The Book of Questions #6: Exchange children mixed up at birth?

I have not done a Book Question for a while. So here we go.

teddy bear
Does he need to be exchanged too?

You discover your wonderful one-year old child is, because of a mixup at the hospital, not yours. Would you want to exchange the child to correct the mistake?

The Book of Questions #6 by Gregory Stock, Ph.D. (1987)

Let’s start by saying that this scenario is unlikely today. When I was born in the 1980s I was told that newborns were put in sleeping rooms away from their mothers, so that the latter could recuperate. Back then it was thought that the mothers needed rest more than the children needed their mothers. What an insane thought. It is a good idea to question medical “knowledge” from time to time. Also I want to state that his question seems like straight from a Lifetime movie 😉

Nowadays your child never leaves your side. They put the newborn on the mothers chest instantly and do all the exams half an hour later when the child had the first little snack of breast milk. Even with a c-section where the mother is under anesthesia they usually put the child on the fathers chest until the mother regains consciousness. But when this book was written mix-ups did happen but they were still rare.

The second little thing that rubs me the wrong way is the phrase “wonderful child”. Should this answer only be valid for wonderful children? What about difficult children or children with disabilities or birth defects? For our discussion let’s skip the “wonderful” part. I hope all parents appreciate their children as “wonderful”.

So right to the answer. Of course I would not exchange the children. The question is just incredibly cruel. The child and I would have already formed the most important relationship for a human being. The little toddler has learned to trust and depend on me. How could I even consider just giving him or her away for a different child? Exchanging the children will inflict a terrible trauma on both that will scar them for the rest of their lives.

Of course it would be a difficult situation for the parents. Knowing that your biological child is raised by strangers instead of you. But it would also be chance to be closer to another family than possible for most people. I guess my preferred solution would be to intertwine the lives of all parents and children concerned. Would it be difficult? Maybe but maybe not. Divorced parents with new partners and different children manage as well. So no I would not exchange children mixed up at birth.

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2 Responses

  1. Hmm … a challenge thought experiment. First, I agree that this scenario is rare.

    What occurred to me is that “keeping” the child that the law now knows is not your biological child entails some sort of risk the ramifications of which will be unknown. If the biological parents of the child want the child back then you have some major issues at hand.

    India: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-42743982
    El Salvador: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-36432343

    • The question was posed in a book written for a 1980s US audience. So the ramifications in those links were probably not on the authors (and my) mind. Assuming this, both children would grow up in the same developed country which would make a legal solution possible…maybe adoption or some kind of legal declaration.

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