Two couples spent months raising the wrong kids after a nightmare IVF mix-up meant the mothers each gave birth to one other’s biological baby.
It wasn’t until a few months after the children were born that the shocked parents made the stunning discovery that a fertility lab had implanted the wrong embryos.
One of the couples have now spoken publicly about their nightmare, which they say started the moment “their” baby was born.
Alexander Cardinale said he laid eyes on his newborn daughter seconds after his wife Daphna gave birth in September 2019 and immediately knew something was wrong, reports People.
“It was sort of a primal reaction," said Alexander, 41, from Los Angeles.
“It was a little jarring, but I shook it off and cut the umbilical cord. If we hadn't done IVF, I would've just chalked [the lack of resemblance] up to genetics. She just looks how she looks. No big deal. But because we'd done IVF, my brain started going to the dark place.”
The mix-up meant that both children had been carried by and born to the “wrong” mother, and had both been raised by non-biological parents.
Daphna, 43, told People: “This is something that's just changed who we are. It's still a daily struggle and will continue to be.”
Alexander and Daphna are now suing the fertility clinic and its owner for medical malpractice, negligence and fraud.
Daphna had initially tried to allay her husband’s fears. “She looked really different than us," she said. “But she felt so familiar to me because I carried her and I birthed her.”
The couple and their daughter Olivia, who was five at the time, instantly fell in love with the dark-haired little baby.
“It was this moment of sheer bliss when everybody is getting to know each other and falling in love with each other," said Daphna, who is a therapist.
But a month after the birth, the clinic asked if the couple would send them a photograph of their baby, which struck them as odd.
A week later, after growing frustrated with the comments from her husband and friends, Daphna carried out a DNA test, and that’s when the horror of what had happened finally became apparent.
They were living the dual nightmare of being terrified of losing the girl they had grown to love but also realising they had their own biological child somewhere.
Once the clinic had located the second couple, further DNA testing resulted in the confirmation in December 2019 that the two mothers had given birth to each other’s babies. The following day, the Cardinales were sent a picture of their biological daughter, who has blonde hair and blue eyes.
"I found out in that moment that she existed, what she looked like and what her name was," said Alexander.
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The other couple, who want to remain private, had named their daughter Zoë, which the Cardinales decided to continue calling her. "It's weird learning the name of your child when you didn't name her," they said.
Olivia, who had become smitten with her little sister, was crushed by the news and begged her parents not to switch babies. But by mid-January 2020, after weeks of meeting up with the other couple nearly every day and exchanging the babies for brief visits, the four parents decided that arrangement was too hard.
They agreed to swap babies for good so the children could live with their biological parents.
The one silver lining to the shocking story is how the two families have bonded.
“We've spent every holiday together since then,” said Alexander.
“We've spent every birthday together since then, and we've just kind of blended the families.”
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