It is fair to say that Barbara Bienvenue brought about a massive change to Paul Servats’ world when she landed in his life in 2013. The Montreal couple had met each other online, but things moved fast in real life. Just two weeks into their relationship, Bienvenue had some big news for her new beau – she was pregnant. In fact, Servats would find out that she was expecting a bumper load of five babies. The mom and dad-to-be were immensely excited, but this would turn out to be no ordinary pregnancy. Bienvenue was hiding something huge, which would lead to a massive disappointment…
However, before the hugely devastating truth about her pregnancy was revealed, the then 37-year-old Bienvenue, and her 35-year-old boyfriend, Servat, had reveled in pre-baby bliss. In fact, considering the duo had only been dating for eight weeks, they were still in the first flush of their romance in September, 2013, when Bienvenue announced she was expecting.
But, originally, the mom-to-be was only expecting the one baby. Servat spoke to the Toronto Sun newspaper in March, 2014, about their delight at the welcome news. He recalled, “We were so happy.” And he added that their joy had a ripple effect, revealing, “Even my parents… were so looking forward to having grandchildren.” And this elation and anticipation was no doubt amplified and multiplied when Bienvenue discovered she was expecting a multiple birth.
Indeed, this story was growing as the weeks progressed. First, she broke the news that she was actually having twins. But soon Servat learned that there were three on the way. Weeks turned into months and the baby count then rose to four. Finally Bienvenue said that an ultrasound scan shortly before her due date had revealed that she was carrying quintuplets. The couple turned to social media to spread the news of their multiple blessings with others.
In fact, Bienvenue and Servat set up a Facebook group to update people about the mom-to-be’s burgeoning bump. But not only did their page track Bienvenue’s growing belly, but also the many generous gifts the expectant couple began to receive. A friend of Bienvenue’s even reached out to local businesses for sponsorship support for the ever-growing family. Let’s face it, the couple would need all the help they could get to raise five babies.
Items of furniture, baby clothes, diapers and the like began to mount up. But not everyone was so generous in their attitude, and neither did they share in Servat and Bienvenue’s glee. In fact, Genevieve Laflamme, a female friend with newborn triplets at the time, began to have a few misgivings. Something about the mom-to-be’s story did not seem right to Laflamme. She was especially surprised that an ultrasound had revealed that Bienvenue was expecting quintuplets so late in her pregnancy.
In addition, it seemed odd to the mom-of-three that Bienvenue had not spent enough time resting in bed before the birth of her babies. In fact, to the experienced Laflamme, Bienvenue was spending far too much time being far too active for a woman in her condition. Laflamme knew that mothers of multiples are advised to go easy in the months and weeks leading up to their due date. This is in order to alleviate the immense strain their bodies are under. She also knew that plenty of bed rest is a vital part of this, as well as an effective strategy to prevent premature labor.
Still, Bienvenue was displaying all the outward telltale signs of a multiple pregnancy. For starters, her belly was massive and had steadily grown throughout, and she had experienced bad morning sickness. She had even started lactating in anticipation of the quintuplets arrival. And in March 2014, as her due date fast approached, Bienvenue’s waters broke.
At the onset of labor, the mom and dad-to-be raced to hospital, no doubt in a state of great nervous excitement. Servat must have been on a natural high, but the events of Wednesday, March 19, 2014, would bring him very low. First of all, the hospital could find no record of Bienvenue’s pregnancy on file. Next, a nurse conducted a blood test, and it would lay bare the shocking truth about Bienvenue’s condition.
As Servat later recalled to the Toronto Sun, “The doctors told me it was a phantom pregnancy.” With this medical phenomenon, an affected woman experiences all the conventional symptoms of having a baby in utero – but they are not actually pregnant at all. Instead, the sufferer become so convinced in their mind that they are expecting, that their body begins generating the hormones which create the outward signs of pregnancy.
Suzie Lévesque is a Canadian psychiatrist with the Centre Hospitalier de l’Université Laval in Quebec City, and she also spoke to the Toronto Sun She told the newspaper that phantom pregnancies happen very rarely, but tend to occur in women who crave validation. “The lady seems to be seeking benefits, but unconsciously,” Levesque said. “She’s drawing attention to herself.”
Doctors detained Bienvenue and placed the troubled woman under psychiatric observation. Alas, there is no medication to assuage the symptoms of a phantom pregnancy. In most cases, the only way to help an unfortunate female through this kind of ordeal is therapy with mental-health specialists.
Nevertheless not everyone was convinced that Bienvenue was an unwitting victim in all this. Some skeptics who knew her of old were mistrustful that the patient had genuinely believed that she was pregnant at all. In fact, a member of her family told the Toronto Sun that Bienvenue had pulled similar stunts in the past.
Indeed, an anonymous male relative told the Canadian daily, “This isn’t the first time she’s done it. But honestly, we never would have thought she was sick enough to do it again.” The source was unwilling to reveal his identity in the press to protect himself from any type of retaliation.
He went on to reveal that Bienvenue had not told any of her family members that she was expecting – let alone carrying quintuplets. And, according to the informant, nor did she ever “seem pregnant.” The relative continued, “She cut ties with us in recent months. She didn’t want us to know about her game.”
Another man from Bienvenue’s past also stepped forward. He too was reluctant to reveal his identity in print, fearing reprisals. And the ex-boyfriend had a very familiar tale to tell the Toronto Sun. He said that his former girlfriend had told him that she was expecting twins. And he alleged that Bienvenue went on to use this story to raise funds for the babies. The man eventually learned that the twins did not exist.
Furthermore, the male relative of Bienvenue claimed that, in addition to this faux pregnancy, there had also been invented terminal illnesses in the past. Apparently, Bienvenue had once told her family that she had been struck down by cancer. She had also said that she was suffering from heart problems, along with several other serious ailments.
Nevertheless, the family member said they were pleased that Bienvenue was now in the best possible place – a psychiatric ward. He hoped that she would receive the mental healthcare she appeared to need. He warned the Toronto Sun, “Doctors need to take care of her or else she’ll do it again and again.”
And the relative added that Bienvenue’s boyfriend did not “deserve to live with this.” Servat seemed to be in full agreement with this sentiment. A female friend who spoke to him in the immediate aftermath of the phantom pregnancy being exposed told the newspaper, “He was crying on the phone. He was devastated, he didn’t understand.”
Indeed, Servat, who had even named the five babies, must have felt utterly betrayed and bereft. Nevertheless, he did retain his sense of right and wrong and pledged to make things right after his dream of fatherhood was so abruptly denied. He spoke to the Toronto Sun about all the generous gifts he still had at his south Montreal home. He promised, “I’ll return all these things to the people who sent them or give them away.” Let’s hope that Servat has since been given something else precious in return – some peace of mind.