Bush Recollection Puts Spotlight on Miscarriage

But the scene, described by former President George W. Bush in his interview with Matt Lauer of NBC News on Monday night, has started a national conversation — both about his mother, Barbara Bush, and about the complex psychological fallout from miscarriage.

Mr. Bush called his mother’s action “straightforward,” and added that it illustrated “how my mom and I developed a relationship.” Some opponents of abortion reacted approvingly. Other commentators called Mrs. Bush’s behavior the action of a depressed and angry person.

But experts say the incident is hard to interpret half a century after the fact. Indeed, it was extraordinary in at least one respect, they add: Mrs. Bush made a point of directly confronting the loss at a time when the subject was largely taboo.

When a middle-class woman miscarried in postwar America, doctors often whisked the fetus away as if there were no loss of life at all, only embarrassment; women whispered about it between themselves but hardly ever discussed it openly.

“It wasn’t thought of as losing a life; it was more like a medical mishap,” said Dr. Randi Hutter Epstein, a physician and the author of “Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth” (Norton, 2010). “And although women felt it privately, they didn’t feel it was worthy of going to see someone, or seeking help.”




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