Lydia Fairchild was a mother of three in Washington. When she split with her boyfriend, she anticipated rough seas ahead for her family. But she never predicted that government officials would threaten to take her children away because her DNA test said that she wasn’t related to her kids.
Despite having doctors and witnesses during Lydia’s childbirth, court officials still doubted her identity as a mother. When Lydia became pregnant with another child, DNA results said that the embryo in her womb wasn’t related to her. So, what happened? Read on to learn about a phenomenon that few people believe exists.
It All Hit Her When She Was Low
Around 2006, Lydia Fairchild broke up with her boyfriend, Jaime Townsend. The pair had three kids, and their separation would impact the family in a way that nobody had anticipated. Lydia was 26, had no job, and now had to care for her children on her own.
In Washington state, Lydia applied for government assistance in order to have enough money to provide for her children. When she approached the Department of Social Services, things rapidly went downhill.
The DNA Test That Started It All
To receive government assistance, Lydia and Jaime had to submit DNA tests to prove that their children were their own. Fearing nothing, Lydia submitted her blood work. A few days later, Lydia sat down with a social worker for what she thought was a routine meeting. It wasn’t.
“As I sat down, they came up and shut the door,” Lydia reported. “And they just went back and just started drilling me with questions like, ‘Who are you?'”
Her Family… Wasn’t Hers?
The social worker asked Lydia who the biological mother was. When she said that she was the biological mother, they demanded curtly, “Ms. Fairchild, I will not ask you again.”
Lydia’s DNA results challenged everything she knew about her life and family. Her boyfriend, Jaime, was the father of her children; but she wasn’t the mother. Now, she had to prove that her children and her body were her own.
Lydia’s Kids Were In Danger
Because the DNA results don’t back up Lydia’s claims, she was denied government assistance. On top of that, social workers suspected her of welfare fraud and acting as a paid surrogate mother. Before Lydia left, a worker told her, “You know, we’re able to come get your kids at any time.”
If Lydia didn’t act fast, her kids would be snatched away from their family. But what could she do?
Her DNA Test Contradicted Reality
Lydia’s tears fell onto her blouse. She could not believe the social worker’s accusations. For nine months, she had carried both of her children and gave birth to them. How could one DNA test invalidate all of those years of motherhood?
Although she was confident that someone made a mistake, the social worker told her, “Nope. DNA is 100 percent foolproof and does not lie.” Except, in this case, it did.
Lydia Had Plenty of Evidence
“I knew that I carried them, and I knew that I delivered them,” Lydia later said. “There was no doubt in my mind.” Whatever happened with the DNA test wasn’t her fault. Fortunately, she had plenty of proof that she gave birth to the children.
Lydia rushed home to gather evidence. She accumulated photos of her pregnancy, her kids’ birth certificates, and her doctor’s information. She had to confirm her identity somehow.
Her Parents Thought She Was Joking
Lydia’s DNA results were so outrageous that when she called her parents about it, her mother thought she was joking. “I said, ‘Oh, it’s got to be a mistake,'” said her mother, Carol Fairchild. “I was there when the kids were born. I saw them come out. I held them in my arms, you know.”
Her father, Rod Fairchild, felt outraged. “I almost went insane inside,” he admitted. “My daughter is not a liar.”
But What About Her Obstetrician?
Fortunately, Lydia kept the contact information of her obstetrician, a doctor who specializes in pregnancy and childbirth. Dr. Leonard Dreisbach remembered him since he guided all of her births. He assured Lydia that he’d vouch for her in court.
“I would have told them that she certainly had these three kids, and that they were hers,” Dr. Dreisbach said. “I don’t know what’s wrong with the DNA testing, but I know she had the kids.”
Unfortunately, DNA Trumps All
Despite the evidence and witnesses on Lydia’s side, none of that helped her in court. DNA tests were considered infallible. To avoid the chance of human error, Lydia and Jaime agreed to take several DNA tests from different labs. They all showed up the same: Lydia wasn’t the mother.
