Two Los Angeles couples experienced an IVF nightmare in which the mothers each gave birth to the other’s biological baby after a fertility lab mixed up their embryos.
Musician Alexander Cardinale, 41, and his wife Daphna, 43, spent months raising another couple’s child before their suspicions that something was wrong grew so great that they performed a DNA test.
That’s how they discovered that their little girl was not, in fact, biologically theirs — and the couple she did belong to had been raising their biological daughter as well.
The parents made the harrowing decision to swap babies when they were four months old, and now that Cardinales are suing their IVF clinic, the California Center for Reproductive Health, and its owner, Dr. Eliran Mor, for medical malpractice, negligence, and fraud.
‘This is something that’s just changed who we are,’ Daphna, 43 told People this week. ‘It’s still a daily struggle and will continue to be.’
Mixup: Musician Alexander Cardinale, 41, and his wife Daphna, 43, welcomed a baby girl in September of 2019 after undergoing IVF (pictured with their older daughter, center)
Swapped: The couple eventually learned that their IVF clinic had swapped their embryo with another one. The two babies are pictured together
The Cardinales already had a five-year-old daughter when, in September of 2019, Daphna gave birth to another baby girl.
Alexander said that he had a ‘primal reaction’ to seeing the baby for the first time, noticing right away that she didn’t look like him or Daphna.
Though he shook it off in the hospital room, he couldn’t get past the feeling that something wasn’t right.
At first, Daphna tried to convince Alexander — and herself — that there was nothing wrong.
‘She looked really different than us. But she felt so familiar to me because I carried her and I birthed her,’ she said.
But Alexander admitted his ‘brain started going to the dark place’ because they’d used IVF.
They thought something was off and the baby didn’t look like them, and as their suspicions grew, they got a DNA test. The test found that she was not biologically related to either of them
Major mistake: Their IVF clinic later confirmed that the lab they used had swapped their embryo with one belonging to another couple
The Cardinales are suing the Los Angeles IVF clinic, the California Center for Reproductive Health (pictured), for medical malpractice, negligence, and fraud
Their suspicions only grew as other people began commenting on how little the baby girl looked like them, with some even remarking that she appeared to be of a different ethnicity.
They are also suing the clinic’s owner, Dr. Eliran Mor (pictured)
But nagging doubts aside, the couple fell in love with the little girl, describing their time with her as ‘sheer bliss.’
Then something strange happened that only bolstered their feelings that something was amiss: Their IVF clinic called asking for a photo of their baby.
Soon, Daphna had purchased a DNA test, and by the time the baby was almost two months old, they’d learned that she wasn’t genetically related to them
‘That’s when our world started falling apart,’ said Alexander.
The couple hired a lawyer, who eventually heard from the IVF clinic confirming that the lab they used had mixed up the embryos. They had ended up with another couple’s embryo, and that couple had ended up with theirs — something they confirmed with DNA testing.
Switching places: After spending time with the other couple and their own biological daughter, they swapped when the babies were four months old
Holding accountable: The Cardinales are suing the LA IVF clinic for medical malpractice, negligence, and fraud
Once they knew the truth, the Cardinales got to see a photo of their daughter for the first time. They learned that the other couple had named her Zoë, and they decided not to change it.
They began having regular visits with the other couple, even switching babies for short periods of time — but that soon became too hard.
In January of 2020, when their daughters were four months old, the couples swapped them for good.
While the ordeal was difficult on everyone, the two families have ‘blended’ together, and now spend holidays and birthdays together.
But the Cardinales are still aiming to hold the clinic responsible, and are suing the Los Angeles-based California Center for Reproductive Health, and Dr. Eliran Mor, for medical malpractice, negligence, and fraud.