In Her Words
“They Brought Me the Wrong Baby”
Parenting worries start early
-Julie Ryan Evans
The day before my c-section, I checked into the hospital for my pre-op appointment. After showing my identification and giving my name, the receptionist said, “OK, great, Mrs. Evers, you’re all set.”
EVERS? “No, I’m Julie EVANS,” I told her.
“Oh, yes, I see you now. That’s funny, there’s another couple, the Everses, scheduled for a c-section tomorrow too,” she said with a laugh. And that’s when visions of a Lifetime movie based on me and my switched baby started flashing through my head.
I tried to forget about it. Surely they would have plenty of measures in place to make sure my long-awaited baby didn’t go to the wrong couple. I took the hospital tour where they explained their elaborate safety measures; they’re on top of this. Surely I was just worrying needlessly as I’m slightly (cough, cough) prone to do.
Trying to shrug it off – telling myself that all the worry over this high-risk pregnancy is finally over and I need to just relax and enjoy my daughter’s arrival – I made my way up to the floor where they do all the tests one must get done before a c-section. As I turned my head away, bracing for the sting of the needle drawing my blood, I happened to glance at my paperwork sitting there on a table. But it wasn’t MY paperwork … there, again, was that name – Evers.
That’s when I started to panic. I alerted the nurse, and told her this was the second time in an hour I’d been confused with another patient. She made some calls for the correct paperwork, meanwhile trying to reassure me and telling me about all of the safety measures in place that would prevent a switched baby. She rattles off policies that a baby isn’t allowed to go with anyone who doesn’t have a matching band, blah blah, blah, as I start wondering who will play me in the made-for-television movie.
The next morning we arrive at the hospital, and my slightly medicated self tells everyone who will listen NOT to switch my baby. I tell them about the mix-ups of the previous day and make them promise to watch out for this. One kind nurse does some checking for me and finds out that the Evers family is having a boy. We’re having a girl. I relax a bit; at least that mistake would be caught.
I’m wheeled into the operating room where our precious little girl, Lila Claire, makes her way into the world with a full head of shocking dark hair and some very strong lungs. After I get to hold her for a few brief minutes, they need to take her to the transition nursery for observation because she has some fluid in her lungs.
Exhausted, sore and drugged, I’m taken to recovery, and then after a few hours I’m moved to my “real” room, where I wait for them to bring my daughter to me. I wait and wait for what seems like forever, and finally I see the nurse wheeling in a little bassinet.
I’m so excited to look at, study and hold her, to examine every inch of this beautiful girl that I’ve carried for the past ten months. Tears well up in my eyes, and then the nurse says …
“Here he is!”
Surely she misspoke. I’ve had too many drugs.
“What did you say?” I ask, as I look over that bassinette that sports an “I’m a boy” card.
I’m too stunned to react beyond sputtering, “I had a girl; that’s not my baby. Where is my baby?!” And then those tears of joy turn to terror and rage. The nurse gets flustered and leaves with this boy.
My husband arrives shortly thereafter, back from checking on our five-year-old son. I’m hysterical, demanding to see whoever is in charge. Wanting to see MY DAUGHTER NOW! What if they gave her to someone else who was holding her, who was feeding her or …
The charge nurse comes in with all sorts of apologies and explanations about how the baby really wouldn’t have ever made it into my arms because before they take them out of the bassinet they would check the bands, blah, blah. But really, shouldn’t they have done that BEFORE they took him out of the nursery, before this baby was right by my bedside?! I’m the one who caught the error! What if she forgot to check the bands? What if I had tried to feed this baby?
But the what ifs aren’t answerable, and for the mix-up we were compensated with a fuzzy PINK blanket inscribed with the hospital’s name.
A few hours later my daughter was with me in my room, safe and sound, healthy and beautiful … and undeniably ours. My outrage and anger are dulled by her sweet little noises and tiny, lovely presence.
I don’t know if the baby boy brought into my room that day was the son of the Everses or not. Nor do I know if the boy’s family was ever notified that he was taken into the wrong the room. I hope so, but I have my doubts.
This whole high-risk pregnancy, I’ve worried about my blood pressure, the reoccurrence of preeclampsia, the baby’s growth and endless other things that could have gone wrong. Thankfully, everything went right. But worry–needless or not–is par for the parenting course, and the challenges we never have imagined are likely the ones with which we’ll be faced. We can only do some much to protect our children and to keep them safe and secure, and unfortunately we’ll never be able to plan for or prevent every bad thing from happening. The question is do we dwell on the near misses or move on and be thankful that they were just that.
Could we/should we have taken this matter higher and complained more vigorously, demanded changes in policies or something greater? Maybe. But frankly, I’m just too tired recovering and spending sleepless nights up breastfeeding my daughter while I watch Lifetime movies about other people’s drama.