Before a baby is born, moms-to-be will typically have four to five scans to make sure that their child is healthy and developing properly. And with technology able to provide a view inside of the womb, doctors can easily determine the gender of the family’s future addition.
So when Madeleshia Hiscock’s doctors told her she was expecting a boy, the South African woman had no reason not to believe them. And when the baby came into the world in February 2010, Madeleshia subsequently had the newborn christened a boy, too.
Months later, however, doctors realized that they had made a shocking error. In fact, medical staff told the new mom that her five-month-old son wasn’t actually a boy after all: she was a girl. Furthermore, the baby girl was suffering from an unusual condition, one that had caused all of the confusion in the first place.
Before that day, Madeleshia Hiscock and her husband, Kenneth, had already begun building a family. Indeed, their first child, a daughter named Zadeleshia, was a toddler when Madeleshia took a home pregnancy test and found out she was expecting again. She subsequently had a scan to confirm the news.
From there, Madeleshia saw her doctors for regular scans. But after the first, second and third scans, medical staff confirmed the baby’s gender as female, not male. “I went for the sonar, they told me it’s a girl,” Madeleshia told Barcroft TV. “Then I went for another sonar, they told me it’s a girl.”
“In for another sonar, they told me it’s a girl,” Madeleshia went on. “I said, ‘Okay, I’m happy it’s a girl.’” But then, during her last scan, doctors threw the mom-to-be a curveball. “For my fourth one, they told me it’s a boy,” Madeleshia said.
The expectant mom said she found the change in gender prediction “very strange” but that she was okay with having a son. And despite the previous confusion, when the baby was born doctors were certain the newborn was a boy – and Madeleshia was thrilled.
“When he was born, the doctors said Kenny was a boy,” Madeleshia told the Daily Mail. “We had been buying blue baby grows and toy cars for weeks. I didn’t expect there to be a problem after birth.”
But despite her new-baby bliss, Madeleisha and her husband knew something wasn’t quite right with their child. So sometime after the couple had christened the newborn Kenneth, they took the little one back to the hospital near Vereeniging, South Africa, to be examined.
There, doctors ran various tests on the Hiscocks’ newborn, and they culminated in a shocking realization. Yes, it turned out that Madeleshia and Kenneth’s “son” was actually their daughter. And understandably, this news left the new mom stunned.
“We were really excited to be having a boy and had got everything ready,” Madeleshia said. “Now we had to tell everyone that we got our baby’s sex wrong and buy different toys and clothes. I just couldn’t take it in at first.”
In fact, there was a good reason why doctors had mistakenly deemed the Hiscocks’ baby a boy. It turns out that the child was born with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), a genetic condition that affects just one in 15,000 people. The CAH had caused baby Kenny – renamed Mckenzi following her diagnosis – to be born with male-looking genitalia.
As it happens, this is quite normal for girls who suffer from CAH. They may also grow up to have facial hair and deeper-than-expected voices. Some women with the condition do not menstruate, either. Meanwhile, some boys with the condition may start puberty as young as three.
All of these side effects occur because sufferers are born without a particular enzyme required to produce two hormones, cortisol and aldosterone. And to compensate for this, their bodies instead create more of the male sex hormone androgen. This is what makes the male attributes appear early in boys or unnecessarily in girls.
When the couple received their baby’s diagnosis, Madeleshia recalled doctors describing her daughter’s condition as “extremely rare.” Furthermore, although officially deemed to be female, Mckenzi was “not really male or female, but somewhere between,” her mother said.
The Hiscocks also learned that, while there is no cure for CAH, their daughter should be able to lead a normal life. “There is a possibility of treatment, but we need to have more tests done first,” Madeleshia said.
In most cases, people with CAH are treated with daily cortisol supplements, the dosage of which can be increased when sufferers are under duress during an illness or surgery. Mckenzi’s doctors said she would probably need some form of surgery, too.
In the meantime, the Hiscocks did make a definitive step in the life of their daughter: they contacted a nearby registry office to get a new birth certificate for Mckenzi. The original declared the newborn to be a boy named Kenneth, after all.
With her and her baby’s lives at last regaining some sense of normalcy, Madeleshia could later reflect on what her family’s trials and tribulations meant to them. “It’s been a strange few months, but what matters most is that Mckenzi is healthy, loved and happy,” she said.
“Mckenzi is always happy and smiling all the time – everyone falls in love with her,” Madeleshia added. “We have a beautiful daughter, and we’re both incredibly proud.” And since the surprising birth of their daughter in 2010, the Hiscocks have something else to be proud of: their brood now includes a third child, Madison Lee.