elementary School.

The teacher was giving a birds and the bees lecture on how babies are made, she said, And I raised my hand and said, Well, not always, and then I proceeded to give a lecture on how I was born.

I can still picture the health teachers face because she was just absolutely mortified, Elizabeth remembered with a laugh. She didnt quite know what to say.

Elizabeth attended Oakmont Regional High School where she graduated with the Class of 2000, living as normal a life as any teenager would hope for.

She played field hockey, took part in choir, the Drama Club, the Mock Trial Club, attended a sleepaway summer camp every year, and did just about everything, she noted.

The only time the normalcy was interrupted was when newspapers or film crews came around to do updates.

The (Boston) Globe did some features and there were some (film) documentaries, she recalled of her high school years. I did put my foot down because a camera crew wanted to come to a homecoming dance with me and I said no, they couldnt come to the dance but they could take photos of me getting ready. Id been pretty vocal about keeping my privacy.

Occasionally, she would miss school to attend infertility conferences around the globe.

I would go off to conferences when I was in high school to speak, noting that she once went to Prague and another time spoke before the United Nations. But I was just out of school. For kids who knew me around here, they didnt know. They must have figured I was on a trip or on vacation. Its not exactly something you lead conversations with.

After high school, Elizabeth attended Simmons College in Boston where she was a journalism major.

During her sophomore year of college, she did an internship at the Boston Globe, then after graduation interned for a summer at the Virginian-Pilot the newspaper that originally covered her birth.

She later attended the Poynter Institute for Journalism in St. Petersburg, Fla., for a yearlong fellowship, became a reporter in Maine, got married and then went back to the Globe.

While at the Globe and expecting her first child, Elizabeth realized the event would likely make big news the child of the first U.S. in vitro birth conceived naturally.

I told the Globe, I know this is going to be a story. But Im a writer and Im going to write it myself, she said. My editor was very patient and let me do that. I kind of controlled the way information was going out, so people didnt know I was pregnant until I wrote the story about having him.

Her son, Trevor James Comeau, was born on Aug. 5, 2010.

A few years ago, Elizabeth had the opportunity to meet up with her English in vitro counterpart Louise Brown, who was the worlds first in vitro-born baby.

We were together at an infertility conference in Chicago, she said. A doctor there was astonished that we had never met before. Its funny, her life story is mine and this is the only other person in the entire universe who knows exactly what Ive been through my entire life.

The two still keep in touch, via email and as Facebook friends.

She also kept in close contact with the two doctors who oversaw her in vitro process over the years, Dr. Howard Jones and Dr. Georgeanna Seegar Jones.

They were a powerhouse. The two of them, there was never one without the other, she said, noting that each year on Christmas and on her birthday she received calls from Dr. Howard Jones before his death at the age of 104 in 2015. His wife, Georgeanna, died 10 years earlier.

Today, Elizabeth refers to herself as a recovering journalist and has run a total of five marathons, including a pair of Boston Marathons.

She lives in Westminster with her second husband, Alan Scherer, and currently leads a chapter of a nonprofit organization in Boston that finds jobs and homes for the homeless, using running as the catalyst to make that happen.

And today marks her 38th birthday, just three days after Christmas, which has always presented a bit of a yearly dilemma occurring so close to the holiday.

We had a rule growing up that anything deemed to be a birthday present had to be wrapped in birthday paper, she said, and Christmas presents wrapped in Christmas paper.

A very happy birthday to Elizabeth Jordan Carr!

Comments and suggestions can be sent to Mike Richard at mikerichard0725@gmail.com or in writing to Mike Richard, 92 Boardley Road, Sandwich, MA 02563.

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Headlines of the Past - Dec. 29, 1981: Its a girl! Westminster test-tube baby Elizabeth Jordan Carr born - The Gardner News

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