Daphna and Alexander Cardinale were shocked when their newborn arrived with completely different features than them. Three months later, they discovered there had been an embryo mix up during the IVF process.
“We missed an entire year of our daughter’s life.” Daphna Cardinale spoke out at a news conference describing the recent emotional trauma her and her family have endured.
Through in vitro fertilization, she and her husband Alexander welcomed their second daughter into the world in September 2019. Expecting a fair-haired child like their first, they were shocked when she arrived with a darker complexion and black hair.
Trying to rationalize the unexplainable, the couple continued to raise their baby for three months. Their older daughter, who was five years old at the time, had cherished the idea of becoming a big sister and bonded with her new little sibling.
But on Christmas Eve, the family’s worst fears were confirmed when a DNA test revealed they were not the baby’s biological parents.
Embryo ‘mix up’
After reaching out to their fertility clinic, the Los Angeles-based California Center for Reproductive Health, the Cardinales learned there had been an embryo “mix up”. Another couple’s embryo had been implanted into Daphna and vice versa.
On New Year’s Eve, they were able to connect with the couple that had their biological daughter Zoe and decided to swap back their children in what they described as a “traumatic exchange”.
Both girls were born just a week apart, and the other couple, who wishes to remain anonymous, were just as heartbroken to say goodbye to the baby they had cherished for three months.
Now, the couple is suing the fertility clinic and its medical director over the embryo “mix-up,” and recently made a public statement describing the detrimental effects the whole experience has had on both families.
‘Fear, betrayal, anger and heartbreak’
“We had their baby, and they had our baby,” Daphna said during the news conference. “We missed an entire year of our daughter’s life. I was overwhelmed by feelings of fear, betrayal, anger and heartbreak.
“I was robbed of the ability to carry my own child. I never had the opportunity to grow and bond with her during pregnancy, to feel her kick. We never saw our baby’s entrance into the world or cuddled her in her first seconds of life. Every time I felt a kick or spoke to her, it was someone else’s baby.”
Breaking the news to their older daughter was, Daphna says, one of the hardest things she has ever had to do. “My heart breaks for her, perhaps the most,” she said.
To help ease the pain of this transition, all four parents involved have decided to stay in contact and be a part of one another’s lives.
“We want to forge a larger family”, Daphna said. “They were just as much in love with our biological daughter as we were with theirs,” Alexander added.
The Cardinales hope their lawsuit will call for greater oversight for IVF clinics. “The fertility industry needs to be regulated,” Alexander said. “I hope we’re able to give other families out there a voice. If something doesn’t seem right, ask questions.
“I hope that our speaking out today can help prevent this from happening in the future. No one should have to experience what [we’ve been] put through.”