Sarah Biren
Sarah Biren
April 9, 2024 ·  6 min read

Real-Life Telenovela: 51 Years Later, Mom Finds Out Her Daughter Was Swapped At Birth

At 71, no mom would want to hear that the daughter she’s spent her entire life raising isn’t biologically hers. It would seem as though she’s been dropped right in the middle of a cliché-scripted telenovela series.

In November 1966, Helen Maguire from Tipperary, Ireland gave birth to a baby girl whom she named Christine at birth. Helen had gotten pregnant out of wedlock at 18, and out of fear that her parents would convince her to give her child up for adoption, she left home for England.

Under the guidance of a priest she met in the country, Father Cleary, Helen took a job in a local pub to scrape together a living for herself.

According to Helen, the swap happened at St. Patrick’s Guild, a now-closed adoption home in Dublin, Ireland. She had just put to bed and couldn’t cope all by herself in England. She went back to Ireland to plead with her parents for assistance. Upon Father Cleary’s instructions, she left her baby at St. Patrick’s guild over at Dublin before traveling to her parents’ home in Tipperary to sort things out for herself and the child.

Six weeks later, she returned to Dublin and was handed the wrong baby.

Helen is not certain if the swap was deliberate or unintentional. St Patrick’s had been involved in several illegal adoption scandals for over three decades. The agency had to be closed down in the ’80s. In 2016, 13,500 adoption records stored by St Patrick’s were transferred to Tusla Child and Family Agency [1].

Helen and Christine were victims of the unfortunate circumstance.

A baby’s hair color doesn’t change completely in six weeks

A recent DNA test cross-matched between Helen and her daughter, now Christine Skipsey, reveals that there is a 99% certainty that the two are not biologically related.   

Speaking to Irish Independent, Helen says that although she loves Christine very much, she’s devastated by the discovery and would want to find her real daughter [2].

I am going to apologize to her [Skipsey] and tell her it wasn’t my fault,” says Helen. “That I was told when I collected my daughter that she was my daughter and that was it. Christine’s life has been turned upside down. It is something I have got to live with now for the rest of my life.”

She explains that the adoption home had actually told her naïve 19-year-old self a blunt lie to make her take the wrong baby. She couldn’t have known any better.

I went in and they brought me over to this basket and I said to them: ‘That’s not Christine.’ But they said it was,” Helen recalled.

The baby she’d handed to them before she left for Tipperary had black hair, and the baby they returned to her had light-colored hair. She couldn’t argue because the agency was run by clergymen and women, who at the time had been deemed infallible.

They told me all babies are born with black hair,” she narrated. “So like an idiot, I believed them. I never thought about it. Back then you believed what the priests and nuns said to you.’

Setting things straight

Christine has already found her actual birthplace and birth date, and she’s going to try to find her biological mother. She’s been deeply shocked and hurt by the whole situation.

I felt very lonely. I honestly never thought it would come back like that,” Christine said.

Helen is also searching for her biological child, and she’s has already gotten information of a woman who is believed to be her real daughter. She would have to make contact and set up a meeting because every piece of information would have to be confirmed by a standard DNA test.

She loves her daughter, the Christine she raised, and although the woman didn’t come from her womb, she’ll always have a huge place in Helen’s heart.

“Christine will always be my daughter as far as I’m concerned. I brought her up as my baby, and she will always be my baby,” says Helen.

Baby swapping. It’s more common than you think

Most people think babies are swapped only in the movies, but it’s a real-life situation that can be prevented. Mothers are usually left helpless when a hospital staff deliberately organizes a swap. It’s easier to commit the crime when the mom has no one from her family or circle of friends to watch over her baby while she’s still recovering.

Statistics published on The Baltimore Sun show that out of an estimated 4 million babies born every year, 28,000 get swapped [3]. This older survey was published in 1996, and, unfortunately, the numbers may not really cover a quarter of the actual figures. There’s no credible way to know exactly how many babies are switched at birth. It could happen to anyone and they’d never find out throughout their lifetime, and if it’s eventually discovered, they are forced to figure out a way to deal with the devastating reality.

A new mom sharing a hospital room with another new mom could be psychotic enough to switch their babies because of eye color. A nurse could be off to switch a sickly baby with a healthy one. Personnel in the NICU could unintentionally drop the wrong baby in an incubator after tending to him. Several scenarios could lead to this unfortunate occurrence. Fortunately, hospital procedures have evolved over the years, but nothing is foolproof.

Hospitals working hard to fight baby swapping.

As of recent times, modern hospitals have begun to take serious measures to eliminate the unfortunate reality of baby swapping. Many hospitals now collect and store the biometric data of every newborn, usually their fingerprint scans [4].

Back in the days, nametag bracelets were put on newborns, but this wasn’t always very effective. The babies were still getting mixed up one way or the other, sometimes due to incorrectly spelled names or two babies having the same name. Modern wristbands now bear the name of the baby’s parents and the hospital number. This is a lot more efficient than the child’s sweet name.

Hospitals have begun to increase the number of staff employed in the maternity sections to prevent overworking a small number which could variably lead to mistakes. In Canada especially, nurseries are now being eliminated in hospitals, and this way, parents can always keep an eye on their children in the ward-rooms.

If a case arises where the infant must go to the NICU, the staff would have to ensure that the data on the bracelet is double-checked before the infant is laid in an incubator. Feeding bottles containing the mother’s breast milk will also have a name label which is cross-matched with the baby’s bracelet before feeding.

Despite these effective measures spreading throughout modern hospitals, once in a blue moon, slip-ups may still happen somewhere. Also, it may not always happen in the hospital. Babies could get swapped anywhere and at any time. It all boils down to the parents and the people around them taking precautions [5]. Try not to let your baby out of your sight and always have someone you trust fully on the watch. Baby swapping shouldn’t even be a thing, but unfortunately, it can still happen.


  1. Admin. UPDATED – TRANSFER OF RECORDS FROM ST PATRICKS GUILD TO TUSLA. Adoption Authority of Ireland. Retrieved 18/06/19
  2. Kent, Ash. Mum finds out baby isn’t hers after DNA test. 9Honey. Retrieved 18/06/19
  3. Chang, Young. Separated at birth Babies: The bad news is that thousands of newborns are probably switched. The good news is that hospitals usually catch mistakes. The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 18/06/19
  4. Grant, Meaghan. Switched At Birth: How Hospital Procedures Have Evolved. Huffington Post. Retrieved 20/06/19
  5. Brusie, Chaunie. How Often Are Babies Switched at Hospitals? Very Well Family. Retrieved 18/06/19