We have all heard of women giving birth to babies without having known that they were pregnant.  These mothers were often in their forties, and any symptoms which they might have had before giving birth were frequently considered to be menopausal.  Sometimes, there were no symptoms at all.

One recorded case is of a lady “of good society”, married for seven years, and completely absorbed in the preparation of a long overseas trip.  This was in the late nineteenth century, so travel preparations were a major undertaking.

She was suddenly taken ill with “vesicular colic” and, to her great surprise and consternation, gave birth to a child before the arrival of the doctor, who had been called because of the abdominal pains, and her sudden inability to control her bladder.

The lady suffered a mental breakdown immediately after the birth, and sank into depression.  She had to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital, where she recovered a few months later.

Another case is a lady aged forty-two who was suffering from abdominal pains.  She had been married for three years and had never been pregnant.  Her periods were not very abundant but this was attributed to menopause.

She had conceived, had arrived at the end of her pregnancy, and had had a ten-hour labour, without ever suspecting that she could be pregnant.  She gave birth to a baby girl, to the great joy of the whole household.

A certain Tasker from Kendall’s Mills (Maine) reported the case of a young, recently married lady who had called him for vesicular colic.  He found the stomach to be slightly distended and asked her about a possible pregnancy.

She and her husband assured him that this was impossible because her menstruations had been regular, and her waist had not thickened because she had always worn the same corset.  There had been no sign of foetal movement, no change in the breasts, and absolutely none of the usual signs of pregnancy.

He gave her an opiate.  Within roughly six hours, to his great surprise, the lady was the mother of a five-pound baby boy.  Mother and child recovered well.

There is a long list of similar stories.  To a lady like myself, who looked the size of a cow during each pregnancy, and gave birth to two babies over four kilos each (sons) and one baby over three kilos (daughter) – mother’s weight before pregnancy being 47 kilos, these stories leave me green with envy.

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