When, exactly, does one go from being a person to being a thing? Apparently when one enters a hospital.
Corollary: when does one begin to be a person?
I drove from Small Town to Bigger Town today to pick up LW’s and my baby. That was how we felt about the whole trip. The medical community, though, referred to our child as “products of conception.” These products, once removed surgically, were shipped off to a lab for examination. We did not consent to this nor were we informed this would happen.
At the lab, our baby, only 7-8 weeks old and wrapped up in LW’s fallopian tube, was dissected and mounted onto slides for microscopic inspection. We found this out when we reviewed LW’s chart.
It only recently occurred to us to follow up. What if the lab still had our baby? I made the call Wednesday. No, the lab said, we don’t return samples. (There are a thousand little cuts in medical language.) It was not a sample, I say, but a baby, removed with a ruptured fallopian tube. She got her manager.
The manager, with some hesitation, indicated that the “wet tissue” was kept for four weeks and then sent out of state to an incinerator. There would be nothing to return.
LW, at this time, is going ballistic at the injustice. How can they just take our baby, however small, and discard her as medical waste?
Apparently the manager heard her (she was screaming), and after a long pause said that there might the slides…
At this point in our grief, our feeling of being violated, lied to and generally abused has gotten only deeper with each phase. This one hurt. There would be a small (7 in all, as it turns out) number of slides with tissue. We could have those.
I can’t really describe how surreal it was to enter the lab area. The “gross and microscopic exam room, small with the door open, had a set of cutting boards like the one in my kitchen. Was one of them where the autopsy (my word, not theirs) was performed?
I didn’t look at the slides until I got to the parking lot. All through the surgery and the long recovery, I have tried to distance myself from the hurt, choosing to focus on LW instead—my fear of losing her almost realized. But, with the smallest section of my smallest child in a brown paper lunch bag, it hit me. It hit me hard.
Our child was lost to us. That hit me hard, but then to have our child taken and sent to a lab…it seemed absurd and cruel. Was it because she was so little?
I feel at a loss here. Historically I have argued for pro-choice feeling the viability is the line at which life choices shift from mother to child. But even faced with a child who would never be viable (ectopic), I felt she deserved better than this.
What we would have liked is to have been able to take her home from the hospital and given a proper burial. Now, we will do that with what we have left.
As if losing a child isn’t hard enough. PS: I don’t know if she looked like this picture, or even made it this far in development. The slide, though, definitely shows a cross-sectioned, little dragon-like shape. My littlest, little dragon baby. May you rest in peace.