These Oregon twins were already “30 years old” when they were born last month – from what may be the world’s oldest known frozen embryos to ever result in a live birth.
Babies Lydia and Timothy Ridgeway came from embryos frozen by an anonymous couple in April 1992 and were born to parents Rachel and Philip outside of Portland this past Halloween, CNN reported Monday.
“In a sense, they’re our oldest children, even though they’re our smallest children,” Philip, now a proud dad of six, told the outlet.
“There is something mind-boggling about it. I was 5 years old when God gave life to [babies] Lydia and Timothy, and He’s been preserving that life ever since.”
Before the Portland twins, Molly Gibson held the record for being the longest frozen embryo to result in a live birth after she was born in 2020 following 27 years of preservation.
The Ridgeway twins were born from embryos that an anonymous couple had frozen back when Bill Clinton was running for the White House. The egg donor was 34, while the sperm donor was in his early 50s.
The embryos sat frozen on reserve for the couple at a fertility lab on the West Coast until the pair, perhaps because they became too old to be parents, decided to donate them to the National Embryo Donation Center in 2007 so someone else could use them to have children.
Rachel and Philip already had four kids – ages 8, 6, 3 and almost 2 – that they’d conceived naturally but had sought to have a baby from an embryo that’d been frozen and hadn’t yet been donated to a family.
“We weren’t looking to get the embryos that have been frozen the longest in the world,” Philip explained of their quest.
“We just wanted the ones that had been waiting the longest.”
When the couple set out to find embryos, they used a donor database, and while it didn’t show how long the material had been frozen, they assumed listings with earlier numbers had been at the facility the longest and used that to narrow down their options.
“Going into this, we knew that we could trust God to do whatever he had sovereignly planned and that their age really had no factor,” Rachel told the outlet of the embryos. “It was just a matter of whether or not that was in God’s plans.”
After nearly three decades of being stored in liquid nitrogen at around 200 degrees below zero in a device similar to a propane tank, five of the embryos were thawed Feb. 28, and three of them survived.
The couple’s physician, Dr. John Gordon, recommended only implanting one or two of the embryos, considering the risk involved, but Rachel went for all three, she recalled.
“You just showed me a picture of my three children. I have to have them all,” she remembered telling Gordon as tears welled up in her eyes.
The transfer happened March 2, and two of the embryos, now little Lydia and Timothy, were successful.
Even though the frozen material is technically almost 30 years old, experts suggest that embryos can be frozen indefinitely.
“If you’re frozen at nearly 200 degrees below zero, I mean, the biological processes essentially slow down to almost nothing,” Gordon said.
“And so perhaps the difference between being frozen for a week, a month, a year, a decade, two decades, it doesn’t really matter.”
Dr. Jim Toner, an Atlanta-based fertility specialist, said it’s similar to the Rip Van Winkle story.
“It doesn’t seem like a sperm or an egg or embryo stored in liquid nitrogen ever experiences time,” Toner told CNN.
“It’s like that Rip Van Winkle thing. It just wakes up 30 years later, and it never knew it was asleep.”
As for the Ridgeways, they said their kids are delighted to have a new pair of siblings.
“They were excited and happy with us every step along the way. They love their siblings, and they play together and were looking forward to finding out whether God had given them two boys, two girls or a brother and a sister,” Phillip said.