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HHS and “Products of Conception”

February 10, AD 2012 15 Comments

Almost 7 years ago, my wife and I made the harrowing drive from our home to a hospital. Only 3 months before, our hearts were filled with joy beyond compare. We were to be new parents! Our jejune marriage was being blessed with a child–something that seemed à propos given our recent and quiet stoppage of chemical contraception.

We were thrilled.

At around 10 weeks, we went in for a check-up and ultra-sound. Lying in my wife’s womb was a beautiful child. She looked peaceful, restful, but to our horror we learned that she was too restful. In fact, she was dead.

10-week person

Now, I know that at 10 weeks it is too early to tell the gender, but I will tell you that I truly believe God comforted me with the knowledge that we lost our first daughter. We named her “Grace Elaine”, and we gave her a full burial. She lies in rest, her sweet body, in Broken Arrow, OK. It is fitting, because there my heart gained a life-long hair-line fracture that will never completely heal until I am in heaven. I love Grace Elaine with everything in me. She is my daughter, and I adore her and miss her.

What does this have to do with the title of this post?

Let me tell you a little bit more of the story…

In order to safely remove Grace from my wife’s womb, we had to drive to the hospital to get what is called a D&C procedure. This trip was what I described in the first line of this post. What we had hoped would have been a trip full of expectation and jubilance was instead our very own valley of the shadow of death. When we arrived at the hospital, we were met by what appeared to be a kind, middle aged, nurse. She had brown-rimmed glasses, and a soft, alto voice. Here is the shocking part.

She would never call our baby girl….a baby!

For nearly 30 grueling minutes, this woman–shaped by a contracepting, abortive culture–referred to my beautiful daughter as “products of conception”. Over and over again, despite my wife’s insistence and my horror, Grace Elaine was referred to as something the equivalent of fecal matter–or “Products of Digestion“.

I do understand that technically speaking my daughter was the “product” of our love; a love that conceived but unfortunately this time became a hope deferred that truly made our hearts ill.

The next day, I got in my car and drove back to the hospital. I was told to go to the 3rd floor, to a wing where various “products” of the human body were kept. Stuff they didn’t know what to do with after surgeries. When the attendant came to the counter, I explained that I was here to get my daughter for proper burial. I gave her my “ticket”, and she retrieved Grace in what appeared to be a plastic bucket you might find at a store that sells live worms. I’ll never forget the woman’s look who handed me my daughter. It was as if a ray of light from heaven had made its way to the third floor of that hospital. The grace she received in that moment was as much as the Grace I received from her.

The drive home was difficult.

My daughter, strapped in next to me, was in the passenger seat, riding with all the dignity I could give her–or that could be afforded a ride in a white, quasi-casket, plastic bin meant for fishing bait. I cried most of the ride to the cemetery.

What kind of world do we live in when the weakest among us are treated like waste? This is truly what is at stake in the HHS ruling. That the culture of death would be forced upon even those who are still trying–with strain of effort put down at every turn–to give every human dignity. That’s all I wanted my daughter to have.


Dear Grace,

I love you. I tried my best. I’m sorry this world is so messed up. See you in heaven, darling.

Your Daddy

[since that time, we became Catholic, never went back to the pill, and despite our fears, have been blessed with four children and one on the way!]

Look at the picture. Do we really believe that “preventing” this is health care?

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Brent A. Stubbs is a father of four (+ 1 in heaven and 1 in the oven), husband of one, convert, and a generally interested person. He has a BA in Theology, studied graduate philosophy, has an MBA, is a writer (or so he tells himself) and prefers his coffee black. His website is Almost Not Catholic.[/author_info] [/author]

Filed in: Columnists, Life • Tags: ,

About the Author:

is a father of five (+ 1 in heaven), husband of one, convert, and a generally interested person. He has a BA in Theology, studied graduate philosophy, has an MBA, is a writer (or so he tells himself) and prefers his coffee black. His website is Almost Not Catholic. His Twitter handle is @2bcatholic. His favorite color is blue.

  • Your story pierced my heart, because my husband and I had a nearly identical experience with our second child. Thankfully, our nurses were very compassionate, and the hospital released our baby’s remains directly to the funeral home so we didn’t have to transport him/her. We had a graveside service and a memorial Mass as well.

    Grace Elaine and Noel Wahlund, pray for us.

  • Kaitlin @ More Like Mary

    Thank you so much sharing. God bless your beautiful family!

  • God bless you for having the presence of mind to claim your daughter. I have had friends lose children very early in their pregnancies and when I have gently asked what they did with their baby, they just looked blankly at me, not even knowing they had the option to claim their child. I could never place any sort of blame on them as they have often been shattered by the loss and in such grief that they have just turned to the healthcare facitlity to guide them through. The most disappointing cases are when these babies are delivered at Catholic hospitals and there is no mention of the parents’ right to take their child home, or that it was even a child in the first place. Getting these stories out there and encouraging more parents to claim their children will hopefully bring about the changes we need to fully honor each life.

  • How very touching! Thank you for sharing such an intimate and profoundly memorable moment with us.

  • Thank you for sharing this! I can’t even imagine the pain you felt. It is an encouragement to me to see families like yours, trusting in God despite great suffering and difficulty. The world constantly tries to tempt us with a “glittering” alternative of the type of life they deem acceptable. I thank God for the rays of light which show us different; thank you for letting Him use you.

  • Perinatal Loss Nurse

    We who have walked this path have to keep telling this story over and over until it is commonly understood among childbearing-age folks that parents have the right (in most if not all states) to determine where their wee ones go.

