The entire town of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu in Quebec, Canada was rallying behind one of their own residents who had led them to believe she was pregnant with quintuplets. When the pregnancy was eventually revealed as a fake, the community understandably felt betrayed.
As reported by CTV News, the woman (whose identity is being withheld for privacy as she undergoes psychiatric care) had kept the fictitious pregnancy story going for months and was only exposed when her delivery date arrived. Reportedly the woman, 35, told her boyfriend, identified by CTV as Paul, that she was pregnant with twins one month after they met on an online dating site. The number of children kept changing, going to triplets, then quadruplets, and eventually up to quintuplets.
The Toronto Sun reported that when the woman told her friend that she was pregnant, the friend quickly set up a Facebook page so the couple could get assistance from the town. The friend told the paper, "I used my personal and professional contacts to get her sponsorships. Others gave her all sorts of clothes or furniture." The duped community offered support to the soon-to-be ‘mother’ by giving her advice as well as countless baby gifts.
Geneviève Laflamme, a mother of triplets, told CTV, “I gave her tips on how to handle it, where to get financial support, where to get sponsors for diapers.” Laflamme grew suspicious as the weeks passed and she detected holes in the woman’s story. Then, a week before the due date, the woman told Laflamme that a new ultrasound showed that she was carrying quintuplets. At that point Laflamme stopped believing the woman.
The hoax was finally brought to light when the couple went to the hospital for the delivery at 34 weeks. Canoe News reported that the Paul, 35, was taken aside by a nurse and shown results of the woman’s blood test that indicated she was not pregnant. "The doctors told me it was a phantom pregnancy," he said crushed, adding that his now ex-girlfriend was being kept under psychiatric observation.
According to the Toronto Sun, the boyfriend said that his girlfriend’s, “…belly swelled, she began lactating and even broke water.” Gynecologist Isabelle Girard felt that symptoms like the ones the woman displayed could have alternate explanations. She said, “A woman could push her belly outwards, stop going to the toilet or just eat more.” Girard thinks what Paul believed was water breaking could have been urinary incontinence. Finally, the doctor felt that the lactation claims were doubtful but said, “That could result from intense nipple stimulation.”
Paul was disappointed and tearful but wanted to make sure that he let his supporters know what happened. "I'll return all these things to people who sent them or give them (away)," Paul wrote on the couple’s Facebook page. "I'm a good person and I have nothing to do with these lies." A local police spokesman, Sergent Luc Tougas, said that there have been no criminal complaints, and because Paul is planning on returning the gifts, there is no monetary loss as a basis to file a complaint.
CTV spoke to Montreal Jewish General Hospital’s Dr. Haim Abenhaim, an obstetrician and gynecologist, who explained two types of phantom pregnancies. “One is called pseudocyesis, and that’s a condition whereby the person gets some physical manifestations of pregnancy. They can have missed periods, they can have a distension in their abdomen, and they can really have signs of pregnancy and that’s usually on top of maybe a strong desire to be pregnant…The other condition is a completely delusional pregnancy where they feel that they are pregnant, then maybe inside they don’t think they are.”
The Toronto Sun notes that the woman’s family and friends claim that the woman has a history of posing as an expectant mother of twins, a leukemia patient, and allegedly reported suffering from other maladies. The woman’s family is happy that she is finally getting psychiatric care.