Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dear Anonymous,

Dear Anonymous,

I hate the word.
Something about hearing it or seeing it makes my skin crawl. And like most things from that night back in September 2003, I completely understand why I feel that way and why I feel that way still...

When I was in that hospital (39 weeks pregnant) waiting to get my labor induced and they couldn't find heart tones on my babies, I thought nothing of it. I could feel kicks and by then I knew how cramped it probably was in there for my babies. I had had an ultrasound a few days earlier and all was well. Still, heart tones couldn't be found so that 'on-call doctor' (who changed my life in more ways than he'll ever know) brought in an ultra-sound machine.

He put it on my stomach and we all saw the picture.
I knew immediately what was wrong. That flicker from the heartbeat was gone. While I don't know if the magnitude of that picture set in at that precise moment, I do know that it registered with me... My baby is dead and has no heartbeat. He went to the other side of my stomach and same picture. Perhaps in a bit of a fog, or shock, or denial or perhaps all three~ What he said next is something I will NEVER forget. But it wasn't the message he was trying to communicate that struck me as much as his word choice.

"I am sorry, but it appears your fetuses are dead."

I did not hear his condolence or even the word "dead"~what I think screamed at me most was the word 'fetus,' and to this day I will never forget that feeling or that look on his face (or the faces of those I loved that were in that room).

I understand that as a doctor there are different stages in a child's development... embryo... fetus... but while I (as an educator and an early childhood educator at that) have had many classes about childhood development and those different stages, NOT ONCE in my pregnancy did I ever think I was having an embryo... or a fetus... Every time I looked at my stomach (even before the outside world could see) I knew that I was having a BABY!

There has been a lot of talk with the Duggars' recent announcement of her "miscarriage" (another word I hate) specifically regarding the pictures that were taken and the memorial (My thoughts on all that will probably come in another post soon). In one article that I read, an anonymous commenter was against the pictures and while she (or he) had other things that certainly shocked me, when I read 'fetus'... again my head went back to that night and that moment...

That damn word again...
That word that still manages to steal my breath.
That word that somehow means 'less than'.
"Less than" human.
"Less than" a child.

Had my son at six pounds 11 oz (the largest child I ever delivered) taken one little breath, he would have gone from being a fetus to a child and that makes me sick. To me he was more than that... more than some tissues and bone which to me is what I think of when I hear that dreaded word and even when my children were just little sparks inside of me, I knew then that they were bigger than that. They had purpose and they were "more than" anything I could ever imagine (and continue to be that... more than just a child even... to me... the mother...).

My "fetus" has taught me so much in this lifetime.
Perhaps he can teach you something too, "anonymous".

(Ah... exhale... I feel better now... Thanks for allowing me to pause for a moment~ and allowing me a little rant of sorts.)



  1. Sigh. Very well said. I'm more on a rant/bender about the whole thing myself...since *my* fetuses were only 14w2d when we lost them...two weeks younger (and looking very much the same as) the Duggar's Jubilee when she died.

  2. I have the same breath robbing reaction to the word 'retard'. I agree with you, the word fetus is just awful. They were your babies. xx

  3. I dislike the word too and I never use it. It is a baby to me at any gestational age

  4. I did not know that your doctor said those words to you. How cold those words were. What a wonderful post, and yes that word should be treated like the other "F" word!
    Not appropriate ever!

  5. I hate that word. I hate doctors that use that word. I especially hate the doctor that told me my son was a fetus, therefore "technically medical waste".

  6. I SOOOO get this post!!! I've come to despise the words: fetus, miscarriage and stillbirth. Why can't people just accept our losses for what they are. We lost a BABY! Our children were not miscarriages or stillbirths... we didn't just have "procedures". We experienced the death of a baby. As ugly as it sounds, that's the hard, cold truth. I lost my son at 16 weeks, 5 days and he was very much a baby. He was a perfect, tiny baby. I remember getting his pathology report and opening it up to read it. As soon as I read the fetus, I had to put it away... I couldn't even finish reading it. I did go on to read it later but it still hurts and stings to hear/see that word.


Your thoughts?