Have you ever seen the ABC Family show Switched at Birth? It's one of my guilty pleasures, a show about two families with babies who were, well, you get where I'm going with this. It has a bit of a cheesy soap opera feel to it, but I can't help it. I'm hooked. So when I saw Russian parents who went through a hospital baby swap in real life were opening up, I got sucked right in.
Naimat Iskanderov and Yuliya Belyaeva lived through 12 years of raising a daughter who wasn't biologically related to them. It sounds like a lifetime. And yet, I'm not sure which would be harder: knowing you missed out on 12 years with your biological daughter or having to share the little girl you cuddled and comforted for the past decade?
Notice I haven't used the words "real daughter" to describe either of these girls. Because to Yuliya, little Irina is the little girl who she diapered and fed. To Naimat, little Anna is the girl he named for his Russian grandmother, the woman who raised him.
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That qualifies these girls as their kids, right? A child you raise, a child you care for every day and every night is your kid, right?
And yet they're not.
Their babies were switched at the hospital at one point, and it wasn't until Yuliya's ex-husband was playing games about child support that she had DNA tests done (to prove she had never cheated on him during her marriage) that the change came out.
The aftermath is heartrending. Yuliya's husband left her because he was convinced the baby that didn't look like him meant his wife had cheated. Both of these parents are trying to figure out how to deal with their different religions (one is Muslim, the other Christian), and make up for 12 years apart.
It's like a trainwreck, but I can't look away. My heart wants to figure out how you make that work, how you let your heart make room for both children.
Maybe I can be so fascinated because I'm 99.999999 percent sure this did not happen to me. Put a photo of my dad at his first birthday party next to one of my daughter's early photos, and they are nearly identical! And just this morning while I was brushing her hair, she gave me a look that was so my mother-in-law that I did a double take. I know my daughter is my own because of our shared genetics.
And yet, I come from a family with a mix of blood and adopted relatives. One of my favorite relatives, a relative who I would even say is most like me, is the latter. I can't deny that nurture plays a strong role in making a family.
The way I see it, if you raise a kid, they are your kid. If you give birth to a kid, they are also your kid.
What do you think? Would you consider both of these girls "yours" if this happened to you?
Image via HellN/Flickr
Something my kids handmade
A fun holiday at home with my family
Some time off!
Something just for me, like a plush robe