Here in Montana, Ira Glass’ This American Life airs on our local NPR station at noon on Saturdays.
The routine Andrew and I have set up for me, to ensure that I get some significant, uninterrupted writing time AT LEAST once a week is for me to take off on Saturday mornings, head into town, plant myself at a coffee shop, and write. Sometimes for two hours straight. I have to say, it really is quite heavenly in a small sort of way.
Often, when I’m on my way back home, feeling satisfied and ready to re-join the fray of family life, I catch part of This American Life in the car. I usually arrive home, caught up in what NPR calls “a driveway moment”–where I just can’t get myself to pull the key out of the ignition and turn off the story that’s only half way done.
Yesterday was no exception.
This week’s story was about two families in small town Wisconsin. Back in 1951, two mothers from these families both gave birth to baby girls in the same hospital, on the same day and, yep–you guessed it–they were inadvertently switched in the nursery. The babies went home with the wrong families.
One of the women knew right away, and spent the next 40 years trying to convince her husband of that reality. The other mother had no idea.
CAN YOU IMAGINE???
As a mother, it is so unbelievable to me to think of a woman, knowing that she was raising the wrong child, and that, her own child was out there somewhere..being raised by another family. And the most amazing part of the story: she knew her real daughter. The two families lived in the same community…and eventually went to the same church. The knowing mother knew who her real daughter was, and made a variety of efforts to stay in touch with her over the years so she could keep tabs on how her real daughter was doing.
This mother–the knowing mother–kept trying to drop hints over the years to anyone who would listen. But people in that little town just thought she was crazy, and dismissed her suggestions.
The interviewer goes on to question the knowing mother as to why she didn’t push things harder with her husband. Why she didn’t talk to the hospital staff about the suspected switch. At 96, she answers the interview questions from a 1950’s woman’s perspective. She didn’t want to make waves. She didn’t want to wreck her marriage.
Can you imagine being imprisoned in a society in which you couldn’t rectify the switch of your own baby to another family??? (Of course, world-over, there are plenty of societies TODAY in which this could easily happen, and the mother would have no recourse.) Can you imagine having to stifle that motherly instinct that tells you, for FOUR DECADES, that you’ve raised the wrong child?
Follow the link above. Listen to the story. Tell me what you think.