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America's first "test tube" twins, born on Long Island, celebrate 40th birthday

America's first "test tube" twins, born on LI, celebrate 40th birthday
America's first "test tube" twins, born on LI, celebrate 40th birthday 02:21

SEA CLIFF, N.Y. -- Forty years ago Friday, America's first "test tube" twins were born.

The grateful family still lives on Long Island.

Four decades ago, Nan and Todd Tilton made front page news across America.

"Sitting here in the meeting house, praying for a child, but what happened was more spectacular than anybody could ever have dreamed of," Nan Tilton said.

"I think of how lucky we are," Todd Tilton said.

The Tiltons -- an art teacher and a banker from Sea Cliff -- had been married nine years, enduring an emotional struggle.

"We'd had five of the top infertility specialists in New York tell us we'd never have children," Nan Tilton said.

The Tiltons, who are Quakers, said they sought divine guidance at the Quaker Meeting house in Glen Cove.

"The power of prayer and God's message would always be, 'Don't give up,'" Nan Tilton said.

It was about then the world's first so-called "test tube baby" was born -- baby Louise in England.

Forty years ago there was deep controversy with some theologians and others criticizing in vitro fertilization as unethical. One minister called it "meddling with God's plan."

In the United States, the only trials for IVF were being done in Virginia. The Tiltons became a part of that.

"Out of 25 women that started in trial with me, I was the only one to get pregnant," Nan Tilton said.

It turned out she was pregnant with twins.

America's first test tube twins -- Heather and Todd Tilton -- were born at North Shore University Hospital.

Both, each now married with children of their own, are turning 40.

"I speak on behalf of my brother and I that we're so obviously grateful to be here celebrating our parents for their resilience and resourcefulness," Heather Tilton-Rubinstein said.

The Tiltons were sponsoring a Vietnamese family in their home 41 years ago when good fortune broke.

"That's a give back. I mean, I swear that that's the reason we got our kids," Todd Tilton Sr. said.

The couple was flooded with calls and letters for advice, and they later wrote a book.

Now 73,000 newborns a year in the us come from in vitro fertilization.

"We were so blessed to have a boy and a girl but to have five grandchildren," Nan Tilton said.

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