A rare mix-up meant that two couples raised each other's babies for over three months, one of the couples has alleged in a lawsuit.
Daphna and Alexander Cardinale conceived their second child via in vitro fertilization (IVF), and Daphna gave birth in September 2019. However, they both had questions given the darker complexion of the baby girl, who did not resemble either of them.
They both trusted the IVF clinic and their processes, so put aside their worries and concentrated on their newborn baby, growing close to her over a number of months.
"Two months after the birth, a DNA test confirmed Alexander’s worst fear," a lawsuit against the clinic alleges. "The child was not related to the Cardinales."
The couple informed the California Center for Reproductive Health (CCRH) of the DNA test result, and discovered that the CCRH had outsourced the handling of their embryo to another firm named In VitroTech Labs, who had allegedly mixed up their embryo with another, which had then been implanted into Daphna.
"The Cardinales, including their young daughter, fell in love with this child, and were terrified she would be taken away from them," the lawsuit says. "All the while, Alexander and Daphna did not know the whereabouts of their own embryo, and thus were terrified that another woman had been pregnant with their child – and their child was out in the world somewhere without them."
The embryo created using the Cardinales' eggs and sperm, it turned out, had been implanted into another couple, who the CCRH helped track down. Their biological daughter and the baby Daphna had given birth to had been born a week apart. The second couple have chosen to remain anonymous, though will be launching their own lawsuit.
In December 2019, the couples met and saw their biological children for the first time, and from then on met nearly every day. In January, both couples decided that their biological children would stay permanently with their biological parents.
Swapping the children back was not easy for the couples, and the lawsuit states that the Cardinales' first-born daughter began to have "serious breakdowns".
"Though she did her best to bond with their Biological Daughter, she missed their Birth Daughter constantly," the lawsuit says. "For their part, Daphna and Alexander also missed their Birth Daughter every day and felt terrible guilt that they had 'given away' their baby."
Since the "swap", they have remained in touch with the second couple and visited the baby regularly. The baby, according to the lawsuit, has become anxious, and Daphna and Alexander feel guilt that this may be because of how they were "forced to abandon her". As well as regret for the baby they returned to her biological parents, they feel heartbroken about the time they missed with their own biological child.
“We missed an entire year of our daughter’s life,” Daphna Cardinale said in a press conference. “I didn’t get to experience being pregnant with her or birthing her; we missed her entire newborn period; we never saw our baby’s entrance in the world or cuddled her in her first seconds of life. These are moments that parents are supposed to be able to treasure for the rest of their lives.”
"Our memories of childbirth will always be tainted by the sick reality that our biological child was given to someone else, and the baby that I fought to bring into this world was not mine to keep."