Imagine carrying your children for nine months, then giving birth to them, only to be told that biologically they aren’t yours. This is exactly what happened to Lydia Fairchild, and she almost lost custody of all three of her children because of it. The reason why is as surprising as the case itself.
The Courts Told Lydia Fairchild That There Was No Way Her Children Were Hers
In 2006, Lydia Fairchild was a mother of two (soon to be three) and going through a separation from her spouse. She also became unemployed at this time and so applied for public assistance in Washington State. To qualify for social assistance, her spouse, herself, and her kids all had to have a DNA test done to prove that they were related.
This is when Lydia’s life almost changed forever. When her results were ready, the Department of Social Services called her and told her she needed to come in for a meeting immediately. What she thought was routine turned out to be her being questioned for being a criminal, faking being the mother of her children to get welfare checks.
“I knew that I carried them, and I knew that I delivered them. There was no doubt in my mind,” Lydia said.
The Questioning Period
They began asking her things like who she really was and who her children really belonged to. They told her that they could come take her children away from her at any time. She had to attend several court hearings, all of which made the prospect of losing her children more and more apparent.
“I’d sit and have dinner with my kids and just break out crying. They would just look at me like, ‘What’s wrong.’ They’d come get me a hug, and I couldn’t explain it to them, because I didn’t understand,” she recalled.
The DNA Condition That Changed Everything
The courts told Lydia that while her children carried 99% of their father’s DNA, they had absolutely none of hers. To them, this meant it was impossible that they were hers. She, of course, knew otherwise but proving that was next to impossible. Her parents, as well, who were present for all the births, were incredulous. They provided their own testimony, but it didn’t seem to matter.
Then, her lawyer found out about another woman on the other side of the country who also didn’t have any of the DNA to match her children. Luckily for her, the doctors had figured out why. They discovered that this other woman had a condition called chimerism.
What Is Chimerism?
Chimerism is when a person (or animal) carries two sets of DNA. Essentially, it is when a person has absorbed the cells of a potential twin. There are a few different types of chimerism:
- Microchimerism: This is when a pregnant woman absorbs a few cells from her fetus or vice-versa.
- Artificial chimerism: Occurs when someone receives a blood transfusion, stem cell transplant, or a bone marrow transplant from someone else and absorbs some of that person’s DNA.
- Twin Chimerism: When twins are conceived, but one embryo dies in the womb. The surviving fetus absorbs some of the other’s DNA and therefore has two sets of DNA – its own and its would-have-been-twin.
After doing some studies and DNA samples, doctors discovered that Lydia has twin chimerism. Her children have the DNA of what would have been her twin if the embryo had survived. (2)
Lydia Fairchild Got To Keep Her Kids
When Lydia Fairchild gave birth to her third child, a court officer stood in the room to witness the DNA sample being taken immediately after the child was born. This child also shared no DNA with Lydia. The discovery of her chimerism, however, saved her and her children. Thanks to the vigilant work of doctors for another woman across the country, Lydia’s family was able to stay together.