Friday, November 28, 2008

Article: "When Did 'Married Without Children' Become Gauche?"

While doing some Googling this afternoon -- killing time, waiting for the next shoe to drop at the office -- I stumbled on this interesting article/blog entry. The author is childfree by choice, but I found myself nodding at about 98% of what she had to say about how childless/free living is discounted by so many parents -- & trying not to giggle too loudly in several places. "The January of the retail season," hmmm? As a January baby myself, I totally understand that!

As usual, the comments are both amusing & infuriating.

*** *** ***

The Daily Beast
When Did "Married Without Children" Become Gauche?

by Rachel Shukert
November 15, 2008 7:40am

As a married woman with no plans to have children, I'm not the easiest person to market to.
My grandfather wants me to have a baby. Now. Yesterday. It would be nice to feel—as he put it the other day—that he had “a breeder” among his grandchildren. “Grandpa,” I finally said to him recently, “you are 87 years old. You live 1,500 miles away. If I got pregnant tomorrow, you would see this baby, what? Once? Twice? Then I would be stuck with an unwanted infant, and you would be dead.”

He acceded the point.

In a few short weeks, the holiday season will be upon us, and my husband and I, like millions of Americans, will be obliged to make conversation with hundreds of relatives, colleagues, and acquaintances who have nothing to say to us. When we got engaged three years ago, talk of caterers and florists and letterpress invitations occupied us at these gatherings. Then, after the wedding, when we debuted as married people, we talked about the things we had received, the things we still needed to buy, and the best places to buy them.

But this year, lacking any such consumer idyll to discuss, people will sheepishly ask us “what we’ve been up to.” I will half-heartedly mutter something about the book I am supposed to be writing, to confirm I am not a total waste of space. They might offer a few words about a case or an account they are handling, of which I will have little interest and even less comprehension. And then, inevitably, I will be asked the million-dollar question.

“So, any babies on the horizon? Is this the year?”

I have formed an immutable theory: In our society, a childless marriage is like the January of the retail season—Christmas is over, Valentine’s Day not yet arrived, and no one knows what the hell to sell you. A transitional period, best rushed through as quickly as possible.

I’ll see the pleading in their eyes, the tension of each upended nostril: “Please say you’re having a baby, and I’ll be able to relate to you. We’ll talk obstetricians, and if you’re having trouble, fertility specialists. I can recommend strollers, changing tables, potties, burp cloths. I can explain in detail the advantages of an all-natural water birth vs. a scheduled C-section/tummy tuck. We’ll have hours of things to talk about. Just say it. Say yes.”

Alas, I cannot, and we’ll have no choice but to go our separate ways.

Or think of it this way: your wedding is the prestige Oscar bait: a big-name, Britishly acted adaptation from a tony literary source, perhaps—eagerly anticipated and much buzzed about. The announcement of your pregnancy (or simply, the announcement that you are currently…you know…trying, which seems to inspire in others an equally irrational joy) is your big summer blockbuster: huge, giddy, something people are viscerally excited about. To wit: your wedding is Atonement, your baby is The Dark Knight, and your actual marriage, the fragile construct propping up the vast social/industrial complex we call “Adulthood,” is something the studio foists on an unsuspecting public in the dead and deadening month after Christmas, when we start to despair that we will ever again see the sun. Something starring Ashton Kutcher. Your marriage is What Happens in Vegas.

Think about it.

One finds an instructive example of this attitude the publishing industry. Women’s magazines teem with advice of what to say, what to wear, and which sexual acts to perform in order to con a man into making some sort of tangible commitment. Likewise, there are now an extraordinary number of publications and networking sites devoted to modern parenting, designed to guide even the most skeptical urbanite through the brave new world of diaper genies and environmental toxins with wit and panache. In contrast, I have found of late just one article geared toward married people without children: a little piece online advising me to hide the porn when my in-laws come over.

My in-laws live in South Africa, and my husband keeps the porn on the computer, where it belongs.

It wasn’t always like this. In America, everything we are we see in the movies, and classic Hollywood films are filled with glamorous childless couples. Hepburn and Tracy, Nick and Nora Charles, forever lobbing sophisticated quips back and forth, swilling martinis in elegant penthouse apartments, their art-deco lines not besmirched by crayon or small, smudged handprints. (DISCLAIMER: My life is absolutely nothing like this; however, I can’t shake the feeling that if I can just hold off my biological clock, one day it could be.) In the golden age of Hollywood, the children of stars were routinely hidden from public view, lest they make their parents seem old and unfuckable.

