Back in 1945, around the time of the end of the second world war, two babies were born at the Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul. The girls were born only 31 minutes apart and that led to some confusion in the hospital at the time.
But it would take more than seven decades before the women would even find out that they were switched at birth and that they weren’t who they thought they were at all. All those years passed before an amazing revelation would change the lives of two families…
Denice had always been an ancestry buff and had a keen interest in genealogy from a young age. She never took a DNA test but she had a sixth sense that maybe she was a little different from her family, although she never looked into the matter further.
At the age of 72, and already a grandmother, Denice decided that she wanted to have her DNA tested so that she could get a better idea of her health history, to find out whether there may be any genetic pointers for her wellbeing. At the age of 72, Denice thought, one can’t be too careful…
Denice contacted 23andMe, a website dedicated to helping people find out where they come from and their genealogy. They told her she would need to pay some money before they would send her a sample kit so that she could get the health history report that she needed. But she would also be getting a bunch more information; information she was not expecting.
Soon after Denice sent off her DNA sample, she received some shocking news; while she had many relatives, none of them actually matched her DNA, so she was understandably taken aback, “I didn’t match anybody,” she said, as she wondered if there could have been a mix up with her sample over at the 23andMe lab…
Switched At Birth?!
Denice knew that it was highly unlikely, even if it was a possibility, “Either 23andMe made a mistake,” Denice said, “or I was switched at birth.” As it happens, when Denice was born, at 2:17 am on December 19, 1945, another baby named Linda Jean Nielsen was born in the same hospital 31 minutes later.
Being switched at birth could happen to anyone, although in this modern age it doesn’t happen so often due to technology and other things in place to avoid such a situation. However, back in 1945, hospitals weren’t privy to such technology and mistakes happened more often than they do in 2018; as was the case here, for Denice and Linda…
“It’s a crazy thing,” Denice said, “People just automatically assume they got the right family.” And whilst only a few weeks have passed since Denice and Linda learned they were switched at birth, the two women have already bonded closely, after Linda’s daughter told her mom, “We believe you’ve been switched at birth.”
Wanting To Know
Linda simply didn’t believe what her kids were telling her so she decided to contact 23andME directly in order to get a DNA report first hand, “I did my DNA right away because I’ve got to see this on paper,” she said. But how the two women were switched at birth remains a big mystery…
“We’ll never know,” Linda said, “and I’m sure the nurses are dead that probably took care of us.” At the same time, for both of the women who are now good friends, the fact they have no idea and never will know what happened back in 1945 pains them.
Denice always thought it a little weird that her family was all well coordinated and very athletic, while she was the complete opposite. For years her father played baseball at a high level, and her brother was also an avid player, “Sometimes I had that sense that I didn’t quite fit in,” Denice said… On the other hand, Linda was athletic from a young age at competition level, even if her “family” weren’t.
It’s amazing to think that for more than 70 years Denice and Linda were essentially answering to the wrong names, “I was really supposed to be another person,” Denice said. Nevertheless, finding out the new information, even at the age of 72, is something both Denice and Linda are happy about when they think about the big picture.
Back in 2002, Linda’s daughter Michelle went on a mini-mission to see where her mother came from. All her life Michelle had a sneaky suspicion that her mom was different, telling her often, “You don’t look like the rest.” Michelle went as far as checking public birth records but soon dropped her pursuits in the matter…
Amazingly, Denice’s mother Marianne is still alive and kicking at the age of 99. While she raised Denice, her real biological daughter is Linda, who she met for the first time at her nursing home recently. Marianne isn’t complaining though, as she now has two daughters, sort of, and enjoys all the extra visits from her “new” grandchildren.
Denice, Linda, Marianne and everyone involved in this mix up could be very upset about what might be considered a life wasted. However, they all remain positive and make the best of what they have, armed with the new knowledge given to them by 23andMe. “Now you have more grandchildren – red-haired ones,” Denice quipped to her mother…
For Linda, life was always a struggle after her mother (who was really Denice’s mother) passed away at the age of 42. “She’s been gone so long,” Linda said, trying to hold back tears. Linda was only 17 when she lost her mom, but at the age of 72 was thrilled to have found her real mother still alive.
Better To Know
It was a painful thing for both Denice and Linda to find out they were switched at birth, especially all those years later. Nevertheless, they feel that it’s a good thing that they now know and weren’t left in the dark any longer. “I consider it a gift,” Denice said, albeit a bittersweet one…
The revelations for these two families have had far-reaching effects. Obviously, it’s not only Denice and Linda who are affected by the news but also their kids and extended family. As such, both families decided it would be a good idea for them to arrange a two-family reunion.
Denice recalls that her mother often told her that she was “born easily” meaning that she was easy to give birth to. However, Denice now knows that not to be true as her mother had in fact given birth to Linda. There were many instances where the two women could have become very upset at the situation, but for the most part, they have just taken things in their stride…
Happy Or Not?
When the women were asked by reporters during a tv interview whether or not they are happy to have found out they were switched at birth so late in life Linda said, ” I think so” nodding at Denice. “Good things come out of it I think,” replied Denice.
While the whole story has been a rollercoaster for these two women and their families, both Denice and Linda are happy to have found each other. They spoke about the special bond they share as a result of their unique situation, as Linda concluded, “We’re just new friends.”