An IVF Mishap Ended With Two Couples Raising Each Other’s Babies

Suppose you are part of the 12% of people who can’t get or stay pregnant naturally. Imagine going through a series of invasive IVF procedures to become pregnant, bond with, and carry that baby to term. Next, imagine looking at the baby you just gave birth. Likely, it’s a moment of gratitude, joy, nervousness, and excitement. However, it’s possible to not recognize yourself when you first see your newborn. All of them. 

That’s what happened to new parents, Daphna and Alexander Cardinale in 2019. Alexander was particularly concerned about the baby’s appearance. Alexander was worried that the baby would look different from his wife Daphna and their older daughter Olivia. As Cardinale told People, “It was sort of a primal reaction.”  

The baby’s appearance differed from their older daughter immensely. According to CNN, the family “expected to see a fair child, much like their older daughter. Instead, their birth daughter came out with much darker skin and jet-black hair.”

The family still bonded and fell for the baby, including Olivia, their big sister. However, they still couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong, plus, the questions didn’t stop. Friends and family began to question the baby’s appearance and eventually the family did a DNA testing.

Alexander said that People, “If we hadn’t done IVF, I would’ve just chalked [the lack of resemblance] up to genetics,” he says. “She just looks how she looks. No big deal. But because we’d done IVF, my brain started going to the dark place.”

The devastating news that followed was shocking. The test results revealed that the baby wasn’t genetically related to the family.

Fertility Clinic Mixup

Close up of lab tech running a test.

The family has filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles-based clinic for fertility. The California Center for Reproductive Health. The suit also includes Dr. Eliran Mor, their fertility specialist. When the DNA test came back with devastating results, the fertility clinic reached out to the family’s lawyer, stating they had contacted the baby’s biological family. The family had recently given birth to a girl. This baby had fair skin, blue eyes, and was named Zoë.

“I found out [at] that moment that she existed, what she looked like, and what her name was,” says Alexander. “It’s weird learning the name of your child when you didn’t name her,” Alexander stated, according to People.

According to CNN, the lawsuit claims that the “fertility clinic either recklessly, negligently, and/or knowingly lost or actively decided to give the Cardinales’ embryos to another couple, while implanting the wrong embryo in Daphna.”

The other family involved didn’t want to be identified publicly but were “equally blindsided and devastated.”

Reuniting Families

Both families took DNA tests to confirm that they had given birth to each other’s babies. The process of reuniting the families began. In September 2019, the babies were born a week apart. The process started slowly, however, as the families were already close with their babies. It had been three years since the babies were born and another month before they would make the switch.

The families initially switched the babies for brief visits. After the babies spent the night with their biological parents, the families realized that constant switching was too difficult and decided to switch the babies permanently in January 2020 at four months of age.

According to the Associated Press, the families have “made an effort to stay in each other’s lives” and “forge a larger family.”

According to the BBC, “Adam B Wolf, a lawyer representing the Cardinales, said the other family in the mix-up also plans to sue but will remain anonymous.” Alexander stated, “They were just as much in love with our biological daughter as we were with theirs.”

The Cardinales share their story to raise awareness about fertility clinic mishaps. Daphna stated: GMA, “I want people to know that it is possible to test after you’re pregnant to make sure that you are the biological parent of the child you’re carrying,” she said. “It is possible to have those tests. Just talk to your doctors about it.”

Other IVF Mix-Ups

IVF Mix-Ups aren’t common, but they have happened. A couple in California gained custody of their child in 2019. biological babyAfter being born to a couple from New York in an IVF mix-up,

The families sued CHA Fertility Center, California. “CHA robbed me of my ability to carry my own child, my baby boy,” Anni Manukyan, the child’s biological mother stated.