Three court hearings later, Lydia began to lose hope. On the third hearing, she recalled that the judge looked at her and told her to find a lawyer.
Meanwhile, Everyone Else Was On The Court’s Side
While Lydia fought with the courts, local newspapers and news channels caught wind of the story. They reported on it, and suddenly, strangers all across the country began turning on Lydia. They accused her and Jaime of stealing their children for government assistance.
Lydia’s face began popping up all over the internet. She didn’t know how to handle all the pressure. How could she find an attorney when the entire country saw her as the villain?
Finding A Lawyer Was Easier Said Than Done
Lydia fought an uphill battle to hire a willing lawyer. All attorneys she turned to were unwilling to combat DNA evidence. Finally, Alan Tindell agreed to take her case. However, his agreement came with extensive questioning: “These aren’t your sister’s children? These aren’t your brother’s children? You didn’t abduct these children from anyone?”
Tindell later said that he decided to believe Lydia because she seemed so assured and adamant in her responses.
The Threat To Her Family Became Even More Real
Just as Alan Tindell began searching for evidence, Lydia received a summons in the mail to go to court. They threatened to take her kids away from her soon. The mother felt so terrified that she made plans to hide her children.
“My stomach just went into a big old knot,” Lydia said about the summons. “I just started crying. I called my family, and I held my kids and was scared.”
Hence, Lydia’s Home Life Fell Apart
Lydia felt helpless, having to combat skeptical government officials with “infallible” evidence weighing against her. “I’d sit and have dinner with my kids and just break out crying,” she later revealed. “They would just look at me like, ‘What’s wrong, Mom?’ They’d come give me a hug, and I couldn’t explain it to them, because I didn’t understand.
Amid all this chaos, Lydia discovered that she was pregnant with another child.
Would A Documented Pregnancy Help Lydia’s Case?
Although the pregnancy came at a difficult time, it might have been Lydia’s big break. With a baby inside of her, scientists couldn’t prove that the child wasn’t hers.
Lydia pleaded with government officials to test her while she carried her fourth child. “Take your tests,” she asserted. “Prove that I am the mother.” The court agreed to schedule a specialized DNA test with her unborn child’s DNA.
She Was Pregnant. But She Wasn’t.
Unbelievably, the DNA tests produced the same results: Jaime was the father, but Lydia wasn’t the mother. “How could that be?” Lydia yelled at the investigators. “There must be something wrong with your tests. This baby is still inside me. How can it not be mine?”
The court continued to test her upon her baby’s birth. Washington state officials remained so suspicious of Lydia that a court officer stood in the hospital room to witness her delivery.
Witnessing A Birth Doesn’t Combat A DNA Test
Anyone would believe that watching someone give birth confirms that they’re the mother. But this is not the reasoning that courts used with Lydia. “They took DNA from the baby and myself right then and there, after birth,” she explained. “And it came back that there is no possible way that baby is mine.”
Even after watching Lydia deliver her baby, court officials believed that Lydia illegally swapped another woman’s eggs to get money.
With Everyone Is Against Her, Who Would Fight For Her?
As months passed, it seemed that nothing Lydia did helped her case. Court officials continued to doubt her, and newspapers continued to frame her as a criminal. Even when talking to her father, Rod Fairchild began to question her claims.
“Lydia, I love you, but you’ve gotta tell the truth,” her father reportedly said. “I can’t help you if you’re not sincere with me.” Lydia could only cry and insist that her kids were hers.
As Lydia Lost Hope, A New Story Arose
Lydia stopped eating and closed herself off from others. Her doubts and fear consumed her mind. What would happen to her children? Would she ever see them again? Had she somehow been wrong this entire time?
While Lydia struggled to stay afloat, Tindell worked tirelessly to dig up compelling evidence. That’s when he discovered Karen Keegan’s case in the New England Journal of Medicine.
