Sisters separated as frozen embryos reunited

Posted at 12:11 AM, Oct 05, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-05 00:11:20-04

CINCINNATI – Since Jamie and Piper met, they’ve been like best friends.

But the two girls, ages 9 and 10, are much more than friends – they’re sisters, thanks to a frozen embryo adoption.

“As soon as they saw each other and met each other, it was just instant togetherness – two sisters immediately,” Piper’s dad, David Joseph said. “It was just as if they’ve been together all their lives.”

Though the girls’ families live about an hour-and-a-half apart, they were able to get together Sunday at the Cincinnati Zoo, where the Institute of Reproductive Health held its reunion of families.

“We do act like sisters,” 10-year-old Jamie said. “We do argue sometimes.”

It all started about a decade ago ago. Allison and Tom Benassi had been trying to have a baby for five years. They ended up working with the Institute for Reproductive Health and having success with in vitro fertilization, and had several embryos left over.

David and Rhonda Joseph were also trying to have a baby with help from the Institute of Reproductive Health. They wrote a letter “to the two most generous people we ever met” and hoped for the best, even though they didn’t really know anything about the other couple.

The Benassis agreed, and the Josephs adopted four frozen embryos from them. Doctors implanted four embryos in Rhonda in April 2005. That December, Piper was born.

It was around this time last year that Piper told her parents she wanted to meet her biological parents, and the couples agreed to meet and introduce the girls.

The Benassis knew a child was from the embryos, and found out it was a girl a couple years later, but they wanted to wait until Jamie was old enough to talk about it seriously, Tom said.

“We just sat her down and explained she had a biological sister and they wanted to meet us, and she was all for it,” he said. “From there on out, they’ve been best friends.”

“It’s been an instant connect,” Tom added. “You would never know that they didn’t know each other for the first nine years.”

Rhonda Joseph said people sometimes ask her if it’s strange seeing the other family, but she said she couldn’t wait to meet the other couple and thank them.

“I’ve never felt an awkward moment,” Rhonda said. “They feel like family.”

She urged other couples to consider sharing frozen embryos to help other couples have children.

“The beauty is not only did they share with us the opportunity to know what it’s like to be a mom and a dad and to have a little one look up and call you ‘mommy,’ but it also expanded our family because we love their family,” Rhonda said.