05/27/1985 at 01:00 AM EDT
Thanks to one of the happier miracles of science, these 55 children are siblings—of a sort. Ranging in age from 6 weeks to 3½ years, they gathered on the eve of Mother's Day at a hotel near the site of their conception—Eastern Virginia Medical School's In Vitro Fertilization Laboratory—for an "in vitro family reunion." Couples journeyed from as far away as Argentina and Ecuador, and one father interrupted a business trip to fly in from Hong Kong.
They came to honor Drs. Howard and Georgeanna Jones, who pioneered the technique in the U.S. by which some 116 babies, conceived in laboratory Petri dishes and then implanted in their mothers' wombs, have been born since 1982. Before the "appreciation dinner" honoring the Joneses, the kids and their moms gathered outside the hotel in Norfolk for a portrait. Among the stars was Elizabeth Carr, 3½, the first American in vitro baby.
Inspiration for the reunion came during a picnic nine months ago when the parents of babies No. 38, No. 39 and No. 40 decided it would be nice to honor their extended family's "grandparents"—the Joneses. "We honestly feel they are Grace's grandparents," said Patricia Grimaldi, mother of baby No. 38. Jones himself said he and his wife "enjoyed seeing all our offspring. It was a nice family party." While the picture was being taken, baby No. 116 was born in California. "Our family," beamed Grimaldi, "gets bigger and bigger." Indeed, No. 117 was born a few days later.