Babies being switched at birth is a not-so-unusual plot line for television shows, movies, and novels, but the occurrence, although rare, actually takes place more commonly in real life than most people think. In fact, according to statistics cited by Talon Medical Limited, 28,000 babies in every 4,000,000 births — that’s 7 in every thousand — are either temporarily or permanently switched with other infants. Understandably, the discovery of switched births brings about horribly stressful times for all parties involved. But how they’ve managed to deal with the shocking circumstance is nothing short of fascinating.
Here are ten of the most dramatic recorded cases of babies who were switched at birth:
10. Baby Breastfed by Wrong Mother (2012)
When a baby is breastfed by the wrong mother, it might not seem like that big of a deal. But in reality, it is. That’s because HIV and hepatitis can be transmitted to a newborn via breastfeeding. That’s the scare that Tammy Van Dyke had to deal with in December of 2012 when her baby, Cody, was switched to the wrong nursery bassinet at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As a result, her baby was mistakenly breastfed by the wrong mother just hours before she was supposed to take Cody home. Furthermore, despite the first blood tests for Van Dyke’s baby coming up negative for HIV and hepatitis, baby Cody had to undergo the same tests every three months for a year. Van Dyke was understandably shaken by the incident:
You put your baby in the nursery, not even 48 hours old, and you think they’re safe. I’m holding it together. I’m just in disbelief, and it was like I was in a dream, a bad dream, and I couldn’t get it to stop.
The hospital apologized for the mixup and agreed to pay for the additional testing that baby Cody had to undergo.
9. One Mother Gets Two Sons, Another Gets None (1989)
The babies of two South African single mothers, Sandra Dawkins and Margaret Clinton-Parker, were switched at birth by a hospital in South Africa. What made the mixup so regretful is that only those two babies were born in the hospital that day in 1989, but the staff still couldn’t manage to give the babies to their rightful mothers. It was only when the infants were already eighteen months old that a paternity test conducted to determine the father of one of the boys revealed the blunder. Upon the revelation, Sandra and Margaret decided to keep the children they had raised. However, that didn’t stop the boys, Robyn and Gavin, from building a brotherly friendship with each other. In fact, the good relations between them eventually led Robyn, at fifteen years old, to move in with Clinton-Parker, so he could be like a real brother to Gavin. Sandra Dawkins, who raised Robyn, was understandably heartbroken by the development.
8. Child Support Dispute Uncovers Baby Switching (1998)
Yulia Belyaeva of Ural Mountains in Russia took her ex-husband to court for his refusal to pay for their 12-year-old daughter’s maintenance. His reason — he doubted that Irina was his daughter because she looked nothing like him, a claim that outraged Yulia. Hence a DNA paternity test. Well, to Yulia’s great surprise, her husband was right — but even more right than he had imagined. Irina wasn’t Yulia’s daughter either. Understandably, Yulia sought to find where the biological daughter she had given birth to ended up, and the result of her month-long search revealed that her daughter was exchanged at the Kopeysk Maternity Hospital. Her real daughter, Anya Iskanderova, lived in a village half an hour away from Yulia’s — as a Muslim — while Irina was raised Christian. The families have met regularly since the discovery, but there is clear tension as neither family is comfortable with the upbringing their biological daughters have received. For the mess, a court has awarded each family $100,000.
7. Baby Girls Learn of Switched Fates as 56-Year-Old Grandmothers (1953)
In 1953, two baby girls were born on May 3 at the Pioneer Memorial Hospital in Heppner, Oregon. Both children eventually got married and had their own children and grandchildren. Then, in 2009, when the then baby girls, Kay Rene Reed and DeeAnn Angell were already 56, an 86-year-old woman called Kay Rene’s brother, Bobby. The caller, then in a nursing home, claimed that she had long known that Kay Rene and DeeAnn had been switched at birth. To support her story, the elderly woman showed a picture of a woman whom she claimed was Kay Rene’s biological sister, and true enough, she undeniably resembled Kay Rene. The story was shocking to Bobby, but his family had long joked about how Kay Rene wasn’t their biological sister since she was a brunette while they were all blonds. DeeAnn, meanwhile, also had her own lingering doubts as she loved horses while her family did not. A DNA test confirmed the elderly woman’s story, and DeeAnn later learned that her love for horses was likely a result of her biological father being a horse trainer. The women, whose lives had been switched, ended up being friends.
6. Separated Identical Twin Boys Discover Each Other in College (1971)
In June of 1971, identical twin boys were born to Laura Cain at the Grace Hospital in Ottawa. She named the boys Marcus and George, but because she was unable to care for the babies, she entrusted them to the Children’s Aid Society (CAS). In turn, the foundation assigned the infants under the care of a foster home. In August of the same year, Laura ended up marrying the father of her twins, and asked CAS to have her boys back. Unfortunately, confusion caused the foundation to mistake another boy for Marcus. Laura and her husband didn’t know of the mixup and raised the boy, along with George, as their own.
