There’s no nightmare more concerning to an expectant mother than the one where her biological child is mixed up with another after birth. But amazingly, these stories do happen.
While they are incredibly rare, there are a number of ‘switched at birth’ stories that have captured the attention of the world over the years. These situations are hard, and sometimes even impossible. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with them, and they can often be tragic even when the truth is revealed. Here are 10 such stories.
1. Child Support Reveals All
In August 2010, two baby girls were born on the same day in Tambo Memorial Hospital in Johannesburg. It is alleged that a nurse made a mistake with the name tags when the girls were in the nursery. Neither family thought anything was wrong. The truth might never have been revealed had one of the mothers not sued her then ex-partner for child support. He denied paternity, but when DNA testing was done, it found that their ‘daughter’ was not their biological child at all.
She eventually tracked down the other mother and her biological daughter, who tragically looked just like her. At first, the mother who discovered the error wanted her daughter back, but the other mother didn’t want to hand over the child. Eventually, the two realised that, after four years, it was impossible for either mother to give up the child they had raised. The case has gone to court so that a decision can be made on what is best for both girls.
It was ultimately decided that the children would remain with the families they grew up with and not be returned to their biological parents.
2. A Yellow Belly Switch
Two baby girls were born in Cannes, France in 1994, and both suffered from jaundice. The clinic where they were born had only two special jaundice incubators, one of which was in use, so the two girls were put in the same one. Unfortunately, this resulted in them being switched by a nurse. When the babies were returned, both mothers noted that their daughter had different hair lengths. They were told, in both cases conflicting information, that the jaundice treatment can extend or shorten hair, leaving them none the wiser as to what had gone on.
However, as the years progressed, one of the mothers, Sophie Serrano, had people question whether her daughter Manon was really hers. They even suspected she’d had an affair. Manon had darker skin and frizzy hair, much unlike her parents. When Manon turned 10, her ‘father’ became so suspicious that he ordered a paternity test, which showed that Manon was not their biological child. Sophie Serrano said that when she found out Manon wasn’t her biological child, she felt an even stronger connection to her. The couples took legal action against the clinic, but neither mother wanted their biological children to be returned. Both ultimately felt that the girls were right where they were meant to be. Ultimately, the clinic was ordered to pay well over $2million to the families involved.
3. Prince Into Poverty
When he was 60 years old, a Japanese man found that he had been switched at birth and should have been the eldest son of a very wealthy family. Instead, he became the youngest sibling in a very poor family. While his switched counterpart had the best education at private schools and all the advantages of money, he struggled after the death of his ‘father’, life on welfare, and a lack of education due to poverty. He became a truck driver and spent much of his time caring for his ‘brothers’, including one who’d had a stroke.
His switched counterpart had always thought it was strange that he didn’t look like his parents. When hospital records were examined and DNA testing was done, it was clear they had been switched at birth. The mistake was blamed on midwife error, which had occurred following the babies being birthed. Amazingly, the rich mother at the time had noted that her child was returned to her wearing the wrong clothes. The man who ended up poor sued the hospital for more than $300,000. Although he wishes he was raised in the right family, he remains pleased that his biological brothers are eager to pursue a relationship with him.
4. The Birth Weight Conundrum
In San Juan, Argentina, in 2013, two girls were born and mistakenly switched. Unlike many birth stories, this one was solved very quickly. One mother, Maria Lorena Gerbeno, gave birth to a 3kg baby via caesarean section. However, when the doctors brought her child to her later, they told her she had delivered via a breech birth, and that her child was 3.75kg. Maria questioned the doctors but was brushed off.
She wouldn’t let it go. So, when she returned to the clinic a few weeks later for a checkup, she talked with a few of the other mothers who birthed on the same day she had. Through these questions, she met a woman named Veronica Tejada. When they began to talk, they realised their daughters had each other’s respective birth weight. Maria, who was coincidently a lawyer, took action and had DNA tests done, which confirmed the swap. Both parents agreed to swap the babies back, and luckily, each child had been well looked after by the respective families.
5. Foster Care Mixup
In 1971, a woman named Laura Cain gave birth to twin boys she named George and Marcus, in Ottawa, Ontario. She wasn’t able to care for the boys at the time, so she arranged to place them in temporary foster care until she married their father, Randy Holmes, two months later. When she asked that the boys be returned, however, there was a mixup. One of her twins, Marcus, had been accidentally given up for adoption and renamed Brent Trembley. Laura had no idea of this because she was given two babies, one of them her son George, and the other named Marcus, who actually wasn’t her son at all. As Laura had been told her twins were fraternal, their dissimilarities did not bother her.
However, the truth came to light when the boys were 21 years old. George, and his adopted brother Brent, were actually identical twins. They met at Carleton University, where Brent was a student and George worked at a theatre. Friends who attended the university and the theatre noticed the difference and arranged for them to meet. The twins immediately hit it off, and not only did they look alike but had a number of the same mannerisms. It took 18 months for their families to get involved, mostly because both boys were concerned about how their families would react, particularly the boy raised as George’s twin. The families ultimately closed off from the media, so the resolution to the story is unknown.
6. Car Accident Tragedy
In 1995, two newborn girls named Rebecca Chittum and Callie Johnson were switched at birth at a Charlottesville, Virginia hospital. When the duo was about three years old, Paula Johnson (raising Callie) split with her boyfriend Carlton Conley. The two hadn’t had the smoothest relationship, and when Paula tried to get child support from Carlton, he demanded a DNA test. Both were surprised to learn the girl they had been raising was not biologically connected to either of them. For Rebecca Chittum, life had been much different. Her parents were young but very much in love, and they had loved their little girl like nothing in the world. They even had one more child, another daughter.
