Tina Gibson didn’t set out to set a record. She and her husband, Benjamin, just wanted a child.Screenshot/WATE News
As CNN reports, the Gibsons had been serving as foster parents and looking into adoption when Tina’s father told them about embryo adoption. The couple had struggled with infertility — in part because of Benjamin’s cystic fibrosis — but had come to terms with it.
Although Tina dismissed her father’s suggestion of embryo adoption when he first mentioned it, the idea took hold, and they began researching what was involved in transferring a donated frozen embryo. She told CNN:
“During August of last year, I just came home one day; I looked at Benjamin, and I said, ‘I think we need to submit an application for embryo adoption. On a whim, we filled out an application and submitted that night.”
The Gibsons sent their application to the National Embryo Donation Center in Tennessee. After a few medical tests and a home study, the couple was approved for embryo transfer and went about choosing the donor. This meant going through hundreds of genetic profiles to pick the one that felt “right” to them.
Tina told CNN they tried to pick donors who were similar to them physically, starting with donor parents who were small (like them), and then looking at medical history and other factors. When their first choice wasn’t viable, they went with the second choice. That’s when they learned that their chosen embryo had been conceived and frozen in 1992 — when Tina was only 18 months old.
In the video below, Tina told WATE in Knoxville, Tennessee, how incredible it was to realize that her baby was (in a way) almost as old as she was:
“If this embryo was born when it was supposed to be, we could have been best friends.”
Three embryos were transferred to Tina, and only one implanted. After a successful pregnancy, Tina gave birth to Emma, a happy, healthy baby girl born more than 24 years after she was conceived.National Embryo Donation Center
The National Embryo Donation Center says that — according to the researchers at the University of Tennessee Preston Medical Library — Emma holds the record for the longest-frozen embryo to be born. The center’s medical director, Dr. Jeffrey Keenan, explained to Today.com that the risk with long-term frozen embryos is in the thawing-out process — otherwise, the “babies are the same” and do just as well as fresh embryos.
The embryo donation center is a faith-based organization dedicated to embryo adoption and protecting frozen embryos. Mark Mellinger, the center’s marketing director, told CNN:
“We say that our reason for existence is to protect the sanctity and dignity of the human embryo. We are big advocates of embryo donation and embryo adoption. If you want to donate an embryo, it will handle the details for free.”
Other than the age of the frozen embryo, doctors stress that the Gibson’s story is very much a typical story of successful fertility treatment. But the center hopes that it will help other families consider embryo donation and adoption. In a statement, Keenan said:
The NEDC has been privileged to work with the Gibsons to help them realize their dreams of becoming parents. We hope this story is a clarion call to all couples who have embryos in long-term storage to consider this life-affirming option for their embryos.
The Gibsons are still overwhelmed to find themselves parents of a beautiful baby girl. Benjamin told WATE:
“Emma is such a sweet miracle. I think she looks pretty perfect to have been frozen all those years ago.”
Tina told CNN that she’s not quite ready to consider trying again with Emma’s frozen siblings (there are two more embryos that would be their daughter’s twins). But she admits her perspective might change in a year or so. In the meantime, she’s just thankful for her new daughter:
“I think it’s just proof that it is a God thing, such a miracle. […] I don’t think we chose her, I think she was chosen for us.”