    Our area is suburban but borders on a very rural area and it is legal here to bury on private land. Call your county environmental dept to ask about regulations.

    I once had a dad make his own casket, the mom lined it, sisters sewed the blanket and after baby was put in it, dad drove it to the Church for a full Mass and then out to their farm.

  • David Williams

    Brent, such beautiful words to honor your beautiful girl; to honor life. God bless you and your family.

  • Christopher

    Dear Brent,
    I cannot express in words how deeply your words have touched my wife and I today. Last week, we lost our BABY at 15 weeks. I know with undeniable clarity the child was a little boy (saw the evidence first hand ). The delivery happened so suddenly that had my wife not spotted him in the toilet, we would not have known until much later. The rest was as if out of a text book, perfectly uncomplicated recovery. That is, until this morning when my wife started hemorrhaging vaginally. When we arrived at the hospital, it was the first I had heard those cursed words which your article so justly reviles: Products of Conception. I was mortified, even though the baby, whom we have named Simon Samuel after a pair of our beloved priests, was not in the womb and the doctor was only referring to remnant pieces of afterbirth. I could hear the anti-life Cultura de la Muerte venom inherent in those words.

    Again, thank you for this article. I do not think it mere coincidence that you published this article at the same time as when we were hearing the very same words at the hospital. We empathize with your loss and know you still think of your Grace. You and yours are in our prayers.

    Pax et Bonum,

  • Christopher

    I forgot to mention that my wife is doing fine after a quick, necessary D&C. Fr Simon held a private mass for Simon Samuel earlier this week

  • Thank you all for your kind words. A culture can only be changed one story at a time. Pax Christi.

  • Janeen

    Thanks Brent, when you love, you love with all your heart!

  • Stephanie

    Thank you so much for your story. At age 26 I became pregnant out of wedlock. I was shocked & none to happy about it. I considered abortion for about 5 minutes & then came to my senses. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do but I do know that I was going to carry this child to term. Unfortunately, a few days later I lost the baby. I was unable to find him in the toilet with the massive blood loss I had. I know that my child was a boy even though I did not have his tiny little body. His name is Kevin John and had he survived, he’d be 30 years old. I often think of what he’d be like. Not a day has gone by in the last 30+ years that I have not thought of him. I know I’ll meet him again some day.

  • Brent. Wasnt planning on crying this morning but you did it to me man. One of my family’s experiences was similar to yours. I will never forget how our joy turned to sorrow in the ultrasound room that day. Joy to see the baby, and then a growing dread as the ultrasound technician grew serious, and then said “the baby is not moving”.
    My regret is that we did not think to recover the body for burial after the D and C. No one said anything, and we didnt even think about it. I wish our pastor or elders (Reformed at the time) had said something, but I dont blame them. I do think that couple of childbearing age need to hear these stories though. And they need to hear that they can keep the remains of their children.
    Then a couple years later in 2010, on the morning of Divine Mercy Sunday, the unimaginable happened. We lost a child at 17 weeks. Still born. Delivering a baby you know is dead in the delivery room is very painful emotionally for the parents along with the physical pain of the mother that will not be sothed by the joy of new life. As I held little Jude in my hands for the first and last time and gave him the fatherly blessing I give his siblings before bed, I dont think I have ever felt such pain. I was in the conversion process at the time and called for a priest who performed a baptism (of desire), which I found out later was perhaps not the right thing to do, but mentally I was in no condition to think about theology. Perhaps God accepts the baptism as a sort of baptism of blood and forgives my and the priests ignorance.
    I visit Jude’s grave often and pray. I consider him to be our family’s prayer warrior fighting the battle with his parents and 5 sisters from heaven.

    And the crack in your heart, it will never heal. But I think those cracks let some extra grace in also. Yes the pain is there, and will flare up at unexpected moments, as I am sure the pain of Christ’s mother did for the rest of her life. But that pain is not for nothing.

    One mercy I thank God for especially in this situation was that in my studying about Catholicism I had just learned about redemptive suffering. Then we lost Jude. I very well may not have been able to handle the situation without that knowledge that our sufferings were being used by Christ as we offered them in union with his sufferings on the cross. That doesnt take the pain away, oh no… but it at least allows for a much easier “fiat” to occur in one’s soul when one knows there is a true purpose for their suffering.
    If I had still been a Reformed Presbyterian when we lost Jude, I don’t know if I would have come out of this furnace closer to God than when I went in.

    May God bless our little ones who are now safely in the folds of Our Lady’s mantle, and may they pray for us with her.

  • Thank you for sharing such a personal experience, and for doing your daughter’s short life justice. There is an atheist blog I read sometimes (why?? don’t know — but I feel like someone has to remind them that there are thinking, respectful Christians), and one of the most disturbing posts I read recently was about abortion “rights.” The rhetoric and arguments they use to explain away a baby’s personhood in utero are chilling and Hitlerian. Your words and the photo of the 10-week old baby in the womb were the perfect antidote for me. I think I need to stop reading that blog . . .

  • We lost our first daughter at about 10 weeks last summer, as well. I felt the same about the way the medical community treated this loss, although we were blessed to escape the D&C, and were able to have a medically-assisted miscarriage at home, where we were the only ones who handled the remains of our baby girl. I was shocked at the difficulty we had in figuring out how to give her a proper burial – it was as if nobody had ever thought to bury a baby that small before, and we felt as though we were sailing in uncharted waters. Thank you for sharing your sweet words about your daughter – this loss can be so lonely, and it’s wonderful to hear someone speak about their experience in the way I felt about mine. (We are eagerly awaiting the arrival of our second precious girl, due in November!)