A tale of tears and guilt as two girls switched at birth learn to accept their real parents in Vietnam

By Phuoc Tuan - Nguyen Thanh   July 26, 2017 | 09:35 am PT
‘They haven't been able to grasp the whole truth. They just think they have two mothers and two fathers.’

As other kids play hide and seek in the front yard shared by houses in the southern province of Binh Phuoc, Vu Ngoc Lan Anh sits silently by herself, playing with some flowers.

She plucks the petals one by one.

“Since she came to live with her biological parents, she’s been like that sometimes. She'd withdraw,” the four-year-old’s grandfather said.

Anh was born on January 20, 2013 at Binh Long Town General Hospital, the same day as Huynh Thi Ngoc Yen.

Both girls weighed around three kilograms and were mistakenly handed to each other’s mothers, who were staying in the same room.

They lived normal lives for three years until the mistake was exposed.

Anh’s grandfather was visiting a nearby village in May 2016 when he saw a young girl who looked exactly like his daughter.

The families made contact and agreed to have DNA tests taken, and the results confirmed that the babies they had been raising were not their own.

After much thought and discussion, they agreed to meet in July last year to swap back.

But what sounds like the solution to a mistake was just the start of a long struggle.

Vu Dinh Khien, Anh’s biological father, admits that it has not been easy and the past year has been “chaotic” for both families.

Khien, 38, is haunted by the day they switched the girls back, and speaks about a “pain squeezing" him.

He said he and his wife had a terrible first night with their biological daughter. “She cried all night until she was so tired she passed out,” he said.

Yen, the other girl, was devastated by the move too.

Khien remembers she cried as she called out to him: “I love you so much, why are you giving me away?”

Thi Lien, Yen’s biological mother, said she refused to talk to anyone during the first days.

She kept standing at the door waiting for her “parents” to pick her up.

Lien said that as a mother, she was struggling herself at the beginning.

“At the time, I still felt more love for the child I had been raising. I could not connect with her, even though I knew she was my biological child,” the 25-year-old woman said.

Sharing custody


Vu Dinh Khien with his biological daughter Anh (L), and Yen. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Thanh

Both families were worried the switch had been too much for their daughters, so they have decided to let the girls live together with each family every one week.

They said the girls seem to feel better, but still not complete.

“I just want to live with both moms, any house would be alright,” Yen said.

Khien said the girls are slowly adapting to the new life.

“Sometimes they just sit still and say nothing. Sometimes they ask to go 'home' to their other parents,” he said.

Given the ongoing struggle, the girls have not started kindergarten as planned.

The families have not launched any legal complaints against the hospital as they had pledged either. The hospital has so far offered each of them VND20 million ($880).

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