Alexander Cardinale knew something was wrong as soon as he saw his newborn daughter, just seconds after his wife Daphne had given birth.
Alexander, who is 41 years old, said, “It was a very basic reaction.”
He remembers standing in their hospital room in Los Angeles in September 2019 and being confused because the baby didn’t look like him or his wife.
He says, “It was a little startling, but I got over it and cut the umbilical cord.”
Three months later, the couple found out the shocking reason: the fertility clinic where Alexander and Daphna had IVF implanted another couple’s embryo into Daphna and transferred the Cardinales’ embryo, which was made from Daphna’s egg and Alexander’s sperm, into the other woman.
The Cardinales say that neither couple knew they were raising the other’s child for more than three months before they found out the shocking truth.
“This has changed us completely,” says Daphna, 43, who switched babies with another couple in January 2020, about four months after both babies were born.
It is still a fight every day, and it will stay that way.
Alexander and Daphna are suing the California Center for Reproductive Health in Los Angeles and its owner, Dr. Eliran Mor, for medical malpractice, negligence, and fraud, among other things.
The office manager at the California Center for Reproductive Health did not answer.
Adam Wolf, the couple’s lawyer, says, “People make mistakes, and most of the time, these mistakes aren’t that bad.” They can be fixed.
In fertility clinics, mistakes can have effects that last a lifetime. This has changed Daphna, Alexander, and their two kids’ lives in a big way.”
The couple’s trip began soon after Daphne had her baby. Alexander couldn’t get rid of the idea that they weren’t really the child’s parents.
“If we hadn’t used IVF, I would have thought it was just a matter of genes,” he says. “She just looks like she looks. No huge deal. But after IVF, my thoughts started to go down into the abyss.
At first, though, Daphna tried to convince her husband that he was being too dramatic.
Daphne, who tried to convince herself that their baby looked like her when she was a baby, says, “She didn’t look much like us.”
“But I carried her and gave birth to her, so she seemed so familiar to me.”
Daphna says that both her friends and family said the same thing: “She seemed to be from a different culture than us because she didn’t look like us.”
Even though they didn’t want to, the couple and their five-year-old daughter Olivia fell in love with the dark-haired baby.
Alexander and Daphna won’t say what race the baby is because they respect the child’s biological parents.
Daphna, a therapist, says that when people are getting to know each other and falling in love, it is “this moment of pure happiness.”
She fit into our lives and hearts without any trouble.
The couple said that a month after their child was born, a worker from the clinic where they had IVF called and asked to see a picture of their child.
Alexander, a musician, thinks, “That was strange.” “I thought to myself, ‘Do they know something we don’t?’
A week later, Daphna brought home a DNA test kit to stop her husband and friends from asking questions. She was getting more and more annoyed by their questions.
In November 2019, when their baby was about two months old, they found out what was really going on.
Alexander remembers getting an email that said she wasn’t related to either of them through her genes. Then our world started to fall apart.
The couple says they were scared they would lose the little girl they had grown to love and that they might have a biological child who was still alive and needed to be found.
Workers at the clinic told the couple’s lawyer a few days later that the couple’s embryos had been mixed up in the lab.
Later, the Cardinales found out that the clinic had found their daughter’s biological parents, who had also just had a baby girl.
In December 2019, the two spouses and their babies got DNA tests. On Christmas Eve, they found out that they had given birth to each other’s children.
The next day, their lawyer sent Alexander a picture by text message of their blonde-haired, blue-eyed daughter.
“At that time, I found out that she existed, what she looked like, and what her name was,” says Alexander.
He found out that the other couple had named their daughter Zo, which the Cardinales decided to keep using. It’s weird to find out what your child’s name is if you didn’t name her.
Daphna says that the other couple, who don’t want to be named or talk in public, was also “caught off guard and upset.”
Their older daughter Olivia, who had fallen in love with her younger sister, was just as upset by the news and begged her parents not to move the babies.
The Cardinales say that by the middle of January 2020, after weeks of seeing the other couple almost every day and swapping the kids for short visits, all four parents had decided that the constant switching was too hard on everyone and that the kids should now live with their biological parents.
The two couples who live within 10 minutes of each other got custody of their children almost two years ago. During this time, they grew close to each other.
Alexander says, “This is not covered in any book.” “There’s nobody who can give you advice. We ended up huddling together because of this, and it’s a good thing that we’re all on the same page.
Since then, we’ve been together every Christmas. Since then, we’ve spent every birthday together, and it’s like our families are now one.