Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Miscarriage: a medical student in a rural clinic, Central America, 1977

Paul Rousseau
Charleston, South Carolina, United States


Photo of row of blue and yellow houses with power lines, sunflowers, and people walking in the distance.
A small town in Honduras. Photo by kristin klein on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

Elena sits perched on a gurney with claret-stained thighs. She has just miscarried in the clinic’s lavatory. She inquires of the gender of the fetus, and hands twitching and heart flapping, I blurt, unexpectedly and duplicitously (for I could not know), “Una bebita.” A little girl.

A guttural sob rolls up from her belly. “Quiero los restos de mi bebe.” I want the remains of my baby. Beads of sweat wet my brow. I inform her I need to speak with the clinic physician. “Quiero los restos de mi bebe,” she implores.

I scurry through the halls searching for the physician; I am told he is in the countryside delivering a baby. I query a nurse. She wrings her hands, indecisive. She speaks with another nurse. Finally, she advises, “Darle los restos.” Give her the remains. I am dubious of her response, however, I am in an unfamiliar land, and uncertain of legalities and customs.

Esta segura?” Are you sure, I ask.

Estoy segura,” I am sure, she responds.

So, I gather a dollop of fetal flesh, bundle it in gauze, slip it into a paper bag, and place it in Elena’s hands, and as she murmurs, “Maria, mi hija,” Maria, my daughter, I collapse to the floor and weep.




PAUL ROUSSEAU (he/him/his) is a semi-retired physician and writer published in The Healing Muse, Blood and Thunder, Hektoen International, Intima. A Journal of Narrative Medicine, The Human Touch, Pulse. Voices From the Heart of Medicine, Please See Me, Months To Years, (mac)ro(mic), The Maine Review, 433 Literary Magazine, Sunspot Literary Magazine, The Examined Life, Dr. T. J. Eckleburg Review, Tendon, and others. Nominated for The Best Small Fictions anthology from Sonder Press, 2020. Lover of dogs.


Spring 2022  |  Sections  |  Birth, Pregnancy, & Obstetrics

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.