PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. – A Saskatchewan woman who gave birth in a Wal-Mart washroom sat sobbing in court as she described how her baby looked dead in the toilet after he was born.
April Halkett testified that the infant boy was blue and not moving. “I was staring at him and there was so much blood,” Halkett told court. “He didn’t look alive.”
Halkett, 22, admits she gave birth during her 14-minute visit to the Wal-Mart store in Prince Albert on May 21, 2007. But she has pleaded not guilty to abandoning the child in the toilet.
Court has heard a shopper in the next stall heard grunts and saw a pool of blood on the floor. She told staff she thought a woman was having a baby and needed help.
Two other women saw a tiny, purple arm poking out of the toilet bowl, which was filled with blood and bathroom tissue.
The store’s manager plucked the baby out of the toilet and paramedics arrived to help him start breathing. He survived.
An obstetrician testified earlier Wednesday that it was possible Halkett may not have known she was pregnant and probably had such a speedy labour that the baby was in shock.
Dr. Charles Simpson with Saskatoon’s Royal University Hospital told court he believes Halkett experienced a “precipitous birth” that can last less than an hour. Such a birth can drop an infant from the birth canal in one or two pushes.
The baby “is sort of in a shock-like state for some time after the delivery,” Simpson told the judge hearing the case. “Babies can stop breathing and moving for some time.”
In a police interview previously played during the trial, Halkett told an officer she didn’t know she was eight months pregnant when she felt ill and had to use the bathroom.
Simpson testified that in precipitous births it can take five to 10 minutes for babies to come out of shock and start breathing. The births happen in about one to two per cent of cases.
He said the mothers often are also in shock and, although it’s unusual, some women don’t know they’re pregnant until they give birth. Some studies show one woman out of every 2,500 doesn’t know she is carrying a child until she goes into labour, he added.
Halkett told police she noticed she was gaining weight, so she took three home pregnancy tests but they were all negative. She also said she had been getting her monthly periods and never felt the baby kick.
In a written report entered as evidence, Simpson said home pregnancy tests are very reliable but their directions must be followed closely.
He also testified some pregnant women do experience regular bleeding consistent with their menstrual cycle.
Most pregnant women do feel a baby’s movement inside them, he said, but there are cases where women are in psychological denial and don’t feel anything.