From the truth is stranger than fiction files comes this story of two babies swapped at birth due to a hospital error. The mixup was discovered when the toddlers were 3, and then, the biological parents were faced with the agonizing prospect of taking the little girls away from the only families they’d ever known.
As gut-wrenching as the scenario sounds, this one has a plot twist that’s anything but a tearjerker. Rather than rip the families apart, the collective parents found a way to raise their daughters together—under one roof.
Sicilian moms Caterina Alagna and Melissa Fodera, from the fishing village of Mazara del Vallo, were both 23 years old when they gave birth to baby girls 15 minutes apart as the clock ticked toward midnight on December 31, 1998.
During the New Year’s Eve celebrations, the on-duty nurses somehow managed to switch out their two tiny charges.
When it was time for the mothers and newborns to head home, Alagna and Fodera both questioned why the infants weren’t wearing the clothing they’d brought, but the hospital staff assured them it was merely a wardrobe snafu.
Three years later, as Alagna was picking up her daughter Melissa from nursery school, she saw something that shook her to the core. Another child, Caterina by name, bore an uncanny resemblance to Alagna’s two other biological daughters.
When she recognized the little girl’s mother Fodera as the woman she’d shared the maternity ward with, the clothing incident popped into her mind—and something clicked.
The swaddling hadn’t been switched… the babies had.
15 days later, DNA tests confirmed her suspicions. It was a choice neither one of them wanted to face.
“I challenge anyone to raise a daughter for three years then give her up over a simple mistake,” Fodera said in an interview reported by the Times UK.
But rather than simply make the swap back, the families decided it would be best to let everyone acclimate to the new situation slowly. Both girls and both sets of parents began spending time together in one house. The arrangement worked out so well that, when the two families separated on the advice of experts for a six-month trial, the plan was quickly scuttled.
The switch was explained to Melissa and Caterina when they were 8 years old. The only real complication they’ve faced is the issue with their legal names. Emotionally, however, the two girls, now grown to young adulthood, couldn’t be better.
Mauro Caporiccio, author of the book Sisters Forever, also recently released as a film by RAI TV told the Times, “The girls effectively grew up with four parents and eight grandparents, and the experiment worked… Today they are more like twins than sisters and there is a kind of love which binds the two families.”
The moral of the story? We may not be able to choose the families we’re born into, but we can choose the families we make—and if that choice is made with love, that can be a special thing indeed.