In 1955 in a small village just outside Casablanca, 26 year old Zahra Aboutalib is pregnant with her first child. She was looking forward to giving birth, but after 48 hours of painful labour, she was rushed to the local hospital. Doctors informed her that she would need a caesarean section. On the ward Zahra saw a woman in terrible pain die in child-birth. She fled the hospital fearing she would meet the same fate if she remained.
In the days that followed, Zahra continued to suffer excruciating labour pains but the baby remained resolutely in her womb. After a few more days the pains ceased and the baby stopped moving.
In Moroccan culture, it is believed that a baby can sleep inside the mother to protect her honour. Zahra believed this myth and put the pregnancy out of her mind. She adopted three children and in due course they made her a grandmother.
Zahra Aboutalib, Many years later when Zahra was 75 years old, the pains suddenly returned. Her son being concerned for his mother’s well-being wanted her to see a specialist. For this they had to travel to Rabat where they saw Professor Taibi Ouazzani. He suspected the protruding belly was being caused by an ovarian tumour and arranged for her to have an ultra-sound scan. This revealed a large mass that he could not identify.
He referred Zahra to a specialist radiographer for a second opinion. He could see it was a calcified structure of some sort, but it took a detailed MRI scan to reveal that it was the baby Zahra had conceived 46 years earlier.