Babies Mixed Up in Hospital, Families Decide to Raise Them Together

“The girls effectively grew up with four parents and eight grandparents, and the experiment worked.”

Caterina Alagna and Melissa Fodera, both 23 now, were raised by the wrong families for three years after a hospital mix-up in Mazara del Vallo, a fishing port in Sicily. The mothers realized the mistake when the girls were three years old, and swapped the toddlers back to the right families. Then, the biological families decided to raise the girls together.

“The girls effectively grew up with four parents and eight grandparents, and the experiment worked,” said Maura Caporiccio, author of Sisters Forever, a book about the girls’ story.

The two women were born 15 minutes apart on New Year’s Eve in 1998. Three years later, Marinella Alagna was picking up her daughter, Melissa, from nursery school and noticed a striking resemblance between another girl, Caterina, and her other two daughters. 

“I recognised Caterina’s mother, Gisella Fodera, from the maternity ward and got suspicious — 15 days later we did DNA tests and my mind went blank. It was too surreal, too impossible,” she said.

Initially, the situation was challenging and the families were not keen on the idea of swapping children. “I challenge anyone to raise a daughter for three years then give her up over a simple mistake,” said Fodera. 

The families then made the decision to gradually swap the girls and raise them together. The families grew increasingly close and the girls were inseparable. “We are a phenomenon. We have eight grandparents, two fathers, and two mothers,” said Caterina. 

Melissa said she and Caterina were told the truth when they were eight. “Today, neither of us have any memory of life before we were three,” she said.

“Today they are more like twins than sisters and there is a kind of love which binds the two families,” said Caporiccio.

Image source: The Times