I’m not suggesting we go back to the heady days of Mommie Dearest. I’m just not sure I need to know how far Jessica Alba’s cervix was dilated before she checked into the hospital. Nor am I particularly moved by the array of toddlers trotted out before the cameras to justify a star’s existence, or the launch of her clothing line, or to illustrate the fact that she has attained the transcendent maturity that cares only for the troubles of the Children of the World, which a person like Married-and-Childless You, who selfishly worries about things like calories and making your highlights last, couldn’t possibly understand.

But most of all, I find hardest to take the pervasive sense that a marriage isn’t really consummated until the arrival of a blessed event—that everything from “I do” until the snipping of the umbilical cord is a prelude to real life. I got married because I thought it would enhance my life. And in a country where some judges hold up the inability to reproduce as a valid legal reason why some people should not be able to marry, I believe the singular nature of marriage—of two adults in good faith making such a promise to each other, whether that promise includes children or not—should be made especially clear.

Real life is not Life the board game, an orderly ticking of boxes till we fill up our plastic station wagons and become millionaires. As far as I am concerned, I am already living my real life. I was living it before I was married, and I’ll still be living it should my marriage ever end.
So is it too much to ask for a damn magazine?

Rachel Shukert is the author of Have You No Shame? And Other Regrettable Stories, and is currently at work on her second book, The Grand Tour. She lives in New York City

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Article: "The saddest of Madonna portraits"

From Macleans magazine (Canada's newsweekly), Nov. 10, 2008 issue (the last paragraph, to me, says it all):

The saddest of Madonna portraits
Grief over losing a baby is accompanied by a panic: how to remember what he looked like?


In the late 1800s, Edward Bok, the reform-minded editor of Ladies' Home Journal, launched a crusade against, of all things, the parlour — that pretentious little room, as he saw it, reserved by the Victorians for formal Sunday teas and displaying their dead. Better, he thought, to banish the old-time hats and coats and the corpses in favour of a space for routine family life — call it, he suggested, the living room. The wordplay caught on, part of a trend driven by lengthening life expectancies that made death itself an unmentionable. "In the 19th century, sex was the taboo," says Stanley Burns, an eye surgeon and medical historian. "In the 20th century, it was death." Nowhere, oddly enough, was the shift more pronounced than in family photographs.

A hundred years ago, capturing images of dead relatives was de rigueur. Dad's eyes were glued shut, his mouth closed, his limbs posed in such a manner as to suggest a quick catnap; in one famous example, the deceased sits with a newspaper clasped in his hands as though just nodding off. Widows wore lockets with the dead faces of their husbands, mothers the images of their dead infants — sometimes with open eyes painted in and rose tincture on their cheeks. Yet changing attitudes soon saw post-mortem photography go the way of the parlour.

Now, research suggesting that families benefit from photographs of deceased offspring has brought the practice back. "There's that pivotal moment, especially after a stillbirth, where mum all of a sudden won't remember what her baby looked like — and there's panic," says Mary MacCormick, head of the Canadian Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths. Memories of the traumatic days surrounding a difficult birth can also exaggerate a baby's flaws, haunting parents for years. Hospital staff have battled these anxieties by giving families bereavement kits containing locks of hair, hand- or footprints, and Polaroids. Recently, though, so-called infant bereavement photography has become the domain of professionals.

One charity, Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, has connected families with photographers since 2005. It started in Denver, Colo., shortly after co-founder Cheryl Haggard, then 37, learned her infant son Maddux wouldn't survive his first week, and decided to hire the same photographer whose shots of newborns graced the walls of her maternity ward. Sandy Puc' (pronounced putsch), a specialist in child portraiture, didn't know what to expect when she arrived to meet Cheryl and her husband, Mike; she soon learned they wanted images of Maddux alive on life support, then "more intimate" shots, as Cheryl puts it — "those skin on skin Madonna portraits" — after disconnecting him. "I did his hands and feet and his little ears, his nose — I photographed every single part that I could so they would have all of it," says Puc', who then left the room. Forty-five minutes later, she was invited back. "It was so unearthly," Puc' recalls. "Here is this beautiful mom, bare skin, bare chest, with this tiny little sleeping angel in her arms." Maddux was dead.

Within weeks, Puc' and Haggard had founded Now I Lay Me Down, relying on just a few photographers. They now have more than 5,000 in over 25 countries, including Canada. The free sessions — valued at between $1,000 and $1,800 — are available for offspring aged 25 weeks of gestation and up and have been provided for babies dead as long as 10 days. Images are normally black and white to de-emphasize the discolourations associated with stillborns, say, and computer software is used to soften some detail.

