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

Bush says he never intended to create a 'national dialogue'

ByABC News
November 9, 2010, 6:01 PM

Nov. 10, 2010— -- When George W. Bush revealed on national television that he had witnessed a "little brother or sister" when his mother miscarried and carried a fetus in a jar to the hospital, online media and their followers were shocked.

It was just a passage in the former president's memoir, so why did this detail -- only five paragraphs long -- get so much attention in the digital sphere?

"Whoa! Just whoa," gasped one commenter.

"We'll never look at Barbara Bush the same way again," wrote another.

The former president commented on the reaction this morning on NBC's "Today Show."

"I had no intention of creating a national dialogue," Bush said. "My intent was to describe a relationship between my mom and her son and an interesting anecdote that helped the reader understand why my mother and I are so close."

That dialogue, say psychologists, illustrates the "ick" factor when discussing miscarriage and misunderstandings about a loss that is still treated in hushed tones.

"It's just the sight of blood and human tissue that is hard for people to see," said Sandy Robertson, a 52-year-old Colorado professor who had six miscarriages. "Then you're dealing with the death of a baby on top of it.

"Our society, at least in this country, is so sterile anyway," she said. "People just aren't used to seeing that."

People are also uncomfortable around those who are experiencing a miscarriage and don't want to cause further discomfort, she said.

A more level-headed online commenter opined, "While quite creepy and something I would never do, I have to remind myself that people respond to death and loss in their own way and in their own time, and I try not to judge. Is this any weirder than having your loved one cremated and keeping a box filled with their charred flesh on your mantle?"

The Internet does get things wrong.

According to the book, "Decision Points," Barbara Bush never paraded the jar around the house, nor did she put it on her bedroom shelf as a keepsake. And taking the remains of the miscarriage to the hospital is far from barbaric.

In fact, there is nothing weird about the practice. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in their 2010 patient education pamphlet recommends:

"If you have heavy bleeding and think you have passed fetal tissue, place it in a clean container and take it to the doctor for inspection. Your doctor will want to examine you."

Dr. Tracy W. Gaudet, an obstetrician and executive director of Duke Integrative Medicine in North Carolina, said when her mother miscarried her twin, she, too, took the remains to the hospital, just as the Bushes did.

The protocol is the same today, she said.

"If you can bring anything passed it allows us to first know if everything has passed or not, and secondly it allows us to send the fetus for genetic testing if indicated," said Gaudet. "I do think culturally we were closer to life and death. My dad grew up on a farm for example, and these matters were more fundamentally understood."