I recently read something about a woman who switched babies at the hospital just for the fun of it.
Since then my suspicion about my daughter has been renewed; please understand that I am not a mother who wants to deny her own child, ok?
Phil, as we call my daughter was born in 1976. Yes, she is a big girl now. I gave birth to her at the government hospital.
One evening, immediately I felt the first signs of labour, my husband Phillip drove me straight to the maternity section of the hospital.
I was checked and the nurses said I was not fully dilated and should come back the following day but because our house was far from the hospital, my husband begged that I be allowed to stay overnight at the hospital, that he would come pick me the following day if indeed I was not yet ready to deliver.
But I went into labour that night along with about six women; maybe it was because I was in an atmosphere of other women in labour, I don’t know. We were taking turns it seems to break into nerve racking pains that started first five minutes apart, then 1 minute apart and one by one, we were wheeled into the delivery room and one after the other we heard cries of babies.
I underwent a CS operation; it had to be an emergency because though my water broke, the baby did not come out. I was on the gurney in the delivery room for a long time and in severe pains but no baby until the doctor on duty checked me and said my baby was in distress, I had to be quickly operated upon.
There was no GSM, my husband had gone home, I gave the go ahead.
Let me roll back a bit before delivery; you see, back then, I did not know what my baby’s sex was prior to delivery. It wasn’t a common thing to do scan and know the baby’s sex. We parents were as surprised as every one else when the babies came.
I remember a woman, whose bed was opposite mine, telling the woman next to her she hoped she would birth to a baby boy because if it was another girl, her husband would send her packing; she said they already had three girls. I had no such issue, my husband didn’t care what sex, he just wanted healthy babies.
Anyway when I woke up after surgery that night, a nurse came and whispered to me that I had a baby boy!
I didn’t see the rest of the women I was in the labor room with; I was put in another ward because I underwent surgery. When my husband came hours later, he told me we had a baby girl!
I said no, we have a boy. We were arguing about this when the matron came in, she asked me who told me I had a baby boy. I said one of the nurses who attended to me the night before. She asked my husband who told him we had a baby girl, he said he went to the nursery and saw a baby girl with his name tag on it.
The matron then went into the nursery and she brought out a baby girl with our name tagged to her hand. She handed the baby to me.
I stared at the baby and didn’t feel any connection to her.
I told my husband there must have been a mistake. I insisted I had given birth to a baby boy. When I wouldn’t stop agitating, two of the nurses who were at my delivery and who resumed duties later that afternoon said I had a baby girl and their evidence was the name tag but the very nurse who came to congratulate me about my baby boy couldn’t be found. I described her to them, I told them I didn’t know her name, I demanded to see her but they said there was no such person in their unit.
After a few days, I began to think that perhaps, I was going crazy. Maybe indeed there was no nurse, maybe in my drug induced state, I imagined I saw someone who whispered to me that I had a boy, maybe…
To be honest, I couldn’t care less if my child was a boy or girl, I wanted a healthy child but from the moment I was told it was a boy, my heart was fixed on it. So I wondered, the nurse seemed genuine, there was no reason to lie to me…
I finally accepted my daughter. I accepted to start breast feeding her three days after delivery. I refused to, earlier because I was so sure she was not my baby and I didn’t want to feed another baby with my milk.
Right from the get go, something just wasn’t right. I didn’t feel like I owned the baby; but my husband was overjoyed, everyone was, except me. Soon they all put it down as postpartum depression. I began to believe that the problem was me.
Over the years and at every milestone, our daughter stood out like a sore thumb in the family. She was way taller than the rest of her siblings, she was way darker than them…too many things she did differently and when I pointed them out to my husband, he would say, ‘kids can never be the same even if they are identical twins.’
I had pushed my suspicion to the back of my mind for years but it was never forgotten; until I saw that story about the evil woman who enjoyed switching babies.
As a mother, I will not rest until I know and I have begun to take steps to find out; I am afraid my suspicion will be confirmed should I demand a DNA but I want to know if Phil is really mine and if not, where is my son?
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)