Lifestyle & Human Interest

Mothers Give Birth to Each Other's Babies After Nightmare IVF Mix-Up


You’ve probably heard stories about babies switched at birth, but the two little ones in this tale were switched before birth.

The mix-up would’ve been impossible before the advent of in vitro fertilization. Now that it’s happened, the parents involved say more stringent procedures need to be put in place to prevent this sort of nightmare happening in the future.

Daphna and Alexander Cardinale of California had a young daughter and were looking to add to their family. They went the IVF route, and in September 2019 they welcomed a baby girl.

Alexander immediately sensed something was wrong.

“I had a weird sort of a gut reaction when she was born. It wasn’t anything logical. It was just like an instinct,” he said, according to CBS News.

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Could’ve been new parent jitters — but this discomfort was lasting. The baby didn’t resemble either parent and had darker hair, according to People.

A few months after she was born, they decided to get a DNA test done.

The test confirmed their nagging fears: The baby wasn’t related to either of them.

“When I found out she wasn’t mine I poured more love into her,” Daphna said. “Maybe I was just clinging to her. I was just so scared I was going to lose her, which I ultimately did.”

But the hardest thing she had to do was explain to their now-7-year-old that the baby they’d come to know and love wasn’t really her sister.

“My heart breaks for her perhaps the most,” Daphna said.

For nine months Daphna had carried that baby. She’d dreamed about that baby, given birth to that baby and then met that baby — only to find out that it was not biologically hers or her husband’s.

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Which raised another question: Where was their child?

She had been born a week after the baby Daphna had carried, to a couple who wishes to remain anonymous.

In January 2020, they switched babies. Though they try to see each other often, there remain a lot of wounds that most parents don’t have to face.

“They were just as much in love with our biological daughter as we were with theirs,” Alexander said, according to the New York Post.

Now, both families are suing or preparing to sue the California Center for Reproductive Health and a third-party embryology lab.

The Cardinales’ complaint states that the two organizations wronged them through negligence and medical malpractice. They believe the embryos got swapped when In VitroTech, the embryology lab, took biopsies for genetic testing.

“The daughter they bonded with was taken from them after months of love and affection, and though they still see her periodically, their Birth Daughter never warms up to Daphna during their visits,” the lawsuit states.

“In fact, since the switch, Daphna and Alexander have watched their Birth Daughter morph from an incredibly happy newborn to an anxious baby — and they worry and feel constant guilt that the ‘switch’ is to blame. … This is one of the biggest things that haunts Daphna on a regular basis.”

The Cardinales hope their lawsuit holds the companies involved in IVF services accountable and prevents other couples from experiencing the anxiety and guilt that they have been struggling with.

“We can’t sleep at night knowing that this is happening and no one’s … talking about it,” Alexander said.

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