The real Marcus was adopted by Jim and Carroll Tremblay, who resided in a nearby community, and the switching of the boys was discovered in 1992, when the 21-year-old identical twins met each other at Carleton University, where they coincidentally both attended college. Eventually, the boys underwent DNA testing and learned that they were the actual twins. Later, the biological brothers moved in together to build the brotherly relationship they had been deprived of for years.
5. Separated Identical Twin Girls Discover Each Other While Shopping (1973)
This one is the female version of the Temblay’s story, and instead of the twins discovering each other in college, these women found each other while shopping. The unnamed females were born in a state hospital in the Canary Islands in 1973. Likely due to the high volume of babies born at the facility each hour, one of the twins was mistakenly switched with another baby girl, and the families raised the wrong children as their own. 28 years later, at a shopping center in Las Palmas, one of the twins was baffled when a sales assistant in one of the shops tried to kiss her. She then learned that the store employee had mistaken her for a friend, who was called to come so she could see her lookalike. The undeniable resemblance between the two prompted them to take a DNA test, which confirmed that they were the real twins, and all three women involved in the mixup proceeded to sue the government for $3.8 million in damages.
4. A Baby Girl and a Baby Boy Mixed Up? (1995)
It seems impossible that a baby girl and a baby boy could be switched at birth, but it happened in the coastal province of Trang in Thailand. The reason why the mothers didn’t wonder why they were given a baby with a different sex? They had both fainted shortly after giving birth and did not know of the outcome of their deliveries. In fact, the mixup would have never been uncovered had the children, Jeerawuth Boonyoo (male) and Orawan Chanthong (female) not ended up being schoolmates, and noticed, when they were 10 years old, that they had the same birth dates, were born at the same hospital, and looked more like each other’s family members. After a DNA test confirmed that the children had been switched, the parents decided to allow their children to decide whether they would switch homes or remain with the parents that had raised them. No update has been reported on what the children chose.
3. Judge Rules That Children Switched at Birth Should Remain Switched (1983)
In an unusual decision on a legal case involving babies switched at birth, Judge Frank M. Eldridge gave custody of 8-year-old Melvin Eugene Moore to adoptive parents Eugene and Edith Moore despite the fact that the boy’s biological parents, Walter and Jodie Pope, got hold of the wrong child due to a hospital mixup. The children were born just hours apart on October 7, 1983, and the switching of the babies was only known 5 years later due to blood tests taken to facilitate the Popes’ divorce. The mistake should have been more obvious, however, since the boy the Popes raised was of mixed race, and the Popes were both Caucasian. The Moores, meanwhile, were surprised to have adopted a white baby despite requesting a mixed-race child since Eugene was black and Edith was white.
Judge Eldridge explained that while the Popes were the biological parents of Melvin, the Moores had vested rights as parents because they adopted and raised the boy from his infancy. Nevertheless, Jodie Pope was granted liberal visitation rites. Furthermore, the judge ruled that the Griffin-Spalding Hospital, which was responsible for the switching of babies, had to pay the Moores and Mrs. Pope $900,000.
2. Switched Clothes or Switched Babies? (1974)
After Marta gave birth in Azul, Argentina in 1974, she was quite alarmed when the baby brought to her afterwards wasn’t wearing the clothes she had bought for him. The nurse apologized and explained that she had simply switched the clothes of the babies that were next to each other at the nursery. 34 years later though, it was revealed that it was the lives and not the clothes of Gustavo Germain and Javier Delmasso that had been mixed up. Ironically, the families of the boys lived only a few blocks from each other. In fact, when Javier happened to meet his biological father in 2007, he was amazed by the physical resemblance he had with the man and the man’s other children. Finally, in 2009, the mixup was confirmed by DNA tests, and the case was put under investigation, although the nurse who switched the infants was never located.
1. Families Whose Babies Were Switched at Birth Decide to Live Together (1984)
When two families realize that their children had been switched at birth, a lot of tension is understandably created by the situation. However, two families in Sao Paulo, Brazil decided to live through their harrowing situation in the most pleasant way possible. The Aliprandis and the Plasters actually decided to create an extended family that lived together on a vegetable and coffee farm with all of their children. These included Dimas and Elton, who had been switched at birth at the Madre Regina Protmann Hospital twenty years before they learned of their predicament. The Plasters, who owned the farm, had no second thoughts about inviting the Aliprandis to live with them, and each day, the boys celebrate having two sets of loving parents.