When does life begin?
Does it begin at the moment of conception? Does it begin at birth? Is an embryo the same person at conception and birth? Frozen embryos are raising many questions.
Little Molly Everette Gibson is a bouncing baby girl born on October 26, 2020 weighing 6 pounds and 13 ounces. She is the daughter of Tina and Ben Gibson, and she was frozen when she was an embryo on October 14, 1992. So is Molly in her first year of life or her 28th year?
Molly has now set the record for being the longest frozen embryo to come to birth.
What makes this even more astounding is that Molly beat her own sister’s previous record for the longest frozen embryo. Sister Emma was born in 2017 after spending 24 years in a frozen state.
To make this story even more interesting, Molly and Emma’s Mom was only one year old when they were conceived!
This is embryo adoption – the same as standard adoption, except the parents are adopting an embryo instead of a child that has been born. With 2 million couples waiting to adopt a child in the United States, resulting in 36 families waiting for each adopted child, embryo adoption is becoming more of an option.
Some people think these parents could easily adopt a child in foster care with over 400,000 children, but that isn’t necessarily so. Foster care is a temporary living situation for children whose parents cannot care for them. Reunification with their birth parents is the goal of foster care, and this usually occurs after one year of placement. Consequently, only about 100,000 children in foster care are actually available for adoption.
Tina and Ben Gibson had fostered several children prior to their decision to seek embryo adoption so they could have a permanent family situation. Their experience with the nonprofit National Embryo Donation Center in Knoxville, Tennessee, was a very positive one, which is why they returned for Emma’s sibling.
Sadly other parents have experienced the sadness of having to return a foster child who they were hoping to adopt. One such couple raised a baby for five years and were preparing the adoption papers, only to have a distant relative arrive and have the child taken away and given to the relative. They too turned to embryo adoption.
So where do these frozen embryos come from? They start out as in vitro fertilizations. IVF is often used by couples who are unable to conceive naturally. With IVF the prospective mother is given fertility drugs to produce more eggs, usually ten to twenty. Several of these eggs are fertilized in the laboratory (test tube babies). Successful conceptions producing an embryo are frozen, and the healthiest embryo is transferred into the prospective mother. If the first pregnancy is unsuccessful or the couple wants additional children, they have other embryos to be implanted. About 75% of these embryos survive the freeze/thaw process.
So what happens to the rest of the frozen embryos when this couple feels they have completed their family? They can simply remain frozen. Approximately one million are currently stored in the United States. Other options are to donate to research or simply thaw and let them die.
The National Embryo Donation Center feels the more positive option is to share the blessing of children with others by donating these leftover embryos to waiting couples, thus sharing the gift of life. They consider their duties to be as interim caregivers and emphasize that multi-racial embryos are available for adoption. NEDC is known as the world’s leading comprehensive embryo adoption organization.
The cost of embryo adoption is about $10,000, often less than a standard adoption; and the various options for parents include both open and anonymous adoptions. Prospective parents must meet the same requirements as standard adoptions as well.
With more and more in vitro fertilizations occurring in the United States, hopefully more of these frozen embryos will be available for adoption.
So, when did Molly and Emma become Molly and Emma; and how old are they really?