Chicago-based Todd Hochberg has shot deceased infants for over 10 years but uses a documentary style that puts his subjects within a hospital context alongside parents, extended family and health care professionals. "It's a record of their time together with their baby," he says. "To validate that they are parents — that this life does matter." Guenther Krueger, a Ph.D. candidate studying bereavement at Simon Fraser University, says such images help families cope. Though grief was once thought similar to physical healing — "you have a terrible time but you get over it" — Krueger says that's not what happens: "Parents incorporate this child into their lives." Burns, who has archived thousands of antique medical photographs and has written books on post-mortem photography, is more blunt: "We are as important as the number of photographs taken of us — to have no pictures at all in this culture is not to have existed."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Odds & ends...

  • Pregnancy loss support group meeting last week: two bereaved moms in their late 20s/early 30s talking to each other about trying again. "It's been THREE MONTHS & I'm NOT pregnant and it's driving me nuts!! With all my other kids, I got pregnant the first time we tried! It's SO depressing!!" Bit my tongue VERY hard & tried to remember I am there to support them, not strangle them. ; ) I understand the driving desire many babyloss moms have to get pregnant again (because I had it myself)... but it's just not that easy for some of us -- & they have heard my story & those of others who have attended the group...
  • Train ride home last night: guy standing in the aisle next to my seat (the train was very crowded) getting quizzed/lectured about his wife's pregnancy by perky young know-it-all mom for the entire 25-minute ride (plus time in the station before departure). My teeth grinding at being subjected to this (loud conversations of any kind on the train are annoying, but pregnancy & baby-related ones doubly so) actually turned to feeling sorry for the guy as the woman regaled him with horror stories about drs, general pregnancy aches & pains, Group B strep tests, birth plans ("is she going to have an epidural? If not, you're in for some blood-curdling screams...").
  • Farewell party for (divorced, childless, 30-something) office colleague this afternoon: adores her niece but is adamant that she doesn't want any of her own. Was told by the party organizer in front of the entire department that they were boing to put a picture of a baby on the card envelope & pretend it was a baby shower. Which degenerated into a conversation about how wonderful babies are. At which point (having already eaten my cake) I quietly stood up & went back to my cubicle.
  • In the mail this week: donation appeal from the hospital where Katie was delivered & where I still visit Dr. Ob-gyn for annual checksups -- but addressed to dh, who recently had some tests run there. "Dear Mr. Road Less Travelled," it begins. "It's a sad truth that women in countries all over the world, including Canada, face complications during pregnancy that can affect their health and the survival of their baby. We're experiencing rising rates for stillbirth, dangerously high blood pressure during pregnancy (called pre-eclampsia) and the birth of smaller, very vulnerable babies."

Really?? Pray, tell me all about it...!!

The letter is from a dr in the high-risk unit -- the same dr who was making the rounds the morning after Katie's stillbirth, who expressed his condolences -- and his interest in my placenta (let's call him "Dr. Placenta."). It goes on to describe one patient who came to him in 2004, 24 weeks into her pregnancy with a very small baby who did not survive. But thanks to placental function testing early in her next pregnancy at the hospital's Placenta Clinic -- the only one of its kind in Canada, which is approaching its 10th anniversary (!!) -- she has had not just one but two healthy babies.

"Our research, which recently revealed that a simple blood test combined with a non-invasive ultrasound can identify a woman's risk of pregnancy-threatening placental problems, is making a difference to families across Canada," it says. "There is so much more we could do, but we need your help."

Well. You can imagine my feelings upon reading this letter. Including:

  • Amazement -- that a letter addressed to dh would hit so very, very close to home for our family. If it hadn't been addressed to him, & him alone, I would swear that we were being targeted. What are the odds? (Of course, what were the odds that I would have a stillborn baby??)
  • Anger & regret -- that this clinic wasn't around 10 years ago when I really could have used it. And that I wasn't referred to Dr. Placenta during my pregnancy, even though they could tell from my ultrasound that there was something on my placenta, & that my baby had IUGR.
  • Relief -- even though it's too late for me, I am glad that other mothers are being spared the agony that I went through.
  • "It's about time" -- that some real research is being done on this issue. I am very grateful for the programs & protocols in place at the hospital that provided such good care & beautiful keepsakes for us after our daughter was stillborn... there is a real need for more funding for programs that support bereaved parents after their losses. But there is also a very real need for more funding to find out WHY pregnancy loss happens, & hopefully prevent it, so that fewer parents have to go through this special brand of hell.

