Giving birth to a new baby is generally a happy occasion, but it is also anxiety provoking. While modern medicine has drastically lowered the risks associated with giving birth, there are still a number of things that could go wrong. Miscarriage and premature birth, as well as congenital birth defects and obstructed labour, are just a few of the things that expectant mothers have to worry about.
Thankfully, Mercedes Cushworth experienced none of these issues when giving birth to her baby boy Moses. The delivery was perfectly normal; it was what happened after Mercedez gave birth to her child that caused her serious pain and distress.
In a BBC interview, alongside her husband Rich, Mercedes recounted the moments following her babies birth: “He was born, and immediately when he was taken out of me, he was passed by me, and I gave him a kiss. And then they took him to the nursery.”
But when the nurses brought Mercedes her baby in the morning, she immediately felt that something was wrong. She said, “When I saw him, the first impression was ‘This is not the same baby that I saw last night.'” The baby she had seen the night before had strongly resembled her husband Rich, whereas the baby that was brought to her the following morning looked nothing like him. She tried telling the hospital staff that there had been a mistake, but they insisted that the child was hers. They told Mercedes that she had been heavily medicated the night before, which was probably affecting her memory. With some misgivings, Mercedes took the baby home.
When she returned home from the hospital, she asked her friends who visited whether they thought it was possible that the baby had been switched. She remembered, “My friends would say, ‘No, no, it’s the same baby.’ I asked at least 20 or 30 of them.” But after a couple weeks, Mercedes had become even more convinced that the baby wasn’t hers: “The baby, his features, his skin—everything started to change. He started to not look anything like either one of us.”
She decided to send away for a DNA test. When the results returned in the mail, Mercedes’ suspicions were confirmed. The DNA test results showed that there was a 0.0 percent chance that the baby she had been caring for was her offspring. “I just fell on the floor…My body couldn’t even resist,” she said. “The thought that the baby that I had been nursing, taking care of, loving, bathing—that he was not mine. It was painful.”
Rich was shocked. Until then, he hadn’t put much credence in his wife’s doubts about the baby’s origins. In hindsight, however, he couldn’t believe he hadn’t noticed the dissimilarity between them and the baby. “Now I look back at the pictures…when he was around three months old, and I’m shocked that I never suspected it because you can see that it’s just obviously not my child.”
Fortunately, when Mercedes and Rich presented the DNA results to the hospital staff, the doctors were able to track down the other couple who had been given the wrong child. Initially, Mercedes and Rich were hoping that they would be permitted to keep both their biological child and the child that they had been mistakenly given. They couldn’t imagine giving up the child that they had been caring for and had bonded with over those three months.
However, it soon became apparent that they would be required to give up the child in exchange for their biological son. Attorneys representing both sides of the mix up quickly arranged a formal baby swap at a police station in El Salvador, where Moses was born. Since then, Moses has had no problems adjusting to living with his real parents, and both couples have agreed to stay in contact with each other in the future.