Sadly, Chittum’s parents died in a car accident the very same day the hospital realised there had been a switch. They never knew that the child they had raised wasn’t theirs. At first, the hospital wouldn’t tell Paula Johnson the name of her actual biological daughter because of confidentiality, but the media got involved and the names were publicly revealed not long after. Although it seemed as though both families could come to an agreement over who would raise each girl, the entire process became a protracted and messy legal battle. Both girls were eventually told to stay with the families that raised them, with regular visits to their biological families. Callie Johnson continued her visits, but Rebecca Chittum stopped when she was a young teen.
Amazingly, Callie did become quite close to her biological sister Lindsey Chittum. The two girls hope to move into the house that their biological father bought prior to his death.
7. A Long Time To Share
When two babies were given to the wrong babies in Wisconsin in 1951, one of the mothers definitely knew. Her name was Mary Miller, and her ‘daughter’ whom she named Martha (Marti), was nothing like her other children in looks or mannerisms. Mary told her husband, Reverend Norbert Miller, that she suspected the child wasn’t biologically hers, but the Reverend didn’t want to put the doctor’s reputation in a bad light, particularly as they had been allowed to birth the child at the hospital for free. Norbert told his wife that the baby was theirs now and that it was God’s will.
Mary attempted to key in the other mother Kay McDonald, whom she knew through the church, that a switch might have occurred. However, Kay didn’t believe her and there seemed to be no way to convince her. When Norbert finally saw Sue McDonald, his biological child, decades later in 1994, he recognised that she was his child. This freed Mary up to finally admit what she had suspected: that the girls had been switched. DNA tests confirmed, but the women were now 43 years old and with children of their own.
Who knows how things might have turned out differently?
8. A Generational Mystery
When she was in her 60s, a woman named Alice Collins Plebuch decided, on a whim, to get a DNA test online. She was expecting the results to show that she was 75% Irish and 25% mixed English and Scottish. Amazingly, her results showed that she was half Ashkenazi Jew. She had her six siblings take the test, and they all got the same result. Through further testing, they were able to find that the Jewish person they inherited the DNA from was their father, a man raised by two parents of full Irish decent.
When yet more testing showed the siblings weren’t related to any of their paternal cousins, Alice realised that their father must have been switched at birth.
Interested in solving the mystery, Alice immediately began to search for the Irish baby that her father had been accidentally switched with. As a part of their initial DNA test, Alice and her siblings had been given the names of people they might have been related to. They also went through the New York City Birth Index looking for babies born on the same day. One of the brothers even created an iPad app, to help them deal with the overwhelming amount of information in front of them. At the same time as Alice’s search, a young woman named Jessica was looking for her real grandparents.
She appeared as a possible second cousin of Alice’s in the DNA testing, and Alice contacted her. Jessica confirmed that her DNA test showed she was of Irish descent, when it should have shown a mix of Russian, Polish Jew. Both of the men involved are long dead, but families believe they have confirmed the switch using old photographs and corroborative DNA evidence.
9. Deathbed Secrets
Confined to his bed and not far from death in his 80s, a man named Jim Morgan shared a secret. He told one of his daughters, Kathie, that he didn’t think another one of his daughters, Shirley, was his biological child. He told Kathie that from the moment Shirley had come home, her dark colouring looked so different from her Irish family, and he wasn’t sure if this was a result of infidelity or a hospital mixup. Kathie arranged for DNA tests for her parents and Shirley, which revealed that she was indeed unrelated to them. At this news, Shirley was overwhelmed, leaving Kathie to seek out her biological sister alone.
Through some good old detective work, Kathie was able to uncover the name of another mother named Polly Munoz. When she found a photograph of her, she knew that this was her sister Shirley’s mother. Kathie hired a Private Investigator and was able to track down Polly’s daughter, Debra DeLay. Debra had also struggled, having been a blonde white girl raised in a Spanish-speaking area with mostly Mexican migrants.
Both women met their biological families but struggled with the realities of their own lives. Kathie, the one behind the reunion, told papers: “I wish Debra had come home with us and Shirley with her rightful family. I think girls’ lives would have made more sense.”
10. Unbelievable Intentional Swap
Likely one of the most complicated and crazy baby swap cases is that of Kimberly Mays and Arlena Twigg who, in 1978, went home from the hospital with the wrong parents. Robert Mays’ first wife Barbara died not long after when little Kimberly was just two years old. He went on to marry another woman, named Mary, who became Kimberly’s mother, before divorcing her in 1987. The baby switch itself didn’t properly come to light until a year later, when Arlena Twigg, one of the swapped babies, died of a heart condition. Medical tests showed she wasn’t the biological daughter of the parents who raised her, leaving the Twiggs’ searching for their daughter.
They found her when she was 10 years old, Kimberly Mays. Then the legal battle ensued. The Twiggs claimed that the Mays had organised to deliberately switch the babies as they were aware of heart problems that would go onto kill her. The court ruled that Kimberly would stay with the Mays, but continue to see the Twiggs in visitation sessions. Robert Mays ended these after just five sessions, claiming it was too distressing to Kimberly. Their situation was complicated even more by claims from a nurse working at the time of the switch who said it was doctors that ordered the babies to be swapped. According to the nurse, doctors wanted ailing Barbara Mays to have a healthy baby as she didn’t have long to live. Police and investigators were never able to confirm if this was true.
Devastating stories that break families apart.
Let’s hope it never happens again.