Two women who were accidentally switched at birth and raised as sisters by their families have chronicled their unique journey in a book and film.
Hospital confusion in Mazara del Vallo, Sicily, meant Caterina Alagna and Melissa Fodera, both 23, were raised by the wrong mothers.
It wasn’t until they were three years old that the mistake was discovered when Marinella Alagna, 51, was picking up her daughter Melissa from kindergarten when she noticed the striking resemblance between one of the other children, Caterina, and her two daughters.
The families learned the truth after taking a DNA, but because so much time had passed, their birth mothers Marinella and Gisella Fodera, 47, chose to raise them together.
They even went so far as to move to the same house to make everyone as comfortable as possible.
Mauro Caporiccio, author of Sisters Forever, the film made by the Italian RAI TV that will be broadcast this week, told The times: ‘Today they are more like twins than sisters and there is a kind of love that binds the two families.’
A hospital confusion in Mazara del Vallo in Sicily meant that Caterina Alagna and Melissa Fodera (pictured, as children), both 23, were raised by the wrong mothers
It wasn’t until the sisters were three years old that the confusion was discovered, but so much time had passed that their birth mothers chose to raise them together and even went so far as to live in the same house (pictured, Caterina Alagna left and right, Melissa Fodera)
Caterina and Melissa were born just 15 minutes apart in the same hospital on December 31, 1998, but were accidentally switched by nurses who welcomed the new year.
Despite their concerned mothers noting to staff that the baby they were holding was wearing clothes they didn’t recognize, their doubts were set aside when nurses reassured them that it was just the outfits that had been mixed up.
After three years, Marinella saw Caterina at the nursery and noticed her incredible resemblance to her daughter Melissa.
Marinella said: ‘I recognized Caterina’s mother, Gisella Fodera, from the maternity ward and got suspicious – 15 days later we did DNA tests and my mind went blank.
Caterina was raised by Gisella Fodera when her birth mother Marinella, 51, saw her at the school gate (pictured, Caterina now)
“It was too surreal, too impossible.”
Initially, the mothers were against the idea of returning children, with Gisella emphasizing that it is difficult to raise a daughter for three years and then being told to give her back – all because of a ‘simple mistake’ .
However, both mothers agreed that it was better to switch gradually.
To reassure the girls, Melissa and Caterina spent time with both parents. At one point, both families even lived under the same roof.
When both mothers agreed it was best to transition gradually, Melissa (pictured) and Caterina spent time with both parents
But the hardest was yet to come. Experts recommended that the families should be separated for at least six months to allow the girls to adjust to their biological family and new lifestyle.
“We, two mothers, cried to each other on the phone every day and after three months we decided not to resist the temptation, and we met and vowed never to break up,” explains Marinella.
‘After that I saw Melissa every day – how could I not? I breastfed her, I taught her her first words. We had to share everything.’
Over time, both families became closer and the girls began to celebrate big occasions together and sit side by side in school.
Caterina (left) and Melissa (right) were born just 15 minutes apart in the same hospital on December 31, 1998, but were accidentally switched by nurses welcoming the New Year
Melissa (pictured) can’t remember anything about her life before the age of three – adding that she’s always seen and always will see Marinella as a ‘second mom’
But it wasn’t until the girls were eight years old and old enough to understand the confusion that they learned that they had been switched at birth.
But Melissa went on to say she doesn’t remember anything from her life before age three – adding that she does and will always see Marinella as ‘second mother’.
While Gisella also admitted that she and Melissa feel like real mother and daughter today, there was one problem the girls have not yet been able to overcome: their registered names.
To make things easier, they decided to keep the names they had always used.
The story will be featured in the book Sisters Forever, by Mauro Caporiccio, and the film made by the Italian RAI TV, which will be broadcast later this week.