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Cultural Implications

Ninety-two year old Huang Yijun, who was pregnant for 60 years, and 75-year old Zahara Aboutalib, pregnant for 46 years, were the two oldest women documented still carrying a lithopedion. But how could Huang and Zahara or any of the reported women be pregnant for many years, carrying the weight of their unborn baby, and going on with their lives as if nothing was wrong?

Picture 25. South China is mountainous cut by river valleys with mild weather, perfect for rice agriculture (Niesen, 2011).

Huang Yijun, pictured in picture 26, lived in a mountain village in Huangjiaolan located in southern China. She was pregnant in 1948 and was told by the doctors that her baby had died in the womb. It would have cost her 100 pounds or $150 US dollars to have the fetus removed.  As picture 25 demonstrates, South China is mountainous cut by river valleys with mild weather, perfect for rice agriculture. The people in the south, like Huang, are farmers that live and work in rice plantations. Most farmers are poor since growing rice is cruel backbreaking labor because rice plants have to be planted and irrigated by hand (Knapp, 2009).

Picture 26. Photograph of 92-year old Huang Yijun carrying her lithopedion (See, 2010).

So it would come as no surprise when Huang said, “It was a huge sum at the time – more than the whole family earned in several years so I did nothing and ignored it,” as  the reason why she did not have the fetus removed (FOX, 2009). As in many medical conditions, not just lithopedion, health care is limited for many patients because of access. Access to heath care is determined by supply, accessibility, acceptability, or in the case of Huang, affordability (Gulliford et. al., 2002).

Zahra Aboutalib lives in a village outside of Casablanca located in western Morocco. In 1955, Zahra was pregnant with her first child at age 28. Her water broke and she was rushed to the hospital. She was in labor for 48 hours, up until the doctors determined that she needed a Caesarian section. During her stay at the hospital, she had witnessed a women die from childbirth. As terrified as she was, Zahra fled the hospital. In Moroccan culture, there is a myth of the “the sleeping child” that the people and Zahra believed in. The myth states a baby may lay dormant in the mother’s womb by black or white magic and eventually is born after the term of a normal pregnancy (Sandrellita, 2010).

Picture 27. Photograph of Zahra Aboutalib (Jaquez, 2009).

Keep in mind that in some cases of women, early signs of pregnancy cease and are thought to be a terminated pregnancy, a miscarriage. Huang and Zahara or any of the reported women with cases of lithopedion are unaware of the potential dangers of a calcified mass that could possibly weigh as much as a full-term baby, until it causes serious health issues (Mapes, 2009).

The video below is about Clip of L’Rnfant Endormi, the Sleeping Child, a myth the people of Moracco believe where a baby may lay dormant in the mother’s womb by black or white magic and eventually be born after the term of a normal pregnancy (Sandrellita, 2010).

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