When I first became pregnant, I installed a pregnancy tracker app onto my smart phone, wanting to be able to follow my baby’s growth and development throughout. I very quickly discovered that the app has a community section, in which there are chat groups for almost anything you could imagine.

I joined several of the applicable ones, including a group for August 2022 moms, since that is the month of my baby’s due date. At a time when I cried because my husband was eating cereal (hey, I was so nauseous I literally couldn’t think of eating anything, and there he was just crunching away as though eating cereal was such a simple thing to do!), I felt less crazy and just hormonal when I read of other moms crying because their husbands got their orders wrong and they had asked for the only thing they could stomach the thought of eating (no, a McGriddle is NOT the same as a McMuffin).

During those first few months of pregnancy, when I spent a lot of time laying down with a bucket close at hand, I explored more of what the app contained. One group in particular caught my attention. It was simply titled TFMR and after discovering that acronym stands for Termination for Medical Reasons, I started reading through the entries.

I was shocked and horrified by several things. First, how many moms were sharing that they had terminated a pregnancy or even more than one, representing more dead babies than I could fathom! Second, how late in pregnancy a lot of these terminations were, as most of them seemed to be around the 20-week mark and definitely not in the first trimester when the majority of abortions take place. Third, the language used by most of these moms. None of them deny the humanity of their babies, and in fact, they speak in terms of loss and grief and missing their children as though they were not the ones who decided to have their babies killed. Fourth, it seemed many of them chose to have mementos of the children they’d killed so that they could “keep them close.” Mothers would cremate their babies and keep the ashes in an urn or get it made into jewellery that they could wear “close to their heart” so they could have their babies “with them forever.”

When I shared my discovery with my husband, he gently and wisely advised that perhaps it was not healthy for me to spend time on that group given how worked up and emotional I became. For many weeks, I did not go back to it. Then one day, when I was around 18 weeks pregnant, I was back to spending a lot of time laying down due to severe abdominal cramping, and to pass the time I ended up back on that thread.

The same observations struck me as the previous time, but it hit me so much harder because I was now just as far along in my pregnancy as many of the moms sharing their experiences of choosing to have their baby killed and I could not fathom going through almost half of pregnancy and then willingly ending it. By then, I was so attached to my baby that I couldn’t imagine the grief that losing my baby would bring, much less going through that willingly.

I also grieved for those mothers because I felt that they were being so deceived by a medical profession which seems hell-bent on eliminating any imperfect children that the main offer upon any prenatal diagnosis was termination. Mothers weren’t offered hope and support; rather, they were given worst case scenarios and often forced into making a hasty decision because they were running out of time to kill their child before it became more difficult to do or even illegal in their particular state. Many of these diagnoses were not even conclusive. Their baby simply had a marker for something, As my colleague Jonathon Van Maren wrote about here, these diagnoses can be and often are wrong.

I read about the different ways in which mothers chose to terminate. Some chose to induce a premature live birth, knowing their baby was too young to survive and not planning to offer them any life-saving support. This way they could still spend time with their baby before he or she died. Others chose the labour route, but a few days prior to birth, their baby’s heart was injected with something that would stop his too-short life. This way, they had a corpse to treasure and express love to but they felt it minimized the suffering of their baby. Others went the dilation and curettage (D&C) or dilation and evacuation (D&E) route, where their baby was either taken from the womb with forceps or a vacuum, both procedures which tear the baby’s body apart and turn it into a bloody slurry of limbs and other body parts.

And then I read something that horrified me. In attempting to comfort another mother who was about to go through the experience of having her baby killed, a mother shared that during her own experience the nurses who’d been part of the medical team which killed her baby using the D&E method were so good to her and even provided her with her baby’s handprints and footprints (along with a birth certificate and other memorabilia). For a moment, I couldn’t fathom what I was reading, and then I thought that perhaps I was wrong about what a D&E procedure entails. I looked it up, and Google assured me that I was indeed correct that a dilation and evacuation abortion results in a bloody mess of baby remains. What this means is that someone at that hospital sorted through these bloody remains, picked out each tiny, perfectly formed foot and each tiny, perfectly formed hand, each one attached perhaps only to its own arm or leg, if even, and then pressed each hand and foot to ink and then to paper in turn. I threw up and quickly closed the app.

(If you can’t visualize what this would look like, check out this recently published article, particularly the pictures of Baby Girl #2 and imagine procuring handprints and footprints from her battered body.)

Later, I decided to share my discovery with a colleague, and he asked if I’d be able to find that particular message again as that was as horrifying an idea to him as it was to me, and he felt that it was something that needed to be shared. I attempted to mentally prepare myself, and waded back into the filth.

This time, with my attention specifically on footprints and handprints, I discovered that it was not at all uncommon for mothers to receive their baby’s footprints even after a D&E or D&C procedure. Handprints were much more rare, but given the number of mothers who shared that they too had received footprints, it became abundantly clear that it is not just one disturbed individual at one hospital who can so casually handle the severed limbs of a murdered child. Rather, it has become part of the system of mass murder where medical personnel at many different institutions are doing so in an attempt to keep women from questioning the morality of this system.

After all, if you grieve for the child you chose to kill and even keep mementos to remember them by, obviously you loved that child, and your choice was only driven by that love and therefore right.

