As many women will testify, when going through a pregnancy, it can help having mom around. She has, after all, been through it all before. But when Rebecca Melia from Merseyside, U.K., got spooked at a routine ultrasound, her mom wasn’t there to turn to. However, when nurses finally showed Melia the scan of her unborn child, she saw a familiar face in the background.
When stay-at-home mom Melia went for her routine scan on June 18, 2015, she had a good idea of what to expect. The procedures were something she’s been through during her previous two pregnancies. And besides, that’s exactly what they were: routine scans.
However, when nurses took longer than expected to produce the images from the scan, 33-year-old Melia began to worry. The mom-of-three couldn’t understand what the delay was all about. Nervous thoughts started running through her mind: was there a problem?
“They had me there for a long time,” Melia told the Liverpool Echo in July 2015. “I could just tell they had seen something on the scan. I was convinced it was something wrong with my boy.” Although the nurses hadn’t said anything, a mother just instinctively knows when something’s not right.
Usually, Melia’s mom, Sharon, would be with her for the ultrasound. But not this time. Beyond Melia’s two kids, Charlotte, now 13, and her brother Peter who is now eight, Sharon had 11 further grandkids from seven other children. And this was the first scan she had missed out of all of them.
You see, in February 2015, Sharon had succumbed to a long battle with cancer. She was declared free of kidney cancer in July 2013, and the family thought she’d beaten it once and for all. However, the cancer later returned in a very aggressive way. And after a brave fight against the disease, Sharon passed away aged just 49.
Sharon’s passing was a big blow to the close-knit family. But there was something the much-missed mom didn’t know before she passed: her daughter was expecting. Melia never had the opportunity to tell her mom she was pregnant again. Sharon had no idea she was to become a grandmother for the 14th time.
As Melia described to the Liverpool Echo, “I have a little area in my room with pictures of my mom on and before I went for my scan I was talking to her, saying I wish she was coming with me. This is her 14th grandchild and she has been there for every one.”
The nurse conducting the scan had known about Melia’s recent loss, and no doubt it was something she thought about as she carried out her work. And when she finally handed over the picture, after the seemingly interminable delay, she had a surprise in store. As Melia recalled, “She said, ‘I think you might like this one,’ with a smile on her face.”
Melia had been lost in her own thoughts about what could possibly be wrong and hadn’t considered what would happen next. As a result, she took the pictures home to Kirkby, a town just outside of Liverpool in the northwest of England. She posted the scan to her Facebook.
Melia then proceeded to show the scans to her mom and tell her all about the experience. Sharon couldn’t see the scan or hear her daughter, of course. Nevertheless, everyone in the family still believed they could feel her energy as if she was there with them.
As Melia explained to her mom what had happened, she took a closer look at the picture in her hand. Then it hit her. At the top of the scan she saw a mysterious shape that she believes to be an image of her mom’s face. Gobsmacked, she was struck dumb at what she saw.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Melia explained to the Liverpool Echo. “I was shocked, happy and overwhelmed all at the same time. My mom’s face, which I longed to see, was there as clear as day on my scan.” It was further cause for the mom-of-three to believe that although she had gone, Sharon was never far away.
But it’s unlikely this really was a case of her mom’s ghostly face appearing in the scan of Melia’s unborn son. A more likely explanation is that the image shows an example of pareidolia. That’s to say it’s a trick of the mind where the reflex organ perceives something familiar in response to an external stimulus.
Perhaps the most well-known example of pareidolia is the “Man in the Moon”. There is no literal man in the moon, of course. Yet when the moon is full, the shadows cast by the variations in its terrain can appear to the brain to resemble the features of a human face.
Pareidolia can also help explain why people recognize some of the most basic shapes as a “face”. For example, a circle containing two horizontal dashes side-by-side, with a third central and parallel underneath the pair. Change the angles of the lines and people will even recognize different “emotions” as interpreted by cognitive processes.
It’s a similar theory to what Swiss psychologist Hermann Rorschach developed for his Rorschach test. This is a psychological examination where subjects relay what they see in various inkblots. Patients’ responses are used to determine their personality traits and offer an insight into their emotional well-being.
Not only does pareidolia relate to images, but it can also be applied to sounds or music, too. Recorded music played faster or slower than intended, or even played in reverse, or indiscriminate noises produced by everyday objects can deliver sounds that may be interpreted as voices.
As far as Melia was concerned, though, an image of her much-missed mom had appeared on a scan of her unborn son. Since her mom’s passing, Melia believes that Sharon’s presence can be strongly felt. The mom-of-three maintains that her mother watches over everything she and the rest of her family does.
Melia described in a Facebook post in May 2018 how her mom turned the TV on and off again when Melia asked her mom to let her know she was there. She told the Liverpool Echo, “I wanted to share this story to bring comfort to others who have lost their loved ones and show that loved ones who have died may not be seen, but they are still here.”