When I was 26, I used IVF to have twins. 20 years later, I used a frozen embryo from the same batch to conceive my last baby.

  • Staci McNicholl has 20-year-old twin daughters she conceived using in vitro fertilization.
  • Their sister, conceived from an embryo created at the same time, was born this year.
  • McNicholl says that having an infant at 47 is so much fun and that she can parent at a slower pace. 

At 26, I wanted to have kids. But I was with a same-sex partner and had polycystic ovary syndrome, so I needed to turn to in vitro fertilization to grow my family. I chose a sperm donor who could be known to my children. Even though I was young, I had the forethought to realize that I wanted them to know their genetic heritage. After egg retrieval and insemination, I had eight viable embryos. 

The doctor implanted two of them, which was the standard 20 years ago. Both took, and at my first ultrasound, I could clearly see two fetuses. I was in shock that I was finally pregnant. As for the challenge of having twins, I was a bit clueless, which was probably for the best. 

My oldest daughters, Kaia and Maddy, were born via C-section. The next few years of my life were dedicated to raising twins while building my career as a counselor. 

I added another daughter and a stepson to my family while growing a business

After a few years, I separated from my partner and met the man who is now my husband, RJ. He’s always been a dad to Kaia and Maddy, and he brought his own son into the family. Fifteen years ago, we had our daughter Lexi. She was a miracle since I never thought I would be able to get pregnant naturally. 

Our family life was busy with four children in the house. At the same time, the counseling business that we started was thriving. I had everything I wanted, but each year, I still paid $300 to keep my frozen embryos on ice. 

Paying that fee was a way to avoid making a decision about the embryos. My clinic, Indiana Fertility Institute, had explained that I had four options: I could donate the embryos to science, donate them to another couple, discard them, or pick them up to do with them what I pleased. None of those felt right, so I paid thousands over the years to store them. I’ll forever be grateful I did.

The pandemic made me realize that I wanted another child

When the pandemic hit, I started questioning what’s important in life. If the world ended tomorrow, what did I want to be doing? The answer that came was clear and unexpected: I wanted another baby. Our youngest was 14 at the time, so when I told RJ, he asked whether I was sure. Then he said he was on board. 

Our teenagers weren’t as easily persuaded. We knew this was a major decision, so we had a family meeting and told them. Maddy was fine with it as long as we didn’t ask her to babysit “it.” Kaia, who’s training to become a midwife, was thrilled. Lexi, who was used to being the baby, ran from the table and slammed her bedroom door.

At first, RJ wanted to have a biological connection to our child. We tried IVF with his sperm and a donor egg, but I miscarried at six weeks. I grieved for months after that and knew I couldn’t go through the uncertainty again. 

The same embryologist who froze my embryos thawed them 2 decades later

I turned to my six frozen embryos. The science of IVF had changed a lot since Kaia and Maddy were conceived, meaning we’d need to use older technology to thaw the embryos. Amazingly, the same embryologist who froze them 20 years ago, Kerrie Peck, still worked at the facility and could unfreeze them. I couldn’t have been in better hands since she was essentially continuing her work two decades later.

In the early 2000s, clinics grew embryos for three days before freezing them. Now they grow them for five days. That means my embryos had to be thawed, grown for two additional days, and then refrozen. Only one embryo survived that process. In June 2022, doctors implanted that embryo, and I got pregnant. My daughter Ayla was born in February. 

I cried and cried when I held Ayla. My other births had complications, and I couldn’t hold my babies immediately. Now, after 20 years in the making, I was able to snuggle my baby right away.

I can parent at a slower pace in my 40s

Now that Ayla is here, everyone loves her — even Lexi has embraced our newest addition. 

Having an infant at 47 is amazing. I’m financially secure and established in my career, so I’m not juggling infanthood with a return to work. Instead, I spend my days following Ayla’s lead, playing with her and enjoying our time together. 

Yes, I’m old. I could live to 90, or I could die tomorrow. We never know what life holds. Ayla deserved to live, even if there’s a possibility that I’ll die while she’s young.

In addition to that concern from people, one of my biggest pet peeves is when they say, “You were almost done.” That makes it sound as if parenting is something you should strive to get over. I’m glad that I’m not “done” but able to cherish Ayla, and her older siblings, at this stage in my life.

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