Products of Conception

Biology 101

This morning, a friend called me out about my last post, “The Nitty-Gritty.” I was told that I shouldn’t be apologizing for grieving. She is right, but I can’t seem to help it. I’ve been made to feel like I shouldn’t be feeling this way because I was only 15 weeks pregnant. I haven’t been able to find closure. And I’m going to tell you why.

The same night I was discharged from the hospital, pretty drugged up on something similar to Morphine, I called my midwife and told her what had happened. I don’t remember if I asked her what came next, but she did tell me that it was most likely hospital policy that the baby’s body and the placenta (which I had delivered together) would be sent to the Pathology Lab for testing. She said this was a standard procedure. When the weekend was over, I signed various forms authorizing my midwives to request all my medical records from the night of my miscarriage. They had told me that they would review all the labs, nurse’s notes and doctor’s orders and would try to figure out, based on the results, why I had gone into labor at 15 weeks of pregnancy, and what the sex of the baby had been.

I waited for a week, maybe more (My memory is hazy since I’ve been in kind of a grief-induced walking coma for 2 months). When I heard back from my midwives, there was no answer to any of my questions. There was no Pathology report. There were no nurse’s notes or doctor’s orders. There were only the lab results on the blood work they had done, checking my iron levels and iron binding. My midwives expressed dismayed amazement that the hospital hadn’t sent the baby to Pathology. So I asked, what happened to my baby’s body? The answer: I don’t know. But I knew. Because I know that anything that comes from a person’s body that contains blood is considered a biohazardous material. And I know that biohazardous material is incinerated. I knew that if my baby’s body hadn’t been sent to Pathology, then it was thrown away, like trash. And this is what keeps me up at night.

I have been on a downward spiral of depression since I lost the baby. I feel regret that I chose to go to the hospital, because if I had stayed home and delivered with my midwife, I would have the answers to my questions. I feel guilt that I had been too shocked to form cohesive thoughts and verbalize the questions that were in my head. Why didn’t I ask to see the baby? Why didn’t I ask what I had had? Because I was thinking those things as I lay on the gurney in my bloody johnny. I feel devastated and disgusted and angry that my baby’s body was thrown away like a piece of trash and I will never have my questions answered. I feel cheated because instead of planting a tree in honor of a lost life, I could be burying my baby.

Two weeks ago, I went to my doctor to talk about medication for this depression. When I told her what had happened, she looked at me with astonishment and actually said, “That is so fucked up!”. She told me it was no wonder I was depressed because on top of experiencing a traumatic loss, I had received poor care. My doctor told me she was going to call the hospital and try to find the answers to my questions so that I could try to find some closure. But she has not been able to find any answers for me. In fact, the answers she got left me feeling even worse. She was told by the head of the Emergency department that there is no protocol in the ER for the handling of “products of conception” after 12 weeks of pregnancy. There is no record of the Pathology lab ever receiving any “products of conception” in my name.

Those three words, products of conception, drilled a hole in my heart each time they were said. Over and over and over, “products of conception aren’t in Pathology” “products of conception aren’t stored anywhere in the hospital” “there are no protocols for the handling of products of conception”. The last time I checked, the definition of a product of conception is A BABY!! What the hell else is the product of conception? Baby, baby, baby, baby. Let’s say the word, people. I don’t give a shit if doctors and hospital personnel fear saying the word “baby” when referencing the “product” of pregnancy. Will the world end if we say that I delivered a baby – that my baby wasn’t sent to pathology – that there are no protocols for the handling of a baby’s body? I didn’t go into the hospital to have an abortion. I went into the hospital to deliver a baby. And I’d like that to be acknowledged.

