Moms who nearly left the hospital with the wrong babies meet again

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Maria and Kylie DeLuca, of Henryville, Pa., with Laci and Caroline Verkaik, of Marshalls Creek, Pa. Both mothers moved from Passaic, N.J., and reconnected unwittingly 11 years after the close call in a hospital. KEITH R. STEVENSON / Pocono Record via AP

MARSHALLS CREEK, Pa. - Caroline Verkaik, then 36, was living in Passaic, N.J., when she got the word: About to give birth, a big storm was approaching, and she needed to get to the hospital quickly. It was Feb. 10, 2006.

Her daughter was born healthy, but because of a cesarean section, Verkaik got to see her baby for only a moment, and only saw her in the nursery briefly afterward.

The following morning, Feb. 11, Verkaik said, a nurse brought the baby to her in her room to breast-feed. Something seemed to be wrong.

"I looked at the baby, and I was like, there was something telling me this wasn't my baby," she said. "I told the nurse, 'I don't think this is my baby,' and she said the crib had her name and that since I had a C-section maybe I didn't get a good look at her."

Verkaik rocked the baby and saw the bracelet on the baby's ankle didn't match hers. She showed it to the nurse.

"She had this panic look and took the baby and left the room," Verkaik said. "I followed her. We entered to the nursery and there weren't any more babies there. I was panicking."

The nurse struggled to reason with how a mistake could have been made. The nurse said there were only six babies and mothers, Verkaik recalled.

"So where's my baby?" Verkaik asked, and the nurse said, 'Don't worry about it, we will get your baby.' We went to two different rooms, and none of those were my baby."

One of the nurses said there was a family that was supposed to check out that day. Instantly, Verkaik said, she became even more alarmed: Oh no, she thought, my baby has left the hospital.

"We go into this room, and there's a baby packed and ready to go," Verkaik said. "Their bags were packed, and it looked like they were about to leave. The nurse walked in and said, 'Oh my God, I'm sorry, I think you have the wrong baby.' And so the wife was like, 'What?' "

"I'm chocolate, I'm from Kenya, and she didn't look anything like me. But my husband has blond hair and blue eyes," Verkaik said. Still, the uncertainty lingered.

Verkaik said she saw the little girl's face and knew that was her baby.

"The tags said it is mine," Verkaik said. "The woman said, 'It is mine,' and the nurse showed her the tags and the woman said, 'Oh!' "

The mothers switched the babies, but still, there was an air of uncertainty. Maybe the cribs had it right. Verkaik just wasn't sure.

She stayed in the hospital for two more days before going home, but she and her husband still felt that something wasn't right. They called the hospital, asking for the name of the other family. The hospital said it couldn't provide it.

Time, it turned out, would tell the real story.

"As my daughter grew, she started looking like her older half-sister, and we were like, 'Oh, my God, I think we have the right baby,' " Verkaik said. "For five years, we were worried maybe we had the wrong baby."

Jump forward 11 years.

Verkaik moved to Marshalls Creek and was recently called to participate in a Tannersville fashion show, Red Shoe for Business Women. She had been in constant contact with a woman named Maria DeLuca of Henryville, who was helping coordinate the show.

The two began trading histories: Both had moved to the area in 2006, both had come from Passaic, and both had given birth to daughters at St. Mary's General Hospital in Passaic.

"Then I asked her when her baby was born. 'Don't say Feb. 10,' " Verkaik said.

"Maria said Feb. 10, and I started screaming: 'Are you the lady who almost took my baby home?' She said, 'Oh, my God, I have been looking for you.' " Both women began crying.

DeLuca told Verkaik she kept considering blood work to confirm maternity, but both women were afraid of finding out.

When asked, their no-longer-baby daughters said they didn't know what they would do if they found out they were switched at birth.

"All I was thinking of was how many people have taken home the wrong baby and never confirmed it," Verkaik said.