A pair of 12-year-old girls who discovered they were accidentally switched at birth want to stay with the mothers who have been raising them rather than go to their real parents.
The girls have grown up just a few miles away from each other in the town of Kopeisk in the Ural Mountains of eastern Russia. Their mothers gave birth in the same maternity ward just 15 minutes apart in 1999, and their infant daughters were inadvertently given the wrong name tags.
Their true identities were revealed after the ex-husband of Yuliya Belyaeva, one of the mothers, refused to pay for child care because his daughter, Irina, looked nothing like him. After conducting several DNA tests it emerged that neither adult was Irina’s biological parent.
“The judge couldn’t believe it,” Belyaeva told the BBC. “She said she’d only seen cases like this on TV and didn’t know what to advise us.”
The DNA tests sent Belyaeva on a search for her own daughter. She remembered that when she was giving birth, another woman was also in labor in the same ward. She suspected that the maternity ward had mixed up their daughters.
“I made a photocopy of the DNA test results and went straight to the prosecutor’s office. There I lodged an official complaint about being given the wrong baby in the maternity hospital,” Yuliya said.
Yuliya finally took her search to the local police who managed to trace her biological daughter living just a few miles away with Irina’s natural parents.
“It was true,” Yuliya remembered. “Their daughter, Anya, was blond and looked just like me and my ex-husband. And our daughter was dark-skinned and had dark hair and looked like the other father. He’s a Tajik, and she looked just like him.”
“Suddenly my whole world turned upside down and inside out,” she recalled.
While the girls admit that they were happy to have found each other, neither one wants to leave the family they grew up with even though they are not their biological parents.
“It’s terrible for both of them,” Yuliya told the BBC. “They’ve grown up with one set of parents, now they’ve found out they have a different mother and father. Neither child wants to leave their home. Irina keeps saying to me: ‘Mum, please don’t give me away!’ I comfort her by saying: ‘I would never do anything against your wishes. Nothing has changed. I’m still your mother.”
While both families are getting to know each other and are becoming closer, they’re suing the hospital and demanding almost $160,000 in damages.
Stories of babies being switched at birth are rare. In 1953, a mix up occurred at Pioneer Memorial Hospital in Heppner, Ore. It was only years later, in May 2009, that the now 56-year- old women discovered they were switched as babies.
DeeAnn Angell of Fossil and Kay Rene Reed of Condon learned about the mistake from an 86-year-old woman who was a former neighbor.
The former neighbor said that one of the girls’ mothers, Marjorie Angell, insisted back in 1953 that she had been given the wrong baby after nurses returned from bathing them. Her concerns were ignored. With both sets of parents dead, the Reed and Angell siblings compared notes and family stories, learning that rumors of a mix-up had been around for years. Kay Rene Reed decided to get their DNA tested, and that confirmed the mistake.
They both say they just have to move forward with their lives now, and they celebrated their latest birthday together.