Two mothers whose babies were swapped at birth continue to relive the heartache twice a month when they get together and see their children growing up.
Four years ago, a court ordered that the error of the hospital staff, who mixed up the babies, could not be rectified and that the children would be raised by the “wrong” mothers until they are at least 18.
The two women meet every two weeks, with their children – a boy and a girl, who are now eight years old.
It is heartbreaking for both mothers because they have grown to love and bond with the child who is not theirs biologically, but at the same time, they miss and love the one they gave birth to.
One of the mothers, a frail woman who cannot be named to protect the identity of the children, said although the children were told about the situation, she feared she would never have the same bond the other mother has with her daughter.
She said her biological child only seemed to see her as a sister.
Despite this, she said that had not changed the way she felt about the boy she was raising and that the entire situation was just a mess she had to live with every single day.
“I’ve been crying every day since this happened; it really hurts me. I am just living, I don’t know what is happening to me. Some people may think I’m strong but I have no tears to shed any more,” she said.
“This situation does affect me but there’s nothing more I can do about it. Believe me, it is just a big mess up and it is something you have to live with every single day.
“Until I know what happened and see how the people involved will be dealt with, I will be at ease,” she added.
The distressed mother led this reporter into her lounge area in Vosloorus, on the East Rand, where she shared her story.
She explained that she knew she was expecting a girl when she was pregnant in 2010 but after giving birth at Tambo Memorial Hospital in Boksburg, on the East Rand, she was given a baby boy.
It was three years later, after she had taken her child’s father to the maintenance court and needed to prove paternity, that she found out the boy she was raising was not her biological child and that the child she had given birth to, a girl, was given to the biological mother of the boy she was raising.
She said her life had never been the same after it was discovered there had been a baby swap.
When newsmen asked if she had one of her boy’s toys this publication could photograph, her answer broke this reporter’s heart: “We can’t afford toys.”
All around her room were signs of her struggle with poverty.
She said after going through counselling to prepare herself, she finally met her biological daughter for the first time in 2013, two months after she had begun doing her own investigations at Tambo Memorial Hospital.
She said: “I felt as if I was looking into my older child’s face because she resembles my son.
“I mean, imagine giving birth to someone and only meeting up with them at a later stage. It was so emotional that I even cried for the first time seeing her.”
She said she initially wanted to have her daughter back but her hands were tied because the Children’s Court ruled against that, saying it would be less traumatic for the children involved to stay with the parents that raised them until they turned 18.
According to her lawyer, the government acknowledged liability after the two mothers took the state hospital to court.
The lawyer said although the government had agreed to pay his client R100 000 in April as an interim payment, that had not happened. He added that they hadn’t even received a note from the sheriff’s office regarding the payment.
“My client insisted that she was entitled to more than what the [Gauteng health] MEC offered,” he said. “That is why the determination of her quantum was postponed.”