When They Discovered Their Babies Had Been Mixed Up at Hospital, They Had the Hardest Decision To Make

Mon Oct 18 2021

It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. In Sicily, Italy, two first-time mothers gave birth to each of their daughters at the same hospital, at the same time. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary until they realized that there had been a mix-up at the hospital and they had been raising the wrong child all this time. The problem was, three years had passed at this point.

Both of the Italian moms were beside themselves until they talked it out with one another and came to a momentous decision. Find out about the remarkable story of how two families sorted out one of the most difficult situations. The choices they made prove that there is definitely still hope in humanity!

Gisella Notices That Something Seems a Bit Off

On December 31 in 1998, two women had just given birth to each of their daughters in the Sicilian town of Mazara del Vallo. Strangely enough, they were also both experiencing motherhood for the first time, and ringing in the new year on a bed in the same maternity ward.

Pictured above is one of the women, Gisella Fodera, and her partner Francesco. They were over the moon about having a little baby girl, and couldn’t wait to take her home. But Gisella noticed something strange about her baby after a while – when the nurse brought her back to the room she was staying in, her daughter was wearing different clothes.

Marinella Has Exactly the Same Question

The other mother was Marinella Alagna, who had just given birth with her partner (also called Francesco!) by her side. Like Gisella, she also noticed that the baby girl she had been holding before was wearing different clothes. But when she asked the nurses about why that was, they reassured her by telling her that the outfits had been mix up.

Naturally, Marinella took the nurses’ word for it and hugged her baby tightly. The truth was, the nurses had been distracted and had accidentally swapped babies. The healthcare professionals had been welcoming in the new year, and in the process, they unwittingly made a grave mistake.

Both Families Were Living Happy Lives and Nothing Needed Changing

Finally, it was time for both families to leave the hospital and take their newborn daughters home. Marinella and Gisella had spotted one another from across the maternity ward but hadn’t formerly been introduced. After all, they had too much on their plate to start making new friends.

Both first-time moms were over the moon, and they were bonding well with their little ones. They didn’t hear a single thing about their babies having been accidentally switched, and nor did they have any reason to suspect it. Everything was great until one fateful day when the moms crossed paths once more.

Marinella Spots a Little Girl Who Looks Just Like Her Other Kids

By this point, three years had already passed. Gisella had named her daughter Caterina, while Marinella’s baby girl was called Melissa, and both women had had more children with their partners. It was time for their girls to start kindergarten, but when Marinella got to the school gates she noticed something that made her stop dead in her tracks.

Marinella saw that one of the other school children bore a striking resemblance to her other two children. So much so that she found it hard to ignore… but there was something else. She saw that the little girl’s mother was the same woman who had been in the maternity ward with her three years ago.

Gisella Is Approached By the Woman Who Was In Her Maternity Ward

Speaking to UK news publication The Times, Marinella explained what was going through her head at the moment: “I recognized Caterina’s mother, Gisella Fodera, from the maternity ward and got suspicious.” So Marinella didn’t just leave it there. She introduced herself to Gisella, and they exchanged numbers.

Marinella talked to Gisella in private and told her what was going through her mind. Amazingly, after she had said her piece, Gisella started harboring suspicions herself. After all, Caterina really did resemble Marinella’s other children, and Melissa really did look a lot like herself. But where did they have to go from there?

They Make the First of Several Difficult Decisions

It didn’t make either mom feel comfortable, but they knew that everyone deserved to know the truth. They decided to take DNA tests to see if there really could have been an accidental switch at the hospital three years ago. Had they been right in feeling suspicious when the nurses brought their daughters to them wearing different clothes?

All four of them had DNA tests – Marinella, Gisella, and both of the girls. They sent off the results and waited in anticipation for when they might come and what they might say. Marinella admitted: “15 days later we did DNA tests and my mind went blank. It was too surreal, too impossible.”

It’s An Impossible Dilemma To Solve

A bit over two weeks after they had sent their DNA for testing, the results came in. Marinella had been right about her gut feeling that told her something unusual was happening. Gisella’s biological daughter was the little girl that she had been raising and loving for three years. And the child that Gisella had been raising was in fact the child she gave birth to three years ago.

There had clearly been a horrible mix-up at the hospital that day when they both had noticed different clothes. They were obviously distraught about being forced into this situation, unsure of what to do next. What’s more ethical? Swapping back children and trying to forget the ones they spent so much time with? Or keep the children they already loved so much, have bonded with, and even breastfed for months?

They’re Are Resistant To the Idea of a Trade Off

It was like being left with Sophie’s choice. Talking to Today UK News, Gisella confidently said: “I challenge anyone to raise a daughter for three years then give her up over a simple mistake.” That was very much how both moms felt initially. Even though their biological daughter was being raised by someone else, they loved the one they had too much to give them up.

But making a decision this hard wasn’t going to be black and white, so they decided to speak to experts and see what they’d advise. The little girls, Caterina and Melissa, luckily were much too young to understand what their parents were so upset about. They were totally none the wiser.

Both Families Are Compensated, But No Culprit Is Identified

While both families were trying to figure out what the best thing to do was, they alerted authorities to the mix-up and told the hospital of what had been done. They ended up getting some financial compensation but failed to find out which nurse, nurses, or perhaps even doctors were responsible for switching cradles.