My doctor asked about grief support groups for women who have miscarried. The answer was that there is one, but its for women who lost a baby at 18+ weeks of pregnancy. So because I was 15 weeks, I guess I’m not supposed to feel this bone-crushing grief? I guess I wasn’t supposed to have loved my unborn child, because I was just 15 weeks? I didn’t pass a kidney stone and spend the last 2 months grieving the stone. I delivered a baby. A baby I already loved. I am grieving a lost love. So why am I being made to feel like I shouldn’t be? I’ve been feeling like society thinks I shouldn’t have blinked an eye at the loss of my “product of conception” because I wasn’t at the socially acceptable number of weeks to feel grief. That is bullshit, but also why I feel apologetic when I burst into tears and can’t even speak when I think about it. I lay awake at night thinking of everything I should have done, all the questions I should have asked, wondering if I can ever go through another pregnancy again, even though I want that baby so badly that I cry. But I feel bad if I bring it up with friends, or cry about it to my family members. I don’t want to make others feel as badly as I do.

So that, my friend, is why I was apologetic. I’ll try better next time.

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4 thoughts on “Products of Conception

  1. Tamara,
    You are allowed to grieve as long as you need to! Don’t apologize! The first line in the oath that all medical people take is “first, do no harm”. They harmed YOU! They should be apologizing to YOU!
    There were actual statements made to me after Brian died that it was a good thing he died young, because he wouldn’t have had a good life (because his body wasn’t perfect). Sorry, but that was ridiculous! So if your child isn’t totally perfect you shouldn’t grieve his death? What kind of world is this?
    You gave birth to a beautiful baby; not a product of conception. Plant his tree, water it with your tears, and never, ever forget him. His life meant something to all of us.
    Aunt Deb

  2. “Aunt Deb” took the words right out of my mouth. 20 years ago I had a “missed-abortion” at 15 weeks and I still think of her often. Do whatever you need to do to heal. My heart goes out to you Tam! You will heal one day.Just take it one day at a time and take care of yourself.

  3. I realize that this post was written years ago but I am so glad I stumbled upon it tonight. I lost our baby three weeks ago at 15 weeks. I came across this blog as I was google searching product of conception pathology reports because I am still awaiting our results. I am so sick to my stomach. I hate that I feel so bad about my grief and feel embarrassed by it. I don’t understand how grief is more accepted when you hit your 17th, 18th, or your 23rd week of pregnancy. Is the baby that passes at 15 weeks not the same baby that people would grieve at those later weeks (if it had lived?). I have friends (lots of pregnant friends too) that text me and and ask how I am doing and I can never honestly respond. This is so hard and it is so nice to hear that I am not alone in my feelings of embarrassment and anger. I am so sorry that you did not get answers or options for how to handle your babies remains. I bawled through my whole D&C and am still haunted at the thought of my baby being ripped from my body through a vacuum and then taken to a lab to be processed like any other blood or tissue product. I was so embarrassed and offended when my doctor looked at me very disapprovingly and stunned when I asked if there was anyway I would be able to see my babies little body before I agreed to the D&C. I wanted to labor naturally but my last delivery had a scare with my placenta and blood loss so this procedure was recommended. I hope we get answers but i whole heartedly regret giving my babies remains away. I want them back so badly and type this with tears stinging my eyes. Life continues on normally for others after we loose babies and that is so hard to process. Thank you for helping me not feel so alone.

    • My heart goes out to you. You are not alone in your grief. Hospital personnel should learn to be more compassionate with their patients. More than two years later and I have to tell you, I would still be tempted to run over that ER doctor if I saw him on the street. Grieve as long as you want. It took me a long time to get over this baby’s passing. I continued on to have 2 more miscarriages in the year following that loss and have since decided to be content with the two kids that I already have. But I grieved each loss. Don’t be embarrassed by your doctor’s reaction. He should be embarrassed for treating you so callously.
      If it helps even a little bit, I planted a baby tree in my backyard as a memorial. I still go and check on it to make sure it’s thriving. It’s not the same, by a long shot, but planting something and having a special place to go with my memories of that pregnancy and loss is comforting for me. Love to you and your angel.

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