Hooray for Baby Swapping

Baby swapping has been quite the rage after a Tustin couple recently delivered a baby at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange but left the hospital with the "WRONG BABY!" I first learned about this from TV-news reports about the "MATERNITY ROOM NIGHTMARE!" And like so many others, I was one of the "TERRIFIED PARENTS WONDER[ING] IF THIS COULD HAPPEN TO THEM!"

That is, until the talking head explained much later in the report that the couple had the wrong baby for all of 90 minutes-at which point hospital officials figured out the error, called the couple and gave them the right baby.

Television and newspaper reports that followed were breathless, rife with images of the tearful mother clutching her real son after being subjected to that . . . that . . . thing she had been duped into holding for 90 full minutes.

At least one report said she had mistakenly suckled the beast!

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Pediatricians were interviewed, as were expectant mothers. Old stories of swapped babies were recounted. Possibilities were considered: What if they grew up and got married? Eeeew!

Baby swapping lurked like killer bees, El Nio, the Big One and Dennis Rodman. One TV reporter led her report by saying that baby swapping is every parent's "worst nightmare."


I thought every parent's worst nightmare is that they'll lose their health insurance and end up in the emergency room at a St. Anywhere every time their kid runs a high fever or gets the dry heaves. That they'll sit with their child in the waiting room, a child who ingests not only every emergency-room germ, but also all the gore, torment and personified consequences of violence. That when they do get to see the doctor-four, six, eight hours later-he's splitting time between their kid and the guy with the knife in his shoulder, and the most they'll get for their trouble is a pat on the head, some extra-strength cough syrup, and an invitation to "come back and see us" if the problem persists.

How times change.

Look, what happened with the babies at St. Joseph is something we have a hard time accepting. It's called a "mistake." That may seem a slight word for something involving such a precious being, but there it is. Mistakes happen, and not just on driving tests. They happen when flying jumbo jets and when doling out babies. If anything, what happened at St. Joseph only suggests that the hospital's system works. There was a mistake. The mistake was identified. The mistake was corrected. Regrettable? Certainly. Wish it didn't happen? Of course. Nobody supports baby swapping . . . unless, perhaps, if you actually have a baby . . . a baby that won't listen to reason . . . and just keeps crying and crying . . . at 3:45 in the morning. Then, swapping a baby for something like, say, a variable-speed shower head . . .

Still, c'mon. The baby that should have gone home was left in the hospital for 90 minutes. Ninety minutes. What would you pay someone-let alone a fully functioning hospital!-to watch your kid for 90 minutes? You can see an entire movie in 90 minutes. You can have sex and see an entire movie.

If there are parents who believe that having your baby stay in a supervised hospital for an extra 90 minutes is as bad as it gets, just wait until your 6-year-old, in the middle of shooting hoops on an idyllic Saturday afternoon, turns to you and asks, "Daddy, do you and Mom sex?"

Or when your 8-year-old becomes positively apoplectic in saying she can't drink wine from the communion chalice because she promised the DARE officer at school she'd be alcohol-free.

And then there are abductions and body image and low self-esteem and being called names and friends who know too much for their own good and R-rated trailers at G-rated movies and parents who keep guns in their houses and cars that drive too fast and coaches who push too hard.

And then there's that problem called "everything after 12."

True story: I was at a party a few years back, telling a certain woman I was glad my kids were all past 3 because I was out of the "rough period." She laughed in my face. She said I'd look back on those years as the "good times." Fifteen minutes later, her 16-year-old daughter glided into the house, announced she was going to Baja for a couple of days, wasn't sure when she'd be back, and was back out the door and into a Volkswagen. And I now know how right she is: my 5-year-old-who really doesn't look like me or my wife, hmmmm-now takes great pleasure in telling me: "Hi, Daddy. I hate you!"

Enjoy your children while you can, people. There'll come a day when even St. Joseph won't be able to help.

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