It became near-impossible to actually pinpoint who had messed up, which meant that no one among the healthcare professionals was identified or reprimanded. No one would ever know who was truly responsible for slacking on that New Year’s Eve in 1998.

Marinella and Gisella Choose To Let Professionals Decide What Should Be Done

Marinella and Gisella consulted with various pediatricians and psychologists, also making sure to have legal consultations. Ultimately, they were strongly instructed to spend six months apart from the girls that they’d raised, at an absolute minimum.

According to the experts, the girls needed that separation from the mothers that raised them in order for them to better adjust to their biological families. Not only would their families be totally unfamiliar to them, but so would their lifestyles, their homes, and everything else.

Mom’s Realize That They Made a Big Mistake In Following the Experts Advice

Marinella and Gisella agreed to give it a go. If it was what was best for the girls, then they were willing to do it, even though they didn’t like the idea of strict separation. Ultimately, it was an incredibly hard experience for both families, and it left the moms crying all the time.

“We two mothers cried on the phone to each other each day,” Marinella explained, before revealing that “…after three months decided we couldn’t resist, and we met and promised never to separate.” They managed to make it for three months to see if the experiment was having a positive benefit, but it was too painful for them to bear.

Half Way Through the Experiment They Promise To Never Separate Again

Marinella and Gisella took a decision and decided to do things their own way. Once they decided to go against the experts’ advice and end the experiment, they went from having no contact with the children they had raised to seeing them again every single day.

Marinella revealed what was going through her mind at the time. “After that, I saw Melissa every day – how could I not?” she asked, before adding, “I breastfed her, I taught her her first words. We had to share everything.” Now, both mothers felt as though they had two daughters.

The Girls Didn’t Know That They Were Swapped at Birth Until They Were Eight Years Old

Moms Marinella and Gisella had no intention of keeping the truth from the girls, but they also didn’t want to tell them about the birth swap until they were old enough to hear it. In the end, they waited until Caterina and Melissa were eight years old before telling them about the accidental hospital mix-up.

At that point, they were old enough to understand and were already asking questions about why their family wasn’t structured the same as all their other classmates. Soon, Melissa wouldn’t even remember anything about her life before she was three, and as far as she could recall she’d always had two mothers.

They Decide To All Move In Together and Live Under One Roof

It was then that Marinella and Gisella decided to do something unheard of. They realized that they didn’t want to be apart from either child as both of the girls felt like daughters to both of them. And not just to mothers – after all, they had spent the first three years of their lives with different dads, brothers, sisters, and other family members.

Both moms decided to move in together! They talked openly and honestly and came away with the conclusion that it was best if the girls were raised together, as sisters, under one roof. And that meant that Marinella and Gisella were going to live together and raise them as one family.

A Big Party For the Girls To Celebrate Moving in Together

For the move-in day, Marinella and Gisella decided to throw the girls a party to celebrate this next big transition in their lives. By chance, the girls’ birthday was just around the corner, so they combined the celebrations. And best of all, both families turned up!

They decided to make the big celebration a tradition in their house and ended up throwing it every single year. There was just one strict rule that had to have adhered to every time they did it – everybody had to be there. Both Marinella’s side of the family, and Gisella’s.

Caterina and Melissa Started To Feel Like Actual Sisters

Soon enough, the relationship between Caterina and Melissa went from school friends to sisters. They even started calling themselves twins, since they were only born within fifteen minutes of one another! They weren’t just with each other at home, but at school, with friends, with family, and at any other time.

“We are a phenomenon. We have eight grandparents, two fathers, and two mothers,” Caterina has said. But while their relationship was flourishing, the relationship between their mothers was a bit more complicated. “Fear and pain only affected our mothers,” Caterina has said in recent interviews. Pictured above, Caterina and Melissa celebrate a recent birthday with their other siblings and friends.

Marinella and Gisella Started To Feel the Competition Between Them

Caterina has explained: “We didn’t ask ourselves why: For us, it was like we were a big group of friends who all celebrated festivals and loved each other.” While the sisters’ bond strengthened, the moms found themselves butting heads. Both Marinella and Gisella felt as though they were in competition with one another.

Gisella even goes so far as to say they “hated” at times, stating that “Each of us viewed the other mother as a taken the child from them.” It eventually got to the stage where they felt like “It’s like war, we’re only interacting for the sake of the two girls.”

Today, Marinella and Gisella Consider Each Other Sisters

“We were born on the same day and are always together. In all my memories, Caterina is always there,” Melissa explained. But these days it’s not just the girls who are feeling the love. “The two mothers feel the same way now,” Melissa added.

“I feel Gisella now as my sister,” Marinella touchingly revealed. They haven’t gone into much detail about when they mended their relationship, or how it changed. Either way, the moms found a way to not only live with each other, but feel like a real family despite the circumstances.

There Was An Issue Left That hasn’t Been Addressed…

They had managed to overcome their biggest challenge in raising their daughters, but there was still one thing that hadn’t been addressed. That was the issue around the girls’ registered names, as they were still using the names that had been given to them by the mistaken parent. And the court ruled the girls’ first names had to been changed.

Luckily, this was the least of their worries. In the end, they decided to keep the names they had gotten used to, despite the court ruling. What was important was that the girls were happy in their unconventional family and that living under one roof was really working out. To this date, the girls use their preferred names on their credit cards. Pictured above, Caterina and Melissa are pictured on the far left and middle, on holiday with friends.