REAL LIFE

That’s not my baby!

When Charlotte went for a scan to see her unborn bub, she was in for a shock
Paul Webster

Charlotte Shilcof, 22, Bunbury, WA

Peering at the grainy image, I could see a tiny pair of hands and cute button nose.

There was a little person growing inside me. My partner Ben, now 27, and I could hardly believe we were going to become parents.

We’d only got together seven months earlier after meeting at my birthday party.

But when a pregnancy test came back positive, it was a happy surprise.

‘Let’s make a scrapbook to celebrate all the milestones,’ I suggested.

So as my bump expanded, I started taking pictures wherever I went. Trips to the beach, visits to family… Each moment was documented, printed and put in my scrapbook.

When the doctor gave me an image of our unborn bub after my 12-week scan, I popped that in my special book too.

Soon, there was exciting news.

‘Congratulations, you’re having a girl,’ the sonographer told me at 20 weeks along.

I knew straight away what she’d be called – Ava. Ben and I had picked it already and the name sung through my heart.

A week later I went to visit my sister-in-law Shannon, 30, and spotted some special 3D scans of both her babies displayed on her cabinet.

‘They’re gorgeous!’ I gushed, thinking they’d be the perfect addition to my scrapbook. ‘How did you get them done?’

Shannon explained they were commemorative ultrasounds.

‘It’s a beautiful experience. You should do it,’ she said.

Excited, I did some research online then splurged $297 on a package with a 3D sonographer who operated from a private house in Bunbury, WA.

I was anxious when I went along, but Ben was with me as the sonographer, Kathy*, rolled gel over my tummy.

‘There’s the baby’s back!’ she said, pointing to a curve on the monitor. I stared in rapt silence.

‘Wow,’ said Ben, taking a deep breath.

‘The baby has her hand in front of her face so I won’t be able to photograph her today,’ Kathy said, explaining she could take another scan in two weeks’ time and I could pick up my photos after that.

Charlotte with her baby, Ava (Credit: Supplied)

A couple of weeks later, I headed back with my mum Cheryl, 50.

As I lay down on Kathy’s clinic chair, I couldn’t wait to see my little girl once more.

‘There she is,’ Kathy gushed as the image appeared on her screen. ‘She has your nose and such plump lips – just like Angelina Jolie!’

I frowned. I couldn’t see the big lips. But I was still chuffed and couldn’t wait for the photos.

Two weeks later it was time to collect my photo book, DVD video of the scan and a CD of still images.

‘She has sticky-out ears!’ I joked to Ben, looking at the picture. ‘I don’t remember them being like that on the monitor that day.’

Nine weeks later, after a 20-hour labour, our girl came into the world.

‘Hello Ava,’ I smiled. Soon my scrapbook was filled with more beautiful memories, from Ava’s hospital tag to a photo of her cousin Jack, two, kissing her head.

But then one day, I received a phone call from a friend.

‘There’s a page on Facebook about Kathy,’ she told me. ‘It says some clients were given fake photos of their babies.’

What? Hanging up, I quickly went online. There were dozens of women posting about the pictures they’d been given.

The first post was from a mum wondering if anyone had the same scan as she did. My heart hammered – it was the same as the one I had of Ava!

Scrolling, I saw more scans – many identical to mine. Tears ran down my face as I realised the video of my scan was real, but the images on my CD and in my photobook weren’t of Ava.

Had I been conned?

In shock, I tore up the pages from the scrapbooks I’d spent hours making.

‘That’s not my baby,’ I cried. I felt so betrayed.

As I read that Kathy had told another mum her bub looked like Angelina Jolie, I felt sick.

When Ben came home from work he found me slumped on the floor. ‘These photos, this baby – it isn’t ours!’ I told him.

I had to do something. After a night of turmoil I contacted other victims.

I was shocked to discover at least 10 women had the same pictures as me.

Two days later I spoke to a lawyer and the Department of Consumer Protection.

To date, they’ve received more than 60 similar complaints and are in the process of investigating Kathy’s business.

I don’t want a refund. I just don’t want anybody else to go through what I have.

The main thing is that my beautiful baby girl is fit and healthy at 10 months old.

Ben and I might have a few blank pages in our scrapbook, but we have a child who is happy.

We intend to fill in those pages with the joyous times to come.

Lisa with her baby, Abiagael (Credit: Supplied)

Lisa Morfitt, 41, Bunbury, WA

When I received my photos, I instinctively knew there was something wrong.

I booked a $297 package with Kathy back in March 2012 and wanted as many pictures as possible.

Seeing the photos for the first time, I felt uneasy but initially I couldn’t pinpoint why.

Swept up in the excitement of being a second-time IVF mum to little Abiagael, now 21 months, I put it to the back of my mind.

It was only a month ago, when I heard a report on fake baby scans on the radio, I realised I might have been involved.

When I saw that Charlotte and I shared identical baby pictures, I felt sick. It was as if memories of Abiagael had been spoiled. I still don’t know whose baby photos I have.

*names have been changed

Originally published in that’s life! – issue 9, 2014

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