Lost Before They Met

During my rotation through Obstetrics & Gynaecology, I saw a number of patients who were unfortunate to have miscarriages. There’s one case in particular I recall.

As obstetricians, our patient is the mother-to-be. All too often, we forget about papa bear. Granted, the father isn’t there most visits. With this case, our patient had a spontaneous miscarriage at home. She and her partner brought what was passed…a whole fetus, wrapped in a plastic bag.

After seeing the patient, I left the emergency department. Her partner seated outside. He wanted an update. He wanted the fetus. My seniors estimated the fetus to be about 20 weeks…genitalia was formed, it was a boy. “He would’ve been my first son,” he said. “I’d like to bury him.” My heart sunk. Standing before me was a heartbroken father. I wasn’t sure what the nurse had done with the fetus so I told him I would inquire. The nurse, having no need to keep the fetus after we saw it, discarded it…him.

I broke the disheartening news to the father, who slumped into the seat behind him. “I wanted to give him a proper burial.” I wasn’t sure what to say in response so I stood next to him in sympathetic silence. These are the things we aren’t trained for in medical school. He smiled and thanked me for my help.

I returned to the emergency room.

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Obstetrics is difficult because there are two patients packaged in one: mother and fetus. Sometimes, we have to care for a third patient: the father.

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