Twins Lydia and Timothy Ridgeway were welcomed into the world on 31 October 2022 – after more than 30 years frozen as embryos. According to official records, they may be the longest frozen embryos that could result in a live birth.
Embryos were created for an anonymous married couple using in vitro fertilization (IVF), and then stored at −196 °C (−323 °F) in liquid nitrogen on 22 April 1992. The IVF process can produce an excess of embryos, which can then be donated to science or to couples wanting to have children.
The embryos that developed into twins were donated to the National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC) in Knoxville, Tennessee, decades later passed to parents Rachel and Philip Ridgway from Portland, Oregon.
Philip would have been five years old when the embryos were first frozen, so that puts his age into perspective.
“I was 5 years old when God gave life to these embryos,” Philip, a devout Christian, said. He noted that their birth was more remarkable because Rachel was just 3 at the time of their conception.
“It’s mind-blowing to think about,” the dad said. “Pretty much everybody we’ve talked to has trouble wrapping their brain around it.”
The Ridgeways, who had four kids aged between the ages of 2 and 8, initially approached the NEDC in December 2019.
“We needed some fertility assistance to conceive our three oldest children,” said Rachel, who took the hormone-boosting medication Clomid.
The couple used the money spent on fertility treatments to pay for the adoption of frozen embryos
They hoped to welcome their fourth child in 2020. They chose to “adopt” a frozen embryo from the NEDC, based in Knoxville, Tennessee.
“We decided to put the money that we would normally use for fertility care towards embryo adoption,” Rachel said. “We wanted to follow that route.”
Matters changed a few months later when they were surprised to naturally conceive their fourth child, now aged 2.
But they were determined to have more kids. They revisited their plan.
Philip said that they were motivated by their religious beliefs. “We’ve always thought, ‘Let’s have as many kids that God wants to give us,” the 35-year-old said. “We thought, ‘We’re not done yet if that’s God’s will.'”
The couple, who live in Vancouver, Washington, selected their embryos in December 2021 from the so-called “special consideration” section of the NEDC.
“These embryos are often overlooked because they were donated by parents who had a known history of certain genetic disorders,” Rachel said.