Tina and Ben Gibson spent years praying for a baby – but infertility stood in the way.
Now, the couple have two babies thanks to groundbreaking medical science. The Gibsons' most recent child was born Oct. 26, thanks to an embryo adoption that's put little Molly Everette Gibson into the world record books.
Molly breaks the record of her older sister, Emma Wren Gibson, who was born in 2017 after a similar process of transferring a thawed then 24-year-old donated embryo for Tina to carry.
Molly's embryo dates back to 1992. It was frozen for 27 years – setting the new known record for the longest-frozen embryo to ever come to birth, according to the National Embryo Donation Center and research staff at the University of Tennessee Preston Medical Library.
“For so long it was something that we didn’t think we’d ever have," said Tina Gibson, who has also shared her journey and written about infertility awareness on the NEDC's website. "Now that we have it ... we’re just soaking in every moment."
Molly and Emma are genetic siblings. Both embryos were donated and frozen together in 1992, about one year after Tina Gibson was born.
The Gibsons became parents 24 and 27 years later, through a process called embryo adoption.
In embryo adoption, families who have in vitro fertilization, or laboratory conception, donate extra embryos for couples that cannot conceive. The embryos are frozen until they are transferred to the other couple, who gives birth to a child not biologically related to them.
Depending on the donor and recipient, future contact between the families varies.
“Embryo donation is when embryos that do not genetically belong to a woman are transferred into her uterus,” explained NEDC President and medical director Dr. Jeffrey Keenan, who transferred Molly's embryo to Tina's uterus in February.
"Legally, this is not an 'adoption' like it is a newborn, but there are lots of good reasons to use that terminology."
According to Keenan, there are embryos that are even older than 27 years today, but nothing over the age of Molly's has been transferred yet.
“All we can say for sure is 27 years, but we’re pretty confident that they can be frozen a great, great deal longer than that," he said, adding that the average age of transferred embryos at NEDC is around 10-12 years.
"We’d sure like to see that 30 milestone,” he continued. "But there's a lot that goes into it – not just, ‘Do we have embryos that were frozen 30 years ago?’ But ‘Do we have a good match of a recipient couple for them? And will that couple choose those embryos?' And then of course, 'Will they survive the thaw? Will they implant, grow and then come to birth?'"
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Founded in 2003, the NEDC has facilitated over 1,000 births through embryo adoption, with embryos coming from clinics across the country. Keenan says most couples travel to their Knoxville facility from afar, some internationally, though the Gibsons are locals.
“NEDC was basically right in our backyard, and they were one of the best in the country," Tina said. "They’re wonderful people. I think they feel more like family now."
Tina is excited to share the family story with Molly and Emma as they grow up.
“Embryo adoption has changed our lives," she said, encouraging interested couples to research more about the possibility if it's right for them.
“Emma for sure knows the word ‘embryo.' 'Embryo adoption’ is a common term in our home, it’s nothing abnormal... (Our daughters) will definitely know their story.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: TN baby born from 27-year-old embryo breaks sister's world record