Fetus in Jar: Bush Says He Didn't Forsee a 'National Dialogue'


"As I pulled out of the driveway, she told me to drive steadily and avoid bumps. Then she said she had just had a miscarriage. I was taken aback. This was a subject I never expected to be discussing with Mother. I also never expected to see the remains of a fetus, which she had saved in a jar to bring to the hospital. I remember thinking: There was a human life, a little brother or sister.

"Mother checked herself in to the hospital and was taken to an exam room. I paced up and down the hallway to steady my nerves. After I passed an older woman several times, she said, 'Don't worry honey, your wife will be just fine.'

"When I was allowed into Mother's room, the doctor said she would be all right, but she needed to spend the night. I told mother what the woman had said to me in the hall. She laughed one of her great strong laughs and I went home feeling much better."

The next day, when the future president picked her up, she thanked him for being so "careful and responsible." His mother also told him not to tell anyone about the miscarriage, which she felt was a "private family matter."

Only when Bush wrote his memoir did the story come out.

Bush himself told the media that while the incident influenced his staunch pro-life stance, it also had a big impact on his relationship with his mother.

"The purpose of the story [in the book] really wasn't to try to show the evolution or the beginning of a pro-life point of view; it was really to show how my mom and I developed a relationship," he told NBC interviewer Matt Lauer.

"She says to her teenage kid, 'Here's a fetus,'" Bush said. "No question it -- that affected me -- my philosophy that we should respect life."

Perhaps not as disturbing as the baby in the jar -- perhaps a more common practice in the 1960s -- was Barbara Bush's off-handed demeanor during the miscarriage.

"Based on some of the reading I've done, it sounds like women in the olden days may have actually welcomed miscarriage," Robertson said.

"That was back before there was reliable birth control and many women weren't necessarily happy with their pregnancies," she said.

She said a physician's assistant once told her to save the "products of conception," after they knew the pregnancy wasn't viable but had not expelled yet.

"I thought that was very strange," she said.

"Nowadays, so many people purposefully wait before they are completely ready to start a family," she said. "Every aspect of their life and fertility is planned out. I think it really is a bigger deal now to lose something you've been waiting for and planning for."

Robertson recommends in her book, "Get Pregnant Over 40, Naturally," to have a private memorial.

"This does make you feel like you've acknowledged the loss and may help you move on," she said. "I lit a candle and in my own way said goodbye."

Rituals Are Common in Mourning Miscarriage of Stillbirth

Many couples opt for rituals after a stillbirth, and even in a late miscarriage where there has been a delivery.

"Some choose to hold the baby and are often encouraged to," said Helen Coons, a clinical psychologist at Philadelphia's Women's Mental Health Associates. "We see some who would like photos and footprints. Others decline."

"Some seek an autopsy and others do not," she said. "Many find solace in noting the anniversaries of the expected due date, the day of loss. Others plant memorial trees or make donations to favorite charities.

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