By Meika Rouda
I am a bit obsessed with the NY Times article about the French woman who gave birth twenty years ago to a baby girl that was switched with another baby at the hospital. The woman Sophie Serrano was eighteen years old when she gave birth in a small village in France. Her newborn baby had jaundice and needed phototherapy so she was taken from Ms. Serrano and placed in a bassinet with another newborn baby girl who was also receiving treatment in the nursery. When her daughter, who she named Manon, finished treatment and was brought back to her Ms. Serrano noticed the baby looked different, especially her hair. When she asked the nurses why the baby suddenly had so much more hair, they assured her that the light treatment can make hair grow quickly. So, she went home with the baby. Her boyfriend, the father of her baby had doubts the baby was his since the girl did not look like him and asked for a paternity test. When the test came back, it turned out neither he nor Ms. Serrano had a biological connection to the girl. After a lengthy court battle with the hospital, Ms. Serrano recently met her birth daughter and said she felt no particular connection to her. She said that after learning that Manon was not her biological daughter, her connection and love for her only grew stronger. And when Manon, who turns out to be Creole, met her biological family she had a similar feeling, she said she could not connect to them even though she looked like them.
After several meetings between the two families and many discussions, both families preferred to keep the child they had raised rather than taking their biological children. So here is what I love about this story. First off, I admire Ms. Serrano’s honesty and bravery. She was ridiculed by many people for not being able to recognize her own biological baby daughter, but she says she was young and she trusted the nurses. She also only saw her newborn for a short time before the baby was taken to phototherapy. To think that people were actually blaming her and calling her a terrible mother for not knowing her baby had been switched is absurd and hurtful. I think she is an amazing mother. She was able to overcome any doubts she had and love a baby who did not look like her and love her even more when she found out she was not the baby she had given birth to. Giving birth to a child is a huge bond, but so is raising one.
I have often asked myself if I could love my son more if I had given birth to him. I ask myself that because he is a difficult child who needs a lot of support and a lot of patience. And I can’t imagine loving anyone more than I love my son. I think I love him more because I know how much he needs us, I know how much love he feels for us and I feel an intense sense of protection for him. It feels bigger than a mother’s love, it feels primal or spiritual. So I understand what Ms. Serrano is feeling when she says that her connection only grew deeper when she found out her child did not share her DNA. Like with my son. the bond we share feels impenetrable, with or without DNA.