Were They Asleep In Stockholm?
I lived in the country when I was a young girl. There were only 4 houses on our long, windy lane with permanent residents: our house, my grandparents’ house, Mr Ted and Miss Cathy, and another house further down. The other houses were holiday houses. Most of the houses were separated by forest and/or small valleys, but my grandparents’ house was fairly close to Mr Ted and Miss Cathy’s house. We were all close friends.
I thought Mr Ted and Miss Cathy were awesome. Where our house was chaotic and my mother was often bedridden with headaches and laziness, their house was a calm sea of order and cleanliness. Miss Cathy was an amazing cook and always making lovely treats to eat. Mr Ted was an engineer and in his free time loved to tinker with his boats. Although we all had waterfront property, our house was the furthest into the cove and didn’t have a pier, so we always used Mr Ted and Miss Cathy’s pier. We saw them often in winter, but in summer we spent most days down at their pier. Which would often be followed by communal dinners at their house. I remember them as being people who were not only fun but who I also respected sooo much. They both had ‘real’ jobs and seemed so busy and important, although they always had time for us.
They had a little house not far from their main house. Their house, although it seemed huge to me at the time, wasn’t all that big. Miss Cathy was a fantastic cook, but just as I have all sorts of ‘essential’ kitchen gadgets my spare room because my kitchen is so small they had a small building – a granny flat or something – close to their house she would always be going back and forth to to get kitchen things. I had never been inside but one day I went to follow Miss Cathy to help her, however my mum told me not to. She said it was special and I couldn’t go in. Later she told me when Mr Ted and Miss Cathy had gotten married they’d started collecting things for a baby because they were so excited to have one. But they couldn’t have one, so the little building was full of baby things that were special and they wouldn’t want me to go into it.
At the time I just accepted this as a fact without thinking of it much, but it’s haunted me a bit in the last few years. This was probably in the late 70s/early 80s. IVF was in its infancy and certainly wasn’t an option for them. I wonder if they knew why they couldn’t conceive? I wonder if they just kept trying cycle after cycle not knowing why their baby didn’t come. Thinking back about it now I wonder if they had been pregnant but had miscarried or their baby had died (maybe that’s why the baby clothes in storage were so special).
I remember one night when we’d been at their place for dinner and it was getting really late. Mr Ted took me into their spare room and tucked me in. I still remember his intense look and how gently he tucked me in. I remember opening my eyes and being startled that he was still looking at me. I don’t know why I remember this, but I always have – it was such a powerful look. Now I know he was probably looking at a little girl who felt in a lot of ways was almost his – but of course wasn’t. Maybe he was looking at my face and wondering what his child would have looked like.
I wish I could talk to them now. But Miss Cathy is dead, and Mr Ted has apparently become a crotchety old man. Plus would he want that wound opened up after so many years? And then I think of all the other people who never had a chance. Yes, IVF is not easy and it’s not perfect. Yes, IVF hasn’t given me a live baby, but it has given me hope. And even if it hasn’t worked for me, since 1978 about 4 million people have been born through IVF.
I find it unbelievable that it has taken so long for the father of IVF to be awarded a Nobel Medicine Prize. Good on ya, Roberts Edwards, for giving so many people a chance.