Mom Doubts Newborn Baby Given to Her Is Hers, DNA Test Proves Her Right

August 21, 2019 Updated: August 26, 2019

It’s the stuff of nightmares and science fiction or horror movies. A mother gives birth to a healthy baby, the nurses take the baby away to clean it up and cut the umbilical cord. They then bring the baby back. But something doesn’t quite sit right with the new mom. She can’t say exactly what it is, but she knows that this baby isn’t her baby.

But truth is often stranger and scarier than fiction, and that was definitely the case for Mercy Casanalles, who became increasingly convinced that her baby had been switched after birth.

"When I got him, I said, 'This is not my baby,'" Mercy Casanalles said.

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Casanalles is originally from El Salvador, but she came to the United States for her studies. Enrolling at Christ for the Nations Institute at Dallas, Texas, she met the love of her life, Richard Cushworth, who hails from West Yorkshire in England. The two of them fell hard for each other and got married in Dallas. Soon, they were expecting their very first child.

But Casanalles’s temporary visa was expiring and she hadn’t obtained her Green Card yet, so she needed to go back to El Salvador to give birth. When her time came, Casanalles went to the Hospital Centro Ginecológico in San Salvador, which is considered one of the best in the country.

Unfortunately, the baby needed to be delivered right away, so Casanalles had to have an emergency cesarean section. She was told that her baby needed to be taken for overnight observation because of the procedure. As she told the Daily Mail, “He was just passed to me and I gave him a kiss and then he was taken to the nursery and that was the last time I saw him.”

El Salvador

The months-long saga of two babies switched shortly after birth at an exclusive private hospital in El Salvador and given to the wrong mothers has ended after the infants were returned to their biological families.

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The next day, the nurses brought Casanalles a baby, but she was completely convinced it wasn’t hers. “When I got him, I said, ‘This is not my baby,'” she told USA Today. To begin with, they brought Casanalles a child who had very dark skin, whereas she has quite fair skin and her husband, Rich Cushworth, is white. Even more egregious, her baby had been rather small and thin, with very little hair. The one the nurses gave her was much hairier and chunkier.

When she tried to tell the nurses that baby didn’t resemble the one she had seen just after delivery, they told her “you were medicated last night after the C-section,” per the BBC. Everyone from the nurses to the doctors to her friends who had come to visit all told her that the little boy was in fact hers.

When she got back to Dallas and reunited with her husband, her doubts continued even as they did their best to welcome their new arrival. Casanalles describes a terrible dynamic of falling in love with the baby, but all the while feeling like something was wrong. She told the BBC: “I tried to put that thought away, this is not real. This is the movies. This is Hollywood.”

As Casanalles told the BBC: “I think we were in love with the baby. Even when I did the DNA tests, I thought I was betraying him. That was the feeling I had—I’m betraying my son but I cannot live with this.” But when the results of the DNA testing came back, there was no doubt. Doctors told them there was a 0 percent chance that she was the mother.

"I had two thoughts – what's going to happen with this baby, and where's my baby?"

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While Casanalles was relieved to know that her suspicions were correct, it brought her little comfort. “I had two thoughts,” Casanalles said to the BBC. “What’s going to happen to this baby, and where’s my baby.”

Thus began a lengthy process of trying to identify where their biological baby had ended up and how the swap had happened in the first place. Aided by the British Ambassador to El Salvador, they began investigating and getting local mothers who gave birth at the same hospital around the same time to have DNA tests.

Finally, they found their baby and returned the baby they had been taking care of. It was an emotional reunion for both sides, as each of the families had fallen in love with the babies they were given at the hospital. Dealing with bureaucracy and the Salvadoran court system proved to be yet another nightmare, but the most important thing is that they have their real baby back.

As Cushworth told WFAA, “it’s been a long and painful process, and I can’t believe we have this beautiful miracle boy here in Dallas.”

'Baby swap' parents return home

The joy and heartbreak of El Salvador baby swap parents Richard and Mercy Cushworth.

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