I remember reading about this in the sixties in the Guinness Book of World Records. I was a kid myself so this story bothered me. I wasn’t shocked; the story filled me with wonder. How did it happen? I’ll never forget the image of the girl/mother with her baby and a doctor, so when I saw this photo this morning, the memory clicked. The story re-surfaced in some other research I’ve been doing.
Yes, the shock of a five year old girl being a mother is a wonder to itself as to how the human body could have made that possible. Hormonal imbalance was responsible for her remarkable development making it possible for a five year old to conceive, carry a pregnancy and give birth.
That aside, it is horrific that a man would have molested and raped a young girl — who knows how long that had been going on — for her to become pregnant. The father of the girl’s baby has never been identified. The girl and her baby lived their lives as children of a two parent household in Peru after the birth of the girl’s son in 1939.
But they were allowed to live together as a family. No one stopped them from keeping the baby boy. He was raised as a sibling to his five year old mother and the two were told the truth at age appropriate times. That means they had some sort of normalcy to their lives. That means that the boy knew the true circumstances of his birth and the young mother had to cope with being a mother at too young of an age, and, that the pregnancy resulted from rape.
We don’t know all the particulars. How did the girl’s parents explain to her that she was a mother? How did she accept that fact and what age or ages did she incrementally understand the pregnancy and birth and her own state of being a mother to a son who was five years younger than she was? How did her son accept what happened?
Obviously there was not much, if any, interference from government or social service agencies or religious agencies to make matters worse for this multi-generational family. Read the story for yourself. Then compare what happened in 1939 in Peru to today’s child care, foster care and adoption systems in the United States.
If something like that were to happen today in the good old USA, the five year old girl would be ripped from her parents and put in foster care and then freed for adoption. If her pregnancy would be allowed to continue and she carried the baby to full term birth, her child would also be ripped from her. A forced relinquishment would take place as it would be determined that the five year old mother would not be able to parent her own child (obviously) and her baby would be forced into an adoption by strangers. The entire family would be split apart by two children in foster care and two children in possibly separate adoptions. The result would be adding unecessary trauma upon the original trauma.
Separating a mother from her child, no matter how young the mother is, is not, in my opinion, the best course of action. For that matter, separating the child/mother from her parents is not the best course of action, either, but that is what happens in America today for teen mothers and their infants. God forbid any mother younger than a teenager gets pregnant in today’s America.
~ ~ ~ Joan M Wheeler, BA, BSW, author of Forbidden Family, Trafford Publishing, Nov 2009.
Written by Alan Bellows on 03 December 2005
In 1939, a man from a small village in the Andes mountains carried his five-year-old daughter Lina into a hospital in the town of Pisco, Peru. He indicated to the doctors there that the shamans in his village had been unable to cure the large tumor that was developing in her abdomen. Upon examination, the doctors learned that the swelling was not, in fact, a tumor.
Dr. Gérado Lozada was told by Lina’s father that she had been having regular periods since age three, but they had stopped about 7 1/2 months prior to the visit. He listened to the young girl’s abdomen with a stethoscope, and heard a tiny second heartbeat. An X-Ray was also performed, after which there could be no doubt… to the doctors’ astonishment, five-year-old Lina Medina was about seven months pregnant.
Soon she was transferred to a hospital in the city of Lima, where specialists confirmed the pregnancy. Lina’s father was arrested on suspicion of incest, but due to lack of evidence, he was released. On Mother’s Day in 1939, when Lina was just under 5 years and 8 months old, her baby was delivered by cesarean section. It was a healthy 6 pound baby boy, and was named Gerardo after the doctor who originally diagnosed Lina’s pregnancy, Dr. Gérado Lozada.
Further research into the case was done by Dr. Edmundo Escomel, one of Peru’s preeminent physician-researchers at the time. He discovered that Lina’s menstruations had actually begun when she was only eight months old, much sooner than her father had originally reported. Escomel also documented the results of a test which indicated that Lina had the ovaries of a fully mature woman. He concluded that the reason for the early development of her reproductive system must must have been from a pituitary hormonal disorder. But the identity of Gerardo’s father was never determined.
For a long time, Gerardo was raised in the Medina household as though he were Lina’s baby brother. Two years after Gerardo was born, American child psychologist Mrs. Paul Kosak was permitted to speak with Lina at some length. As quoted in the New York Times in 1941, Mrs. Kosak said, “Lina is above normal in intelligence and the baby, a boy, is perfectly normal and is physically better developed than the average Mestiza (Spanish Indian) child. She thinks of the child as a baby brother and so does the rest of the family.”
The case of Lina Medina has often been alleged to be a hoax, but the story has been confirmed many times over the years by physicians in Peru and in the U.S.. Sufficient evidence was gathered that there is little room for doubt, including photos, X-Rays, biopsies, and thorough documentation by a number of doctors.
Gerardo grew up believing that Lina was his sister until he was aged ten years, when taunting by schoolmates led him to discover the truth. In 1972, when he was 33 years old, his younger brother was born… his mother Lina had married, and had a child with her new husband.
Gerardo died seven years later at age 40 from a bone marrow infection, but Lina and her husband still live in Peru, and their son currently lives in Mexico.
Snopes article on Lina Medina (Warning: contains a nude medical photo of the pregnant child)
Alan Bellowsis the founder, designer, and managing editor of DamnInteresting.com, and he is perpetually behind schedule.