This astonishing documentary examines two remarkable pregnancies. In one, a 75-year-old Moroccan woman gave birth to a ‘stone baby’, 46 years after it was conceived. And a British woman describes her ectopic pregnancy, in which her baby developed outside the womb.
This almost always leads to the baby’s death, but in one of the cases, a boy who developed in the stomach lining and was delivered two months early, survived as one of triplets – at odds of around 60 million to one.
In 1955, in a small village outside Casablanca, Zahra Aboutalib went into labour. Forty-eight hours later, the baby was still unborn so Zahra was rushed to hospital. However, after watching a young woman die in agony on the operating table, she turned and fled in panic, convinced she would suffer the same fate.
Days of excruciating pain followed, then the pains suddenly stopped. Zahra believed in the local myth of the ‘sleeping baby’, so put the pregnancy out of her mind, believing the baby would be born at a later date.
This never happened, and many decades passed – during which time Zahra adopted three children and became a grandmother. Aged 75, the agonising pains returned, but several doctors couldn’t explain them. Then Dr Taibi Quazzani, who felt that Zahra’s swollen stomach indicated an ovarian tumour, sent her for scans.
The result was shocking: the mass inside Zahra’s stomach was a calcified baby. Unable to be born, the baby – which had developed outside the womb and fused with Zahra’s internal organs – had died.
To protect itself from infection from this ‘foreign body’, the body developed a layer of hard calcified material around the dead baby. This hardened over the years. The operation to remove the calcified foetus was a tricky one, as over the decades it had fused with both Zahra’s abdominal wall and the internal organs.
But its mother, who could have died of complications so many times over the years, was lucky once more. She had even been lucky to run from the hospital. Without the required scanning technology, the doctors responsible for Zahra’s baby would have opened her up for a Caesarian section unaware of the baby’s positioning, and would probably have cut through the umbilical cord.
This could caused massive internal bleeding, killing both Zahra and her baby. There are around 300 cases of the syndrome reported, but Zahra’s calcified baby spent the longest time in the womb. We also hear the amazing story of Suffolk woman Jane Ingram.
She and her partner have two children each from their previous marriages, but wanted at least one between them. They were therefore delighted – if slightly taken aback – when they discovered they were expecting twins.
But after a routine early pregnancy, Jane awoke one night bleeding heavily and in such pain she thought she was dying. She worried that she had miscarried, but the hospital told that her both babies were fine. However, the doctors told her that she was expecting a third child, but unfortunately it was developing in the fallopian tubes.
If the tubes ruptured, Jane could die, so specialist Dr Davor Jurkovic advised her to have all three babies induced – two months early. On the operating table, Jane’s fallopian tube ruptured: the timing was fortunate, because if it happened at home she could have been dead in half an hour. The two girls inside the womb – Olivia and Mary – were delivered safely, as was the ectopic child, a boy called Ronan.
Although the doctor was forced to leave the placenta inside Jane, it shrunk to nothing and caused no harm. Almost six years later, the triplets and happy, healthy and normal in every way.