George W. Bush, Barbara Bush, and the Fetus in the Jar

When George W Bush was a young teenager, his mother Barbara Bush had a miscarriage.  The remains got into a jar so they could be taken to the hospital.  And then, as the former president told Matt Lauer of The Today Show: “She says to her teenage kid, ‘Here’s a fetus.'” W. continued, “There’s no question that it affected me…”

Lauer apparently doesn’t press for details about the fetus-sighting, but Bush, who asked his mother’s permission to write about the event in his new memoir Decision Points, explained to Lauer that, “The purpose of this story was really to show how my mom and I developed a relationship…” What??This is the part of the story that intrigues, and confounds, me.  The jar part, that’s gross and titillating and like watching a train wreck, but its effect on their relationship?  Of course a moment like that will shape how a child views a parent — but how did it shape W. ‘s relationship to his mom, who, for the record, is not anti-abortion. She has asserted that while she hates abortion, she could “never make that decision for someone else.”

Did the young George Bush feel like she shared a traumatic experience with him and so he felt closer to her?   Did he resent the visual aids? He eventually had to drive his mom to the hospital, along with the fetus.  That can’t have been an easy ride.

As as a story in the Daily Beast notes, this story can be seen in the larger context of the Bush family’s  history.  When W. was 7 his 4-year-old sister Robin died of leukemia.  Who knows what the miscarriage triggered in Barbara. We do know that it shaped W.’s view on abortion.  He told Lauer, “There was a human life, a little brother or sister.”

Like so much about George W. Bush in particular and his family in general, this story is too blunt, the strokes are too broad to offer any true insight into the man who many think started a war because he didn’t think his dad had properly finished one.  Since it’s not Barbara who’s telling the story, we can’t know what she was thinking as a mother or a woman.  All we know is that George saw a fetus his mother miscarried. Already that’s too much.

Would you even tell a teenage son that you miscarried? What do you think of this story?

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