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Whoever said 2017 is basically over, you need to take a seat, because there was just enough time left for an embryo to be thawed and born after being frozen for twenty-five years. According to CNN, the human embryo is known to be the longest-frozen in history to result in a successful birth.
Emma Wren Gibson was born to Tina and Benjamin Gibson of Tennessee on November 25, weighing 6 pounds 8 ounces and measuring 20 inches long. She is the result of an embryo that was frozen on October 14, 1992, and was delivered this year by Dr. Jeffrey Keenan, medical director of the National Embryo Donation Center. Carol Sommerfelt, embryology lab director at the center, was the one to thaw the embryo on March 13.
"I just wanted a baby. I don't care if it's a world record or not," Tina, now 26, explained to CNN. "Do you realize I'm only 25? This embryo and I could have been best friends.” Yeah, we do realize, and that’s nuts!
Before Emma, the oldest known embryo to result in a successful birth was 20 years old. Considering this one was 25, Sommerfelt has deemed the birth “pretty exciting.”
"We're just so thankful and blessed. She's a precious Christmas gift from the Lord," Tina said. "We're just so grateful." Benjamin, 33, added. “As soon as she came out, I fell in love with her.”
Benjamin suffers from cystic fibrosis, which often results in infertility. The couple had fostered several children and enjoyed it, and they had come to terms with the fact that they would probably adopt children of their own. They got the idea for embryo adoption from Tina’s father who had seen a story about it on the news. "I was like, 'Well, that's nice, Dad, but we're not interested. We're knee-deep in foster care right now,' " Tina laughed. "I kind of blew it off. I had no interest in it."
But just like all of us who get somewhat reasonable advice from our parents when we don’t ask for it, the thought resonated with the couple and they actually grew to love the idea. They didn’t act on it immediately, though. "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,'" Tina said. "On a whim, we filled out an application and submitted that night."
After a series of tests and small procedures, the Gibson’s home was inspected the same way a social worker would inspect the home of any couple looking to adopt. Finally, they were given the green light. “We literally had two weeks to go through 300 profiles," Benjamin said. "It was overwhelming," Tina added. "There [were] so many, and it's like, how do you pick?"
Emma’s embryo was their second pick, and they didn’t know just how old she was until right before the implantation process. "I didn't sign up for this," Tina said of the world record news. That being said, scientists caution that it's impossible to tell with absolute certainty whether it actually is a record or not.
"Identifying the oldest known embryo is simply an impossibility," Dr. Zaher Merhi, director of IVF research and development at New Hope Fertility Center, told CNN. Because of laws and regulations, it is said that no one actually has a full set of records on frozen embryos.
But even if it’s not a world record, it’s the oldest to be recorded and that makes Emma pretty special. We’re pretty excited to watch her grow and, who knows, maybe she’ll have an old soul and she’ll be best friends with her mom after all. While the couple is unsure if they’ll have future children who are actually Emma’s genetic brothers or sisters, they are still open to the idea of traditional adoption.