While this is fairly common these days given the number of IVF patients who use frozen embryos to provide a sibling to their existing child, I thought the photograph and accompanying article were heart-warming, even if the definition of “twins” seems a bit misplaced:
Reception class pupil Reuben Blake went back to school today, but his twin sister will have to wait another five years until she is old enough. That is because, despite the fact the brother and sister were conceived from the same batch of embryos, they were born five years apart to parents Simon and Jody Blake.
Mr Blake, 45, and his 38-year-old wife had been trying to start a family without success and began fertility treatment in 2005. During the medical process, five embryos were created and two implanted in Mrs Blake, which resulted in the birth of Reuben on December 9 2006. The remaining three embryos were frozen until the couple, from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, decided to try for another child last year.
Against the odds, Floren arrived on November 16 2011 – two weeks before her due date – but five years after her twin brother.
”I tell everybody I can,” said Mr Blake. ”Just in kind of mundane settings where people take an interest in a newborn baby and with Reuben around as well, I find it very difficult to resist the temptation to say ‘Oh and by the way they are twins’. ”It’s almost just to see people’s response. They are really amazed and surprised.”
Reuben, who had been a little unsure about having a sibling and admitted he had wanted a brother, has quickly settled into his role as older brother. ”Since the day Floren was born, he’s been really tender and loving with her,” said Mr Blake, a business and economics lecturer at University College Birmingham. Reuben, who is in the reception class at Christchurch Primary School in Cheltenham, said he had been looking forward to going back after the Christmas break.
”He certainly likes to push her home from school in her pram and he also took her into school a few days after she was born and he was so excited to show all his friends, which is really, really nice.” Even at his young age Reuben is aware of the special relationship he has with his seven-week-old sister, although his parents said it would be a while before he fully understands. ”He knows that she’s been in the freezer – he likes to say she has been in the freezer with the chips and the chicken – so he is sort of aware that she is his twin, but obviously he doesn’t really understand how it’s all worked really,” his mother said.
Her husband said the relationship between the two children was special for the whole family. “It’s something special for us and it’s something special for them as siblings in the future when they are able to comprehend exactly what went on,” he said. “If we hadn’t have gone through the process, we wouldn’t have had Reuben, and he’s just changed our lives, and then to have a sister – and a twin sister at that – it’s always going to be extra special. “We would definitely recommend it, but with a reality check all the way through, but I think most people that go through fertility treatment are juggling that all the time, it doesn’t really leave you.”
Doctors at the Bristol Centre for Reproductive Medicine, based at Southmead Hospital, said the decision made by Mr and Mrs Blake to freeze their remaining embryos was a safer way to have twins. Dr Valentine Akande, lead clinician and director of fertility services, said: “We’re delighted with the great outcome that Jody and Simon have encountered. “It’s a sensible approach to safely having babies. “It’s usually better to have one baby at a time rather than two because carrying twins is associated with greater risk. “So we would very often recommend storing surplus embryos so that they can be used at a later date. “Sadly, due to the chance work of nature, not everybody is able to have those surplus embryos and, of course, not everybody meets with success when those embryos are used.”
Dr Akande explained the science behind the fact that Mr and Mrs Blake were able to have twins born five years apart. “In essence they haven’t come from the same embryo but from the same batch of embryos,” he said. “What’s happened in this happy case is that a certain number of eggs were collected in one treatment cycle and all those eggs were fertilised to create embryos. “Now, all those embryos at that stage could be considered twins, triplets, quadruplets or quintuplets, if they were all put back together at the same time and she had become pregnant, say with five. “What’s happened here, and the sensible thing to do, was to put back one or two earlier on and save those surplus ones for use at a later date, and that is exactly what has happened. “So the surplus embryos were kept in storage and, when they were ready to use them, we brought them out of the freezer, saw that they were still healthy, and one of them survived and was put back into Jody’s womb and we’ve got a baby.
“It does depend how you interpret the term ‘twins’ – twins generally means that they are born at the same time. “But, yes, twins in that they have come from the same batch of embryos, collected from the same treatment cycle – so twins born at a different time – but not a twin pregnancy, when they have grown in the womb together.”