And when I learned that she and her boyfriend had accepted countless donations from friends and the community to help support the five precious lives coming into the world, I thought, Well that’s just effed up.
But when I then heard that this woman has actually faked a pregnancy before — as well as having faked having cancer — I thought, Wow, this poor woman is actually sick.
Not with cancer. Not with some pathetic starvation for attention. But with an actual and very real mental illness.
It’s called pseudocyesis, or “phantom pregnancy.” It’s a powerful mental illness that manifests itself in physical body changes — changes that mimic pregnancy symptoms. According to the Canadian woman’s boyfriend, her belly swelled, she suffered from morning sickness, she lactated, and her water even broke.
Doctors can explain away all of those “pregnancy symptoms.” Bellies swell from eating more, and not going to the bathroom, they say. Morning sickness can be caused by a host of others things. Lactation can happen from intense nipple stimulation. And her water breaking was actually just incontinence.
But for this woman, those symptoms were very real. And very much related to pregnancy. What quite possibly started out as a incredible desire to have a baby clearly ended up turning into a woman who believed her thoughts so fully that her mind amazingly “tricked” her body into being pregnant.
The Internet has been busy smashing this woman for being a liar. But her lying is only the tip of the iceberg here: She believed her lies, so much so that the lie began to come true. What a lot of people are overlooking is that mental illness is behind this story. In fact, it’s the very root of this story.
And how we’ve been treating this woman (whose actions no doubt hurt a lot of people, especially her boyfriend who was so excited to become a father) — says a lot about how little we understand mental illness. And how little patience we have for those suffering from it. I get that the story is shocking. I get how used people directly involved in this story must feel.
But at the end of the day, there is a woman in a psychiatric ward who — obviously — so desperately needs help. And I hope she gets it.