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'Could've Been my Best Friend': 25-Year-Old has Baby Who Was a Frozen Embryo for 24 Years


A Knoxville, Tennessee, woman who is 25 years old recently gave birth to a daughter who came from an embryo that was frozen 24 years ago.

According to research staff at the University of Tennessee Preston Medical Library, the new baby now holds the record for the longest-frozen embryo to come to birth.  

Tina and Benjamin Gibson announced the birth of their healthy little girl Emma Wren who was born in November, 2017, but who was conceived nearly a quarter-century earlier, only 18 months after Tina was born, according to the National Embryo Donation Center in Knoxville.

"Emma is such a sweet miracle," her father Benjamin said, "I think she looks pretty perfect to have been frozen all those years ago."

Emma is what is commonly referred to as a "snowflake baby."  These are embryos that were conceived by couples who underwent fertility treatments.  The embryos were then frozen, with the intent of thawing them at a later date and implanting them in the mother's uterus to grow to term.

Oftentimes, when couples undergo in vitro fertilization to have a baby, there are more embryos, otherwise known as fertilized eggs, than are needed for treatment.  

In those cases, the surplus embryos that are not used by the couple in treatment are destroyed or donated to laboratories for scientific study.  However, some couples, who believe life begins at conception, see their embryos as unique, human beings who deserve to live, and therefore put them up for adoption.  

Emma was frozen in 1992. She was thawed in March 2017 where she was implanted into Tina's womb just two days later.  The procedure took place at the National Embryo Donation Center. The NEDC is a faith-based embryo adoption program that has placed frozen embryos into more than 700 women who later gave birth to those babies. The frozen embryos come from all across the country to "donate them to a couple who is unable to conceive. A lot of people believe embryo donation is the most life-honoring solution."

NEDC Lab Director Carol Sommerfelt said couples considering adoption are presented with pictures of the embryos. "I will always remember what the Gibsons said when presented with the picture of their embryos at the time of transfer: 'These embryos could have been my best friends,' as Tina herself was only 25 at the time of transfer."

NEDC Medical Director Dr. Jeffrey Keenan said "The NEDC has been privileged to work with the Gibsons to help them realize their dreams of becoming parents," adding, "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."

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