What Happened To Lydia Has Happened Before
Years earlier, a 52-year-old teacher in Boston named Karen Keegan was diagnosed with kidney disease. As she underwent a kidney transplant, doctors tested her children for any sign of illness. Her next phone call didn’t make any sense.
“Mrs. Keegan, we have some unusual news to report to you,” the doctor on the phone said. “We’ve never had this happen before, but your children don’t match your DNA.”
Lydia’s Case, Mirrored Across The Country
Boston doctors asked Keegan the same questions that they demanded of Lydia. “They had some other thoughts, like perhaps this was some kind of in vitro fertilization,” Keegan said. “Or even worse, that this woman just might not be completely telling the truth or even be psychologically unbalanced in some way.”
Doctors tested DNA samples from her mouth, blood, and hair. Still, nothing matched. “It was a medical mystery,” said Lynne Uhl, Keegan’s pathologist and blood transfusion doctor.
How Did They Solve Keegan’s Case?
Once Keegan healed from her operation, she worked with doctors to solve the mystery. Eventually, Keegan came up with an idea. She told Dr. Uhl that she had a thyroid nodule removed years prior and that they could test it for DNA sample.
After searching doctors located a sample of her thyroid tissue. The DNA on it matched her son’s. Dr. Uhl concluded that Keegan was, in a way, her own twin.
The Existence Of Chimeras
Karen Keegan had a rare condition visible in only 30 documented cases worldwide. Chimerism occurs when one person carries two sets of genetic codes. In the womb, two fertilized eggs can fuse into one, a phenomenon known as “Vanishing Twin Syndrome.” The remaining embryo now has the twin’s DNA as well as its own.
In Greek mythology, a chimera is a hybrid creature made of different infused animals, traditionally between a lion, goat, and serpent. Karen Keegan’s twin lived microscopically inside of her DNA.
Keegan’s Case Became Lydia’s Big Break
Lydia received an auspicious phone call from her lawyer. He informed her that he had discovered a similar case in Boston and that they should test her for chimerism. “I asked the judge to postpone the case until these tests could be done,” said Tindell.
Lydia agreed to take further tests needed to confirm her chimerism. They were her last hope if she wanted to keep custody of her children.
Locating Chimeras Requires Some Specialized Tests
Because chimerism requires specialized testing to find, Lydia’s several DNA tests never brought it up. After all, scientists had to locate two sets of genomes from one person, not a matching set in different people.
Lydia likely had tetragametic chimerism, where she absorbed cells from her fraternal twin. In Keegan’s case, her son appeared to be related to both her husband and her brother in tests. If Lydia’s results were similar, doctors could confirm her as a chimera.
But Lydia Was Running Out Of Time
Researchers who tested Lydia informed her that results might not pop up right away. In some cases, chimera diagnosis could take years to confirm. But Lydia didn’t have years to wait. Her court ruling date was rapidly approaching.
Scientists analyzed Lydia’s blood cells for the presence of chimera cells. They found none, but this was not unheard of. They swapped samples of her hair, skin, and even internal organs. As the procedures dragged on, Lydia began to lose hope.
Walking Into Court With No Proof
When Lydia’s court date arrived, she walked into the courtroom, not knowing if her lawyer received the evidence they needed. Her attorney, Tindell, walked into the room with a stack of papers. When Lydia asked him about them, he said, “This is your proof.”
The tests had concluded that Lydia contained the genes of both herself and her vanishing twin. It was the missing link that connected Lydia to her children.
The Nightmare Was Over
With scientific evidence to explain Lydia’s DNA results, the judge dismissed the mother’s case. Lydia could finally receive government support and got to keep her four children.
“I probably wouldn’t have my kids today if they didn’t discover the situation,” Lydia said afterward. “They wouldn’t have known to even consider me as a chimera.” Thanks to Keegan and Tindell, Lydia continued to live with her family and put this nightmare behind her.