Record Breaking: A Healthy Set of Twins Was Born From Embryos Frozen Nearly 30 Years Ago
The miracle of birth still takes one’s breath away; two cells grow until an entire human is created and born. But unfortunately, many parents have difficulty conceiving and struggle with infertility.
Read on to find out about another amazing option and a couple who took advantage of it.
Rachel and Philip Ridgeway are parents of six whose twins were born from frozen embryos. They worked with the National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC), where frozen embryos are stored safely, awaiting adoption.
The NEDC is the country’s biggest profit embryo donation center. The twins’ biological parents, who have remained anonymous, donated their leftover embryos after going through IVF.
The Life of the Embryos
Since April 1992, the embryos have stayed in a storage facility. They were placed in tiny straws and stored in liquid nitrogen at 200 degrees below zero. Embryos can stay frozen for many decades without any problems.
The propane-like tanks remained at a fertility lab until 2007. At that time, the couple they belonged to donated them to the NEDC in Knoxville, Tennessee. They hoped that another couple would benefit from them.
How Does Embryo Donation Work?
Sometimes, several embryos are created when a couple undergoes in-vitro fertilization (IVF). The additional embryos can be frozen for future use. In addition, some couples donate the frozen embryos for research or choose to donate them to other people having trouble becoming pregnant.
While the embryos are waiting to be used, and they remain in a storage facility until it is time to extract them from the tanks and use them.
Time for a Fourth Baby
The Ridgeways already had three children, all of whom had been conceived with fertility assistance, when, in 2019, they decided they wanted a fourth. That’s when they approached the NEDC to look into embryo adoption. Their first step was to research the embryos listed in the NEDC database.
The database offers information about ethnicity, weight, height, and other details. So they looked carefully through the database, took notes, and made their choice.
They did not expect how fast their wishes would come true. A few months after the embryo implantation, they found out they were pregnant with child number four.
The couple was thrilled with their four children, yet they wanted an even bigger family. Once again they went to the NEDC, but this time they decided to consider adopting an embryo from a different part of the Center.
Choosing the Embryos
At the end of 2021, they visited the NEDC and asked about a special section of the NEDC which they’d been reading about. That section has embryos whose parents had a known history of genetic disorders.
The Ridgeways did not concern themselves with the genetic disorder issues that may ensue. Instead, they were especially drawn to this section of the NEDC because these embryos were often overlooked by couples looking to adopt.
They studied the database, discussing the embryo options and asking advice about the various genetic disorders that might afflict their next child.
After much deliberation, they made their choice. They knew going into this process, planning for a fifth child, and having to raise their other four children, that a child with genetic disorders might place a burden on all of them. But as Philip said, “It didn’t really matter to us if they’re considered perfect or not.”
Rachel and Philip took their time making a choice. That choice happened to be 30-year-old embryos. Philip says they were not looking for publicity, just to choose the suitable embryo. They also felt that the embryos that had been “waiting” for so long deserved a chance.
On February 28, the embryos were thawed. Only three were viable. They were implanted into Rachel, and two were successful. The Ridgeways were having twins!
I Was 5, and She Was 3
Philip chuckles when he notes that when the embryos were gestated 30 years ago, he was five years old, and his wife was three years old. Philip admits that their friends found the whole idea mind-blowing.
Crazy as it sounded, the Ridgeways were thrilled to be adding more children to their family. They were so excited about the two developing embryos, and about the prospect of raising six children together..
Although she was carrying twins, Lydia’s pregnancy was normal, and she felt great. The understanding that the babies might have genetic disorders did not faze either parent.
Rachel was philosophical about the whole experience. Relying on her deep faith, she said, “Going into this, we knew we could trust God…and their age had no factor. It was just a matter of whether or not that was in God’s plans.”
Involving the Older Kids
From the start, the Ridgeways explained to the other four children what was happening to include them in the process.
They wanted to be honest with their children about what it would be like to have twins in the house and also that the babies might have difficulties and would need special attention. The four older Ridgeway kids were delighted with the prospect of helping with the babies, which in turn warmed their parents’ hearts.
The twins were born healthy and at normal weights on October 31, 2022. The couple was thrilled, especially because they had chosen embryos that had been waiting for parent-adopters for so many years. They felt that they had given these 30-year-old embryos a chance; they just wanted to love them and care for them.
By the way, the former record-holder was a child born in 2017; the embryo she grew from had been frozen for 24 years.
When They Grow Up
The Ridgeways are thrilled and emphasize that they did not choose the 30-year-old embryos for the publicity but because these embryos were in the NEDC’s special section. They decided not to overlook these embryos, but to give them a chance at life, no matter the consequences.
They plan to tell the twins the story of how they came to be born when they are old enough to understand.
A Special Family
The Ridgeways are enjoying the twins, and the older kids, ages eight, six, three, and almost two, are proud to help care for the babies. The big sisters and brother are all set to land a hand.
The Ridgeways are so grateful for their six kids, all born with the help of modern fertility procedures and all thriving. They gladly gave interviews to many news outlets about their six little miracles. We wish them well.