California couple Anni and Ashot Manukyan had to travel to a New York court to gain custody of a baby boy who shared their DNA, but was born to another woman, said family law attorney Eric Wrubel, who represented the couple.
In what he called an "unprecedented" case, the Manukyans' genetic material was allegedly put into the womb of another woman during an IVF procedure at a Los Angeles clinic. The IVF mix-up reportedly involved the woman, who lives in New York, being implanted with two embryos that were neither related to her or each other. She ended up giving birth to two boys in March who were returned to their biological parents (the Manukyans and another family) in May, Wrubel said.
Wrubel also represented the family of the second baby boy, who wish to remain anonymous.
"Both parties broke into sobbing quite a bit and it was a huge emotional release,” Wrubel said, describing the moment the judge ruled the babies should be returned to their biological parents.
Both cases are sealed.
Two days to get ready for a baby
The New York County Supreme Court judge gave the families two days to place the babies with their biological parents.
That gave the Manukyans 48 hours to prepare and shop for a baby most parents have months to plan for.
During that time, the California couple bought a portable crib, sheets, the correct formula and other baby items.
They relied on the New York couple, who were giving up the babies, to provide the infant’s sleeping and feeding schedule, formula type, social security card and medical records.
“It was a completely emotional and exhausting process,” Wrubel said.
The California and New York couples are suing the IVF clinic
On July 1, a New York couple known only by their initials as A.P. and Y.Z. to protect their privacy, filed a federal suit in the Eastern District of New York accusing the CHA Fertility Center in Los Angeles of medical practice, negligence, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
On July 10, the Manukyans filed their own suit in the L.A. County Superior Court, citing the same accusations. The couple spoke about the ordeal at a news conference that day.
"CHA put three families through a living hell, and our lives will never be the same," Ashot said.
The Manukyans attorney, Adam Wolf, called this "one of the worst fertility center tragedies in U.S. history."
"The number of things that went wrong here is just plain staggering," Wolf said, adding that he has handled his share of fertility cases. "And yet this case is among the most egregious I have ever seen."
Repeated attempts to reach the Los Angeles-based fertility center were unsuccessful. Court documents do not list an attorney for the center.
What we know about the alleged IVF mix-up
The New York couple (known by their initials A.P. and Y.Z.) who are Korean-American, said they gave birth to two boys, neither of whom were of Asian descent. Neither baby shared the couple's DNA, they said. The boys' DNA didn't match either, they said. The couple relinquished custody of both boys.
One of those boys belonged to the Manukyans, whose lawsuit states the New York couple initially did not want to give up their baby, prompting a custody battle.
Finding out they had a son
Anni choked up when she recalled how she wasn't there at her son's birth.
"CHA robbed me of my ability to carry my own child, my baby boy," she said. "To be with him in the first couple moments of his life. To nurse him. To do skin-on-skin contact. To, you know, just be a mom to him."
The Manukyans said they first met their son in a hotel lobby. They named the boy, born March 31, Alec.
They said they met the New York woman who gave birth to Alec, and called her "a lovely woman."
"I pray for her every day and God will give her her own beautiful babies one day," Anni said, adding that she is angry at the clinic on the New York mom's behalf, too. "Why did you do that to her? What is she going through right now? We are all victims of CHA."
How could this have happened?
No one at the clinic has answered that question, Anni said.
"It is all so cruel," she said. "We are human beings. We deserve dignity, the truth and answers."
Ashot said they wouldn't have survived without his wife's emotional strength. The lawsuit states she was hospitalized for a stress-related illness for two days.
Although two families are suing, three families have been impacted he pointed out, including the third family of the baby boy born to the New York couple who have not come forward publicly.
The couple said they paid $120,000 in IVF procedures, fees, other fertility-related costs and to investigate CHA's "misconduct."
The couple, who also have a 7-year-old daughter, said their son is happy.
"He's amazing in every way," Anni said. "He’s rolling over and cooing and he's had no issues bonding with us. And I love him to pieces. He’s ours and has been from day one."
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: IVF Mix-up: Babies in alleged mix-up are back with biological parents