So much happens at the beginning of our lives that we have no control over. Parents assign a name, encourage or discourage early interests, and make every decision until a child is old enough to reason for themselves.
But there is one major occurrence that everyone takes for granted. Around the world, families take their newborn babies home without always having real assurance the bundle of joy in their arms is actually theirs.
Denice Juneski and Linda Jourdeans were born at Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1945.
Both babies were nearly Christmas miracles, born 31 minutes apart on December 19. Their parents undoubtedly beamed with pride.
It would take 72 years before anyone realized that they’d been switched at birth. Jourdeans went home with Juneski’s family, and Juneski went home with the Jourdeans.
For years, both women stood out from their families for various reasons. Their hair color, eye color, and natural talents and inclinations differed from the rest of their family.
Jourdeans, who had red hair her entire life, grew up in a family of blondes. Juneski, a blonde, stood out in family photos where she was surrounded by brunettes and redheads.
Neither woman would have ever realized if Juneski hadn’t recently taken a DNA test.
Juneski was surprised to find that she shared no common DNA with any of the people she grew up believing were her relatives. At first, she figured there must have been a mistake.
“I didn’t match anybody,” Juneski said to KARE11. “Either 23andMe [a genealogy website] made a mistake, or I was switched at birth.”
After Juneski came to terms with the idea that she’d grown up in a different family, she inevitably started to wonder who’d grown up in hers. The answer came quickly.
Jourdeans’ niece noticed Juneski on her own DNA report, connected the dots, and gave her aunt the news. Jourdeans, now living in Wisconsin, didn’t waste any time trying to get to the bottom of the matter.
“I did my DNA right away, because I’ve got to see this on paper,” Jourdeans said to KARE 11.
The results proved what both already suspected– they’d walked in someone else’s shoes for the last 72 years.
“Sometimes I had that sense that I didn’t quite fit in,” Juneski said. “I was really supposed to be another person.”
Juneski and Jourdeans have become friends, and Jourdeans met her birth mother.
Rather than be angry about something completely out of their control, and with no real solution, Juneski and Jourdeans have taken the development in stride. The two have met several times since learning the news in April.
“I consider it a gift,” Juneski said.
“We’re just new friends,” she said.
While the mother who raised her passed away many years ago, Jourdeans got to meet her birth mother, Marianne Mayer, who is 99-years-old and struggles with her memory. The two women retell the story whenever they visit her, and she is always happy to hear she now has more grandkids.
Neither Juneski or Jourdeans appeared interested in understanding how or why the switch took place. At this point, the hospital workers present that day have likely passed away, and wouldn’t remember much about the switch anyway.
“We’ll never know,” Jourdeans said.