What was supposed to be one of the happiest days of their lives has now turned into a “daily struggle” for two unsuspecting families.
In September 2019, Alexander Cardinale recalls the moment he laid eyes on his newborn daughter for the very first time. Unfortunately, this memory has been burned into his mind because something was very wrong: this child looked nothing like him or his wife Daphna! Alexander told People:
“It was sort of a primal reaction.”
Remembering how confused he felt looking at the baby, the dad continued:
“It was a little jarring, but I shook it off and cut the umbilical cord.”
Well, he had reason to be confused. This was NOT his biological daughter, despite the fact he’d just witnessed her birth.
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Three months later, the couple learned why: the fertility clinic they went to for in vitro fertilization (IVF) accidentally mixed up their embryos with another couple! So not only had they given birth to someone else’s child, but another woman had given birth to theirs about a week later. And neither of the families were aware of this for THREE MONTHS!!
After literally swapping babies with the other family in January 2020, the shellshocked momma admitted to People:
“This is something that’s just changed who we are. It’s still a daily struggle and will continue to be.”
Now, the Cardinales are suing the fertility clinic, Los Angeles-based California Center for Reproductive Health, and its owner, Dr. Eliran Mor, as well as a third party for medical malpractice, negligence and fraud, among other things. Adam Wolf, the parent’s attorney, told the outlet:
“People make mistakes and in most industries those mistakes are fairly harmless. They can be corrected. With fertility clinics, those mistakes can have lifelong consequences. This has fundamentally changed the lives of Daphna and Alexander, as well as their two children.”
Recalling those early days with their baby, Alexander couldn’t shake the feeling that they weren’t this girl’s real parents, explaining:
“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 momma had a different experience, insisting:
“She looked really different than us. But she felt so familiar to me because I carried her and I birthed her.”
The couple and their then-5-year-old daughter Olivia quickly bonded with the dark-haired child. Daphna expressed:
“It was this moment of sheer bliss when everybody is getting to know each other and falling in love with each other. She just really folded into our lives and into our hearts.”
One month after the birth, the family received a strange phone call from an employee at the fertility clinic asking for a photo of the baby. The dad, who is a musician, revealed:
“It seemed odd. I thought, ‘Do they know something we don’t know?’”
It didn’t help that family and friends started to make comments about the situation too, Daphna recalled people saying:
“She looked like she could actually be a different ethnicity than us because she didn’t really look like us.”
The parents did not disclose the child’s ethnic background to help protect her biological parents’ privacy.
Frustrated by the increasing amount of comments from her husband and friends, the therapist bought a DNA test kit to finally put the controversy to rest. Only, when the results came back, they discovered their then-2-month-old had NO relation to them! Alexander shared:
“We got an email that basically said that she was genetically related to neither of us. That’s when our world started falling apart.”
We cannot imagine how jarring that would be, especially after spending all that time bonding with the little girl. Candidly, the couple told the outlet they were both terrified to lose the little girl they’d raised as their own and afraid they might have a biological child who was alive and needed to be found.
They quickly hired an attorney to help and days later, the clinic staff confirmed that the couple’s embryos had been mixed up in the lab. According to the Cardinales, the clinic located their daughter’s biological parents, who had also welcomed a baby girl around the same time.
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In December 2019, everyone completed DNA testing to verify the news, which was confirmed on Christmas Eve. The next morning, Alexander and Daphna received a text from their attorney with a photograph of a blonde-haired, blue-eyed daughter who had been named Zoë (which they have continued to call her). Alexander mused:
“I found out in that moment that she existed, what she looked like, and what her name was. It’s weird learning the name of your child when you didn’t name her.”
While the other couple has wished to remain anonymous, they were equally “blindsided and devastated,” according to Daphna. That same devastation impacted the couple’s eldest daughter Olivia who didn’t want to see her little sister get sent away and even begged for the switch not to happen.
After weeks of meeting up and trading the babies for brief visits, the families ultimately decided by mid-January that it was time to make the switch permanent. Things had gotten too difficult for everyone. Now that nearly two years have passed since this life-altering ordeal, the families, who live ten minutes away from each other, have forged a strong bond. The father concluded:
“There’s no book for this. There’s no person to give you advice. So we ended up just sort of huddling together, the four of us, and it’s a blessing that we all are on the same page. We’ve spent every holiday together since then. We’ve spent every birthday together since then — and we’ve just kind of blended the families.”
Wow! It’s nice to know they were able to come together after a crazy situation like this and not allow the complicated feelings to tear them apart. Hear more about how this transition has been since welcoming their biological daughter home (below):
Oof, you can just see the pain in their eyes. What a difficult situation to navigate… Thoughts, Perezcious readers? Let us know in the comments (below).
[Image via CBS Mornings/YouTube]