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“It’s always a daily struggle”

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Mix of IVF embryos leaves two couples raising babies for each other: “It’s always a daily struggle”

courtesy of Alexandre and Daphna Cardinale Olivia, the eldest daughter of Alexander and Daphna Cardinale with the baby of the other couple

The moment Alexander Cardinale laid eyes on his newborn daughter – seconds after his wife Daphna gave birth – he knew something was wrong.

“It was sort of a primary reaction,” Alexander, 41, told PEOPLE.

He recalls standing in their Los Angeles hospital room in September 2019, confused that the infant looked nothing like him or his wife.

“It was a little shocking, but I shook it and cut the umbilical cord,” he says.

Three months later, the couple learned of the shocking reason why: The fertility clinic where Alexander and Daphna went for in vitro fertilization (IVF) mistakenly implanted another couple’s embryo into Daphna and transferred the Cardinals’ embryo – made from Daphna’s egg and Alexander’s sperm – in the other woman, the Cardinals claim.

The two couples unwittingly raised each other’s children for nearly three months before learning the disturbing truth about what happened, according to the Cardinals.

“It’s something that just changed who we are,” says Daphna, 43, still in shock, who literally swapped babies with the other couple in January 2020, nearly four months after the two were born. babies. “It’s still a daily struggle and will continue to be.”

Now Alexander and Daphna are suing the fertility clinic and its owner – the California Center for Reproductive Health and Los Angeles-based Dr. Eliran Mor – for medical malpractice, negligence, and fraud, among others. Contacted by PEOPLE, the administrator of the California Center for Reproductive Health office declined to comment.

The IVF embryo mix leaves two couples raising their babies:

Mix of IVF embryos leaves two couples raising babies for each other: “It’s always a daily struggle”

courtesy of Alexandre and Daphna Cardinale Daphna and Alexandre Cardinale

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“People make mistakes,” says the couple’s attorney, Adam Wolf, “and in most industries, those mistakes are pretty harmless. They can be corrected. With fertility clinics, these mistakes can have serious consequences. life. It fundamentally changed the lives of Daphna and Alexander, as well as their two children. “

The couples odyssey began shortly after Daphna gave birth. Alexander couldn’t shake the feeling that they weren’t the little girl’s real parents.

“If we hadn’t done IVF, I would have just noted [the lack of resemblance] down to genetics, “he says.” She just looks what she looks like. Not serious. But because we had done IVF, my brain started to go dark. “

But Daphna first tried to convince her husband that he was overreacting.

“She looked really different from us,” said Daphne, who tried to convince herself that their baby looked like her when she was a baby. “But she looked so familiar to me because I carried her and gave birth to her.”

The IVF embryo mix leaves two couples raising their babies:

Mix of IVF embryos leaves two couples raising babies for each other: “It’s always a daily struggle”

courtesy of Alexandre and Daphna Cardinale Daphna and Alexandre Cardinale

Friends and family have noticed the same, commenting more and more that “she looked like a different ethnicity from us because she didn’t really look like us,” adds Daphna.

Despite their reluctance, the couple – and their then-5-year-old daughter Olivia immediately fell in love with the little dark-haired baby, whom Alexander and Daphna refuse to identify out of respect for the child’s biological parents.

“It was that moment of pure happiness where everyone got to know each other and fell in love with each other,” says Daphna, a therapist. “She really integrated into our lives and our hearts.”

A month after the birth, a clinic worker who had performed their IVF treatment called to ask if the couple would send them a photo of their baby, the couple claim.

“It sounded strange,” recalls Alexander, a musician. “I was like, ‘Do they know something that we don’t know?’ “

The IVF embryo mix leaves two couples raising their babies:

Mix of IVF embryos leaves two couples raising babies for each other: “It’s always a daily struggle”

courtesy of Alexandre and Daphna Cardinale Olivia, the eldest daughter of Alexander and Daphna Cardinale with the baby of the other couple

A week later, after being frustrated by the comments from her husband and friends, Daphna brought home a DNA test kit, hoping to finally put an end to everyone’s questions. In November 2019, when their baby was almost 2 months old, they finally learned the truth.

“We got an email that basically said she wasn’t genetically related to any of us,” Alexander recalls. “That’s when our world started to fall apart.”

The couple said they were terrified of losing the little girl they had grown to love, and at the same time, they were also afraid of having a biological child who was alive and needed to be found.

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Days later, the lawyer they hired after receiving the news was told by clinic staff that the couple’s embryos had mixed together in the lab used by the fertility clinic, the couple said. Soon after, they learned that the clinic had located the biological parents of their baby girl, who had also recently given birth to a baby girl, according to the Cardinals.

The IVF embryo mix leaves two couples raising their babies:

Mix of IVF embryos leaves two couples raising babies for each other: “It’s always a daily struggle”

courtesy of Alexandre and Daphna Cardinale Alexander Cardinale holding his biological child

In December 2019, the two couples and their babies underwent DNA tests, and on Christmas Eve they learned that the tests had revealed that they had given birth to each other’s children, the Cardinals told PEOPLE. The next day, their lawyer texted Alexander with a photo of their blonde-haired, blue-eyed daughter.

“I found out then that she existed, what she looked like and what her name was,” said Alexander, who learned that the other couple had named their daughter Zoë, that the Cardinals decided to continue. to call him. “It’s weird to learn your child’s name when you haven’t named them.”

The other couple – who do not wish to be identified or speak in public – were also “blinded and devastated,” says Daphna. Their eldest daughter Olivia, who had fallen in love with her little sister, was also crushed by the news and begged her parents not to change babies.

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But in mid-January 2020, after weeks of meeting the other couple almost every day and swapping babies for brief visits, all four parents realized that constant change was too difficult for everyone and decided it was finally time for the children to live with their birth parents, the Cardinals say.

Almost two years have passed since the two couples, who live 10 minutes from each other, picked up their children. During this time, they have forged a strong bond with each other.

“There is no book for that,” said Alexander. “There’s no one to give you any advice. So the four of us ended up snuggling up, and it’s a blessing that we’re all on the same page. We’ve spent every vacation together since. then. We’ve spent every birthday together since then – and we’ve just kind of mixed up the families. “


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