Not Just a Girl in a
By Nicole Carlozo ’08
There are moments in every person’s life when her perception of the world changes. One of my moments began in the classroom of my small all-girls Catholic high school. It was there that I first thought about my place in history and my participation in today’s growing technology.
“This year, we’re going to be dealing with delicate subjects,” Mrs. S. declared from her seat at the front of the class. She was a tall, lanky woman with short gray hair, large eyes, and a powerful voice. The desks were arranged in a circle, although because of the size of the classroom the formation much more resembled a smushed square. It was my senior year religion class and Mrs. S. was known for her radical subjects and alternative teaching methods.
“There will be open discussion about social justice, sexism, pornography, bioethics, stem cell research, embryonic research, designer babies, euthanasia, feeding tubes, abortion, and new technologies, such as in vitro fertilization, cloning, and surrogacy,” Mrs. S. continued. Surprised by her long and controversial list, I glanced around the room at my classmates. Most seemed disinterested in her bold statements, and an awkward silence filled the room. As if to prove the seriousness of the situation, our teacher pointed to the bulletin board at the back of the room. “You may find yourself uncomfortable with some of the articles and images I’ll bring to class, so many of them will be placed behind that piece of paper. You can choose whether or not you want to look,” she stated solemnly. All eyes slowly turned towards the back bulletin board and Mrs. S. paused, as if waiting for someone to gather enough courage to venture towards it. “If you’re interested,” she continued, “I’ve put up images of what fetuses look like at the time they’re aborted. We’ll be talking about the different types of abortion, the legal issues involved, what the Catholic Church believes, and I welcome your thoughts and input on the subject.”
While my classmates began to whisper amongst themselves, my ears were still buzzing over the mention of in vitro fertilization. It was a subject I hadn’t thought much about over the years, especially in relation to the Catholic Church. This realization surprised me. IVF, after all, was responsible for my very existence.
Before that day in high school, Nicole Carlozo ’08
did not really think much about how she was conceived.
She is on the rightwith her triplet siblings, Jessica and Joseph.
(Photo courtesy of Nicole Carlozo)
“These subjects may be more personal for some students,” Mrs. S. continued. “In an earlier class I spoke with a student who was an IVF baby, so we have to be careful and courteous during all class discussions.” My face turned red. I immediately knew that she was speaking about my sister. If the other girls didn’t know who the teacher was referring to beforehand, they surely knew after my reaction. Heat radiated off my round, red face as I ducked my head and averted my eyes to the floor. I was saved, however, by the girl sitting to the right of me. I glanced sidelong at her as she boldly raised her hand.
“My brother is an in vitro baby, so I’m glad the technology exists. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have him,” she commented. My body relaxed with her defensive answer. Never having spoken about IVF with my classmates, I wasn’t sure how others my age viewed the technology. This girl, however, seemed to have thought about and developed her own opinions on IVF. Perhaps my only embarrassment should be that I hadn’t given a great amount of thought to my conception. My mind was gone. Mentally, I felt that everyone was looking at me. Pulling at my navy blue uniform, I fidgeted for 30 torturous minutes before we were released.
Sliding up to my locker, I fooled with the dial until it opened and began packing my bag for home. It was important to reach the parking lot as soon as possible, or be stuck in the traffic jam of students and parents. After surveying my load I turned to shut my locker, but instead found my friend Giselle standing beside me.
“Hey Nicole,” she greeted, her piercing eyes on me. Despite her short and tiny stature, Giselle was the type of girl you wouldn’t want to anger. Luckily, she considered herself my friend, often teasing me over my innocent nature and taking pleasure in making me laugh with her quirky comments. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Is it true that you and Jess are in vitro?” I jolted, surprised by her question. If I told her the truth, would she think of me differently? Her eyes told me she was curious, nothing else, so I only hesitated for a moment, letting her question sink in before answering.
“Yes, that’s how my mom had triplets,” I responded. I wanted to say more, that it was because she was unable to have children for years. That she’d gone through the procedure twice before having success, that her doctor had been Catholic, and that all four eggs had been placed back inside of her. But I didn’t say anything else. Giselle’s eyes widened a bit, surprised at my confirmation, but they soon softened and she returned to her usual, animated self.
“I didn’t know that, wow,” she replied. I could see the wheels of her mind turning as we stood there. Was I the first person she’d met who came into the world through IVF? Did I make it real for her? I’d grown up with this technology, but Giselle’s reaction made me recognize how distant IVF was for other people.
“Well, I’ve got to run,” I finally said as I slammed my locker shut, uncomfortable with the silence. Giselle jerked, emerging from her thoughts at the sound of my voice.
“Okay, see you tomorrow,” she called, flashing me one of her wide grins as I waved and headed towards the parking lot. My mother had also walked these halls. She had worn the same navy blue uniform. I imagined her rushing to class or to the parking lot to meet up with my father, playing lookout for the girls smoking in the bathroom, or heading to the auditorium for mass. She, like me, was just another student in her blue dress. I, however, was becoming something more to those like Giselle.
Nicole Carlozo is an intern in the Fish and Invertebrate Ecology Laboratory at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center.