A British woman who was separated from her newborn daughter after doctors in expressed doubt that she was the infant’s mother has been reunited with her baby after DNA tests confirmed their connection. Stacie Cottle, a 27-year-old dental nurse from London, said she was considering legal action against the hospital in Málaga, which allowed her only limited, supervised contact with her daughter for three weeks pending the DNA results.
Cottle was finally allowed full access to her daughter, Anzelika, on Tuesday after authorities received the results of the tests. “It was absolutely wonderful,” she said. “She’s wonderful. She’s healthy and I’m just happy to be with her.”
Cottle, who is of British Caribbean origin, has said she feared her treatment in Málaga, a region with a large immigrant population from outside , was influenced by race, and that it was absurd to .
The saga began at the start of June when Cottle, then 36 weeks pregnant, arrived in Málaga with her three-year-old daughter to help her mother find a long-term rental home. On 16 June, the day before she was due to go back to the UK, she went into early labour, and gave birth 40 minutes later. Her daughter Anzelika was born in her mother’s new flat in a village about 30 miles from Málaga.
Two days later, she and the baby went to the Comarcal de la Axarquía hospital near Málaga for a checkup. There, Cottle said, a paediatrician expressed doubt about Anzelika’s stated date of birth, seemingly based on her perceived age and examination of the umbilical cord stump.
The doubts seemed to be compounded by the fact the birth took place outside a hospital. Cottle returned to her mother’s flat the same day, but the doctors contacted police, who, on the orders of a judge, returned the pair to hospital pending DNA tests to prove parentage.
The doctors’ scepticism was maintained even after an examination showed that Cottle had recently given birth, she said. She claimed she had taken the placenta to the hospital but it had been destroyed and her British maternity notes were confiscated. She said it was not explained to her at any point why she might be seeking to pass off someone else’s baby as her own.
Cottle stayed in the maternity ward while Anzelika was held in the neonatal unit. She said she was allowed only limited access to her infant for feeding, and always under supervision, amid a climate of scepticism among many hospital staff. Her older daughter, Annabella, had to be looked after by her mother.
On Tuesday, she learned the DNA results had arrived, and went to the local court with an interpreter. Following yet another delay, the results – which showed Cottle was Anzelika’s mother – were faxed to the hospital. Finally she was allowed to claim Anzelika from the neonatal ward. “It was absolutely wonderful,” she said. “She’s wonderful. She’s healthy and I’m just happy to be with her.”
She said she had not received an apology from the hospital and that the situation was never satisfactorily explained to her. “At no point did they say why this had happened,” Cottle told the Guardian. “Repeatedly, during my stay in the hospital, I was called a criminal by staff and patients, from the day we were admitted to practically the day we left.”
Cottle, saying that she believes race might have played a part in the hospital’s actions, added: “One of the doctors said she believed I may have been from Kenya or Senegal. I have no proof race was involved, but I heard that from a doctor. It made no sense, because by this time they’d taken photocopies of my British passport.”
She said she had a meeting with two hospital managers after the situation had been resolved. “They didn’t apologise,” she said. “They said they hoped we could move on, and that it wouldn’t affect us terribly. They said they had to do it. But I don’t think they did.”
Cottle said she plans to take legal action against the hospital. “I do think I will. They have definitely been negligent in the way they’ve dealt with this,” she said.
She is similarly unimpressed with the efforts of British consular staff in Málaga. Cottle says they variously told her they had no sway over the hospital’s decision, and that DNA tests were routine in the case of births outside hospital.
She is now back at her mother’s flat and trying to catch up with the basic necessities of caring for a newborn baby: “She has no moses basket, she has no baby bath – there’s only a shower in the flat. It’s ridiculous.”
The entire family’s plans are in chaos, she said. While Cottle wants to return to London with her daughters as soon as she can, she fears that delays in registering Anzelika’s birth with the British embassy could slow down the process of getting her passport, possibly by months. “I want to go back to Britain as soon as I can,” she said. “But I still don’t know when that will be.”
Her mother had planned to teach English in for a year, to be joined by Cottle’s father, a maths teacher currently working in Saudi Arabia. They are now thinking again, she said: “After what’s happened, I’m not sure what my parents’ intentions are.”
Cottle also has to consider the effect on Annabella: “It’s been absolutely terrible for my older daughter. I feel so sorry for her. She more or less saw her sister being born, and then was unable to see her for days and days. She’d ask my mum: ‘Where’s the baby?’ It’s been really hard on her. It’s heartbreaking.”
When contacted by the Guardian, the hospital refused to comment.