Tina and Ben Gibson carefully scoured donor profiles before adopting embryos from a faith-based nonprofit in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 2017.
“They gave us a huge selection and we narrowed it down,” Tina Gibson told TODAY Health. “When we found the right one, it felt like fate.”
The profiles given to the couple by the National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC) included basic information, such as the age of the woman whose eggs were used, but nothing about the year in which they were frozen.
So the Gibsons got the shock of their lives on the day of the transfer when their doctor announced that the embryo dated back to 1992. Tina Gibson, now 29, was born in April 1991.
Though Gibson was understandably caught off guard by the news — “I didn’t understand what it meant,” she explained — no one else in the room seemed concerned.
“It was in the Lord’s hands,” Gibson said.
Nine months later, she welcomed a healthy daughter named Emma, whose birth made national headlines for being the longest-cryopreserved human embryo to result in a successful birth.
Now, the Gibsons are back in the news again. On Oct. 26, Tina and Ben became parents to Molly Everette after thawing a 27-year-old donated embryo.
Molly is believed to have set a new record for the longest-frozen embryo to have resulted in a birth, according to the National Embryo Donation Center and research staff at the University of Tennessee Preston Medical Library in Knoxville.
Molly and Emma are genetic siblings.
“It’s unbelievable,” the new mom of two gushed. “It feels like a miracle.”
Dr. Brian Levine, practice director of Manhattan fertility clinic CCRM Fertility, is concerned the Gibsons outcome is providing false hope.
“This is truly a story of one Hail Mary and a lot of luck,” Levine told TODAY Health. “I don’t want couples to think they can just go online and rescue embryos from 25 years ago and they'll have the same result."
In the 1980s and 1990s specialists were using an older slow-freezing technique which can create vulnerabilities, and the embryos weren’t stored in proper vessels, Levine explained.
“As a result of improvements in embryo culture and embryo freezing efficiency, what we have now is much better than what we had back then,” Levine explained. “You could freeze an embryo for 27 years with no issues.”
As for the Gibsons, they’re counting their blessings. Gibson hopes more people will consider embryo donation to help couples who are struggling with infertility.
“I know it’s a hard choice, deciding what to do with those leftover embryos that you know you’re not going to use,” she said. “People are scared… but someone out there would be so grateful to have them. And those children will be so loved.”