A couple was left devastated after finding out that their baby girl, who was conceived via IVF, had been another couple’s embryo. Alexander and Daphna Cardinale are suing a California fertility clinic after the wrong embryo was implanted into Daphna’s womb, and the pair’s own embryo was given to another set of parents.
After Daphna gave birth, the couple started to notice that their baby didn’t resemble either of them. Alexander said that, had they not have done IVF, he would have just chalked the lack of resemblance ‘up to genetics’. ‘But because we’d done IVF, my brain started going to the dark place,’ he told People.
The worry was trickier for Daphna to reconcile. ‘She felt so familiar to me because I carried her and I birthed her,’ she said. However, the 43-year-old did notice that the baby ‘could actually be a different ethnicity than us’, and eventually decided to take a home DNA test when the girl was two months old.
The couple then received an email telling them that the baby that Daphna had birthed was not genetically related to either of them. Alexander said this was the point at which their ‘world started falling apart’.
The parents were scared that the baby, who they and their elder daughter (who was five at the time) had bonded with, would be taken from them. Also on their minds was the question of whether they had a biological child out there too.
Alexander and Daphna’s lawyer was later told by their fertility clinic that two embryos had been mixed up, and that they tracked down the biological parents of the baby Daphna had given birth to. This couple had also recently had a baby girl via IVF.
Both couples had their babies DNA tested and, on Christmas Eve 2019, they received confirmation that the two mothers had given birth to each other’s children. The other couple, who did not want to speak publicly, were also ‘blindsided and devastated’, according to Daphna.
In the weeks following the revelation, the couples met up almost every day and exchanged their babies for visits. In January 2020, they ultimately decided to swap babies, each taking their own biological child to live with them.
Afterwards, the sets of parents, who live 10 minutes away from each other, became a close-knit unit.
Alexander explained: ‘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.’
The 41-year-old emphasised that there was no playbook for their situation, nor anyone to impart advice on the basis of experience. The couples’ approach of forming a blended family, despite having previously been strangers, displays an admirable combination of pragmatism and love.
Even without an earth-shattering mix-up like this one, family setups are complicated. It really does ‘take a village’, and Alexander and Daphna’s brave actions show that families don’t have to take on a certain structure to act in their children’s best interests.