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This Woman Gave Birth To A Baby – But The Mom Was Only 18 Months Older Than Her Daughter

Image: NEDC via Express & Star / CNN International
For some young sweethearts, the need to express their love by starting a family together is one that rings loud and clear. And if Mother Nature puts an obstacle in the way, these feelings can be amplified. Married couple Tina and Benjamin Gibson of Tennessee could certainly relate to this, as they found themselves unable to have kids. Happily, however, they put their faith in a miracle of modern science and were rewarded when Tina fell pregnant in 2017. But picture their surprise, when the Gibsons were told that the baby on the way was actually old enough to be the expectant mom’s sister or best friend.
Image: CBS News
Residents of the small city of Clinton, TN, the now 26-year-old Tina and her 33-year-old husband, Benjamin, got married in 2010. But sadly any hopes of starting a family through natural means seemed impossible, as Tina told news broadcaster CNN in December 2017. “My husband has cystic fibrosis, so infertility is common,” she explained. “We had decided that we were more than likely going to adopt, and we were fine with that.”
Image: CBS News
So the couple resolved themselves to their situation, and for the next few years, the Gibsons gave a temporary home to a series of foster children. Although they relished their roles as foster parents, it would be another of Tina and Benjamin’s dependents who would indirectly change their lives forever. The pair took some time out from fostering and decided to go off on vacation early in the summer of 2016. And they were pointed towards the path their future would take when they dropped off their pet dog at Tina’s folks’ place.
Image: CNN International
Fully aware of their fertility problems and sympathetic to the situation, Tina’s father pulled the pair to one side before they left. The dad was eager to share an intriguing idea he had heard about. Tina remembered what he said next in her interview with CNN, “I saw something on the news today. It’s called embryo adoption, and they would implant an embryo in you, and you could carry a baby.”
Image: CBS News
Nevertheless, despite the hopeful grandfather’s best efforts, Tina’s stance on having kids remained the same. “I was like, ‘Well, that’s nice, dad, but we’re not interested,’” she recalled to CNN with a smile. “‘We’re knee-deep in foster care right now.’ I kind of blew it off. I had no interest in it.”
Image: CBS News
Subsequently, the Gibson’s left Tina’s parents and their dog behind, but one thing remained with Tina. As the couple underwent the long car journey to their vacation destination, her father’s words continued to turn over in her mind. Some time into the trip, she asked Benjamin for his thoughts on the matter. Her husband admitted that he had also been mulling it over ever since they had left his in-laws’ house. With that in mind, Tina took out her smartphone and began doing some online research.
Image: CNN International
One fact that she may have come across is that the incredible uptake of in-vitro fertilization treatment – better known as IVF – has led to a massive worldwide surplus of frozen embryos. This multi-cell organism is the next stage on from when the male sperm has fertilized the female egg. In the U.S. alone, the number held on ice could be more than one million, with many couples choosing to retain their frozen embryos for future use. However, if these parents find that they have no need for them, the embryos can be donated to couples undergoing IVF. Suspended in ice, these frozen potential fetuses are nicknamed snowbabies.
Image: CBS News
But the leap from no baby to snowbaby was a big one for the Gibsons, despite the fact that the National Embryo Donation Center was conveniently based in nearby Knoxville, TN. Her research notwithstanding, Tina was still unsure about what to do. She had learned all about the embryo-adoption process on her vacation, but there was still an element of doubt in her mind. However, something suddenly changed later that summer…
Image: CNN International
And Tina remembered the moment when she spoke to the CNN camera crew. “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 remmbered. “On a whim, we filled out an application and submitted [it] that night.”
Image: CNN International
From that point, the specialists at the National Embryo Donation Center swung into action. Tina was prescribed a course of drugs ahead of medical tests in December 2016. Known as “mock transfers,” these preliminary checks had been developed to ascertain that a hopeful mom-to-be’s uterus is able to accept an embedded embryo. Following a month of these trials, Tina was deemed eligible for the procedure, kick-starting the next stage.
Image: CNN International
Tina and Benjamin then underwent a home study, a suitability assessment similar to the social-work procedure for potential parents seeking a conventional adoption. After passing this evaluation, the Gibsons were now required to select their embryo. The pair spent a couple of weeks in early 2017 looking through the genetic profiles of snowbaby parents. After reading up on 300 sets of case notes, the wannabe mom and dad made their choice. Sadly, however, they were told no.
Image: YouTube/CBS New York
It turned out that their first pick was not workable, so the Gibsons had to go again. Thankfully, their second selection was suitable and they were given the green light. But in March 2017, just before the embryo was implanted, Tina and Benjamin were given some quite incredible news. Carol Sommerfelt, an embryologist at the National Embryo Donation Center, informed them that the snowbaby in question had in fact been conceived and then frozen back in the fall of 1992. Unsurprisingly, the mother-to-be could not quite believe it.
Image: CBS News
And in December 2017, she told CNN about her initial incredulity. “This embryo has been frozen for 24 and a half years – at the time, I was only 25,” she exclaimed. “I was like, ‘I’m 25 years old, if this embryo would have been born when it was supposed to have been, we could have been best friends!’”
Image: CBS News
Although a jubilant Sommerfelt declared it a “world record” at the time, no-one can say for sure. The oldest known snowbaby to result in a successful birth prior to this had been 20 years old. Regardless, once she was over her shock, Tina was not interested in making history, only in making a new life. “I just wanted a baby,” she remembered thinking. “I don’t care if it’s a world record or not.”
Image: via CBS News
Thankfully, following the transfer procedure, Tina successfully became pregnant with the thawed-out embryo. She carried her baby for the next eight months until shortly after Thanksgiving that year. Then the Gibsons returned to the National Embryo Donation Center, where Tina gave birth to a daughter, Emma Wren Gibson, on November 25, 2017. The baby girl arrived fit and healthy, weighing in at more than six pounds.
Image: CNN International
And her proud parents could not have been more thrilled. “We’re just so thankful and blessed,” Tina told CNN. “She’s a precious Christmas gift from the Lord. We’re just so grateful.” Benjamin echoed those sentiments, telling CBS News, “Emma is such a sweet miracle. I think she looks pretty perfect to have been frozen all those years ago.”
Image: CNN International
As for Sommerfelt, the specialist was delighted that a snowbaby could endure for as long as Emma had. “It is very rewarding for me to see that the techniques that we were using 25 years ago to freeze the embryos [preserved] them to the extent that they could survive being thawed,” she told Time magazine that December.
Image: CBS News
Sommerfelt continued, “If embryos are maintained correctly… [they] could be good indefinitely. In other words, they’re frozen in time.” Meanwhile, following the happy arrival of Emma, her mom reflected on the Gibson’s remarkable journey. And Tina also reviewed the previous path to parenthood she had contemplated with Benjamin before they learned about embryo adoption.
Image: CBS News
As she explained to CNN, “We wanted to adopt, and I don’t know that that isn’t going to be in our future.” Tina continued, “We may still adopt. This just ended up being the route that we took. I think that we would have been equally elated if [we] were able to adopt.”
Image: CNN International
So, thwarted by Mother Nature, Tina and Benjamin had eventually put their hopes on ice. The pair went through the process of adopting a frozen embryo, with possibly record-breaking and definitely heartwarming results. Mothers and daughters often describe themselves as each other’s best friends, but for Tina and Emma this could have literally been the case. One thing is for sure, 24 is the Gibson’s lucky number from here on out.

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