Martha Miller (blonde, sitting next to Mrs. Miller) with her brunette siblings. Photo from Life Magazine.
If you are a regular NPR listener, then you are probably familiar with the stories from This American Life. I have driven around extra miles, or have stayed in my car in the driveway for ten minutes with the car running, because I have to hear the end of one of the stories. Ira Glass is the host, and has recently branched out into a TV version of the program. I personally love the radio versions, where your mind has to color in the pictures, and you listen more carefully to the actual words from the people involved.
If you haven't heard of This American Life, you are in for a treat. Check out the website here, and you can search through and listen to story after story, some funny, some sad, some so touching they stay with you. Because almost all of the stories are about real people, and true events, the impact is that much more powerful. One in particular has stayed with me for so long, a story of two babies switched at the hospital, but there is so much more to the story. I have never forgotten the twists in this one or the emotion and pain in all the voices of the women involved. More info below and a link to this one here.
On a summer day in 1951, two baby girls were born in a hospital in small-town Wisconsin. The infants were accidentally switched, and went home with the wrong families. One of the mothers realized the mistake but chose to keep quiet. Until the day, more than 40 years later, when she decided to tell both daughters what happened. How the truth changed two families' lives—and how it didn't.
Host Ira Glass introduces four characters: Kay McDonald, who raised a daughter named Sue, and Mary Miller, who raised a daughter named Marti. In 1994, Mary Miller wrote letters to Sue and Marti, confessing the secret she'd kept for 43 years: the daughters had been switched at birth and raised by the wrong families. This week's entire show is devoted to the story of Mary Miller's secret and what happened when both families finally learned the truth. (6 1⁄2 minutes)
Reporter Jake Halpern tells the story of Marti Miller and Sue McDonald, the daughters who were switched at birth, and the many complications that came with learning the truth. Jake is writer whose books include Fame Junkies and Braving Home. (25 1⁄2 minutes)
Jake Halpern tells the mothers' sides of the story. At 69, Kay McDonald had to cope not only with learning that her daughter wasn't her own, but that another mother had known the whole time. And Mary Miller explains why she was tormented by her secret but unable for decades to share it. (26 minutes)