My husband is right in that I should stay off that chat for my own health and that of my child. My own pregnancy is high-risk enough without adding that kind of mental anguish and stress to it. But I can’t unknow what I now know, and I have now shared it with you so you can’t unknow it either. Can you really carry on with your life knowing what you do without doing something about it? Please don’t! Please help us to do something about it. I really am begging you to please help us to bring an end to this barbarism! Do it for the little ones. They have no one but us to fight for them, to speak for them.

8 thoughts on “Handprints and Footprints

  1. Roe says:

    This is an atrocious message. You’re calling women who had to short their baby for the health of themselves or the fetus they’re carrying killers?
    How dare you?
    What is wrong with you people?
    Sometimes a pregnancy is not viable at the fault of no one and you’re calling them monsters? You’re the monster. Judging women for making what eat probably the most difficult decision of their lives.
    I hope you never have to make a decision between your life and your fetus. I would expect you to then take your own life for the ‘sake of the fetus’.

    • Keturah Dumaine says:

      We’re definitely not calling women who have abortions for medical reasons (or any reason) monsters, and I agree with you that those situations some of the most difficult things that someone could face. The good news in our society today is that with modern medicine, abortion is never needed to save the life of the mother. The bad news is that most women are never told this, in fact they are told the opposite. In these cases, I think no one is more to blame than the doctors who had a duty to protect both mothers and babies, and chose to only offer the easiest medical solution – abortion. In no way are we trying to downplay the emotional and physical difficulty in these scenarios, but we are advocating that in a society that believes in science and human rights, we ought to promote human rights for all human beings, especially the most vulnerable.

    • Keturah Dumaine says:

      Hi Sabrina, I agree that we all have rights over our own bodies, and for the most part, I shouldn’t tell you what to do with yours, and you shouldn’t tell me what to do with with mine. Do you think that there are any situations where it would be okay to tell someone what to do with their own body, for example, if I was going to hit someone? Do you think I would have a right to use my body in that way?

  2. K says:

    You need to educate yourself about TMR. We are not “killing” our unborn children. It’s a term for women who have pregnancy complications and are medically advised by professionals to end their pregnancy-this is not a choice! I have to end my wanted pregnancy because my child will die in womb due to chromosomal abnormalities and related complications. I will need a D&E or L&D no matter if I hold on or not. Actually, if I wait it places me at a high risk for severe issues that could result in infection and future infertility. Just to let you know I had multiple test to confirm these initial findings (NIPT, full anatomy ultrasound, and amniocentesis).
    Honestly, your language is extremely insensitive to me. It’s painful enough to end my wanted pregnancy, and it’s even more painful to know that heartless people like you exist in this world. However, despite your ignorance and cruelty, I hope your pregnancy went full term and your baby was born healthy. I don’t wish this experience on anyone. The pain I am experiencing right now is unbearable, and as a psychologist, I have heard many painful stories resulting in loss and grief. Yet, nothing truly amounts to the personal experience of loss.
    Please educate yourself before posting nonsense like this. For women (like me) that go through these procedures already feel the shame, guilt, and stigma associated. Therefore, we don’t need you to add insult to injury. Please, use self reflection to find inner peace so that you can one day feel empathy towards not only yourself but others. Take care.

    • Keturah Dumaine says:

      K, I am so so sorry to hear about what you’re going through. I recently went through a miscarriage of a wanted child, and it breaks my heart to imagine what you must be experiencing right now. You are right that there are very real and tragic scenarios like yours where abortion is advised, and often where there is no chance of the child’s survival no matter what course of action is taken. I’m getting to this reply a few weeks late, so I imagine you have already had your procedure, but whether you have or haven’t, I want you to know that I am not here to shame you, and I’m here to talk if you need support.

      I can understand how the language used in this post would be difficult to hear while you’re going through something so hard, and I hope you know that the intent is not to add insult to injury, but to attempt to humanize children who are often dehumanized in our society. You mention that TMR is about pregnancy complications and that professionals advise abortion in these cases, and that’s true. Science tells us that human life begins at fertilization, so every pre-born child – whether there are pregnancy complications or not – is a unique human being who deserves human rights. By definition, an act which intentionally ends the life of that human being is killing him/her, and that is a tragedy. I don’t think that the author of this post meant to insinuate that these situations are ones where women are just arbitrarily choosing to kill their children; that would obviously be a very difficult choice to make either way, and our medical system would prefer to offer abortion than offer solutions which value the dignity of both you and your child. This post is meant to re-humanize pre-born children both to mothers and to doctors, who ought to be using their medical expertise to care for both moms and babies.

      I’m certainly not trying to downplay the difficulty involved in such situations, but just as you and I have human rights because of our intrinsic worth as human beings, so do both of our children, whether born or pre-born. I wish you the best, K!

      • Tess says:

        I can’t believe you wrote this post. You have no idea what you’re talking about and have made other woman suffer even more after they read your insensitive and ignorant post. I hope you never have to make a decision like this you don’t sound strong enough to get through it.

        • Keturah Dumaine says:

          Hi Tess, I’m sorry to hear that you felt my reply was insensitive. I know this is a very difficult discussion to have, and I try to be as sensitive as I can be while addressing the disagreement. Would you mind explaining what you mean when you say “You have no idea what you’re talking about”?
          Take care,

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