These were two sisters and their cousin from Portugal. Rather young, from a small village, uneducated but with surprisingly good English, shy, timid.
They came to England to work in a hotel. Their surname was Jesus.
One of the Marias told me that their fathers were not very pleased about them going. “My father told me, just don’t get pregnant” she said. In fact, she was the first one who did get pregnant, but not the last. She never mentioned a boyfriend, so I did not ask. I knew she was Roman Catholic, so my suggestion that there is another option was rather muted.
She kept the baby. I asked her if she told her family, she said “No, I’m going to tell them when the baby is born. “ Was she hoping that something might happen? Who knows?
Four months later, the other Maria, her cousin came to see me. “I have the same problem as my cousin“, she said. “What do your mean? “ I asked carefully. “Have you missed your period? “. Yes, and I used three pregnancy tests“. I did not have to ask any more. They were all positive.
I felt sorry for the two Marias, although the second one caused the worst embarrassment of my medical career. One day, she called me at the surgery. “ I am 10 weeks pregnant and I’m bleeding“ when I established she was not in pain ( that could be an ectopic pregnancy needing an emergency admission) and asked her if it was like a period, to which she said no, I arranged a scan at the hospital without examining her. The most bemused midwife from the hospital phoned me, telling me rather sarcastically that Maria had a nose bleed. I have never quite forgiven her. It was so stupid!
I never knew who the father of either children was, but I suspected Giovanni, a very handsome Italian alcoholic neurotic receptionist from the same hotel, also my patient. In the time of the pregnancies of the two Maria’s, he kept coming to see me with imaginary ailments which with Juan was always a sign of stress. Hmmm, Giovanni, an appropriate name.
But who knows, maybe it was a double case of Immaculate Conception especially as at their six week’s checks, neither of the baby boys had a name yet. They were going to be christened later in Portugal. So they were both just called “baby Jesus” to the great amusement of my receptionists.
Soon after their six week’s check and vaccinations, both Marias and the baby Jesuses left for Portugal.
Anna, sister of the first Maria stayed. Two months later, Anna came to see me.
She was older, less timid. She did not tell me she was pregnant. She said “Can you arrange a termination of pregnancy for me, doctor? I can’t do this to my father. Not again. “
Was Juan sleeping with all of them? I will never know.
So going to Portugal on holiday many years later, I was wondering if all young women will be pregnant. I have been here several days. But the only pregnant woman I have seen all week was French.
Should I have talked to the young women about contraception? Did my worry not to upset their religious beliefs make me a less efficient doctor? Probably.
Now I ask everybody. “Are you sexually active? And if so, what are you doing for contraception? “
Does not matter if they are Christian, Muslim or Hindu. Surely it is better than all those unwanted pregnancies.