I think that I am going to make a donation. And if & when I do, I think I am going to write a letter to go along with it, saying some of the same things I've said here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

More on the Quebec election campaign

(as I posted earlier this week)

Kissing babies isn't enough
Sure, it's politics, Ingrid Peritz explains, but Jean Charest's sudden support for IVF also rights a wrong

November 22, 2008

MONTREAL -- Annie Martel enjoys family perks that would be the envy of mothers anywhere. When she became a foster parent two years ago, she took advantage of Quebec's generous parental leave. And when her girl started daycare, Quebec subsidies ensured that the service would cost her just $7 a day.

Now that Ms. Martel has adopted the child and dreams of giving birth to a sibling for her, Quebec once again is poised to deliver.

With a provincial election campaign in full throttle, Liberal Leader Jean Charest has pledged to introduce a benefit that would be unique in Canada: full coverage of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments.

"To have the government pay is an enormous step - maybe we will still be able to have a biological child of our own," says Ms. Martel, a 41-year-old Montreal Web designer who estimates that she and her husband have spent $35,000 on fertility treatments. "This gives us a lot of hope."

The promise brings a measure of comfort to women like Ms. Martel. And it may be a winner on the campaign trail.

No politician has ever gone wrong by promising pro-baby policies in Quebec, where increasing the province's low birth rate has been a near-obsession since it plunged from one of the world's highest to one of its lowest.

Even so, as recently as June, Philippe Couillard, then Mr. Charest's health minister, opposed extending medical coverage to IVF, putting the Liberals at odds with both the Parti Québécois and Action démocratique du Québec, whose leader, Mario Dumont, had championed the cause.

Now, while campaigning for a third term as premier, Mr. Charest seems to have seen the light. This week, he announced that under a Liberal government, Quebec's health-insurance plan would cover two IVF treatments and the existing 50-per-cent tax credit would still apply if further attempts are required.

"A couple that wants children must get all the help possible," he declared.

Total cost of the promise: $35-million a year. Estimated boost to the population: 1,500 babies.

The pledge helps to secure Quebec's status as the most baby-conscious and aggressively pro-family province in the land. The provincial government has been coaxing the stork into Quebeckers' homes ever since it brought in baby bonuses in 1988. Since then, Quebec has trail-blazed with universal daycare and unparalleled parental leave.

The incentives are credited with helping to produce a modest baby boom, although the fertility rate of 1.6 babies per woman is still below replacement levels. Quebec has long tied a robust population to its collective survival in an English-speaking continent, a concern that once led the Catholic Church to advocate the "revenge of the cradle." But the secularism of the 1960s Quiet Revolution brought a steep drop in the birth rate that policy-makers have struggled to reverse since.

Today, the province's family-friendly ethos trickles down to small towns such as St-Lin-Laurentides, which has been encouraging residents to have large broods for 20 years.
To this day, the community of 15,000 north of Montreal gives new parents T-shirts and bibs emblazoned with the municipal crest, along with a $500 bonus for a third child. Mayor André Auger admits the money won't go far, but he wants to get the message across.

"I'm a good Québécois, I'm a nationalist," Mr. Auger says, "and I say a people that respects itself has to reproduce."

Still, with Mr. Charest's latest pledge, Quebec is shifting the focus from new parents to would-be parents.


Infertile couples have battled for years to have costly IVF treatments covered. They found a mighty advocate in TV personality Julie Snyder, wife of media magnate Pierre-Karl Péladeau, chief executive officer of Quebecor Inc.

Ms. Snyder's crusade on behalf of infertile couples led to a high-profile confrontation with Dr. Couillard during parliamentary hearings in June.

At a time when Quebec was struggling with a low birth rate, she asked, why was the province paying for "life-prevention" procedures such as abortions and vasectomies but not something "that creates life?"

Ms. Snyder recently gave birth to her second child. Meanwhile, Dr. Couillard has retired from politics.

Quebec offers a tax credit for IVF, but couples still find themselves taking out loans to pay upward of $10,000 for each series of treatment. For some, the cost puts the dream of parenthood out of reach.

"Do I borrow the money to try it once? Do I have to borrow again for a second try? Then I'll really be in the hole," says Mélanie Pétrin, a Montreal school-board employee whose husband, Benoit Adams, studies while working part-time.

She has been trying to conceive for nearly two years and feels frustrated that other women can afford fertility treatments that she cannot.

"It's true, I'm not sick, I'm not coughing or stuck in bed, but my state of health isn't normal," says Ms. Pétrin, who turns 29 today.

"You feel you could be a good mother, you could give your time and invest in a child. But you're unable to do it. At least if I can try, I will say that I've tried everything."

If the Liberals win the election - they are leading in the polls - and stick to the promise, Quebec will be the only province to cover IVF fully. Ontario pays only for women who have complete blockages in both Fallopian tubes.

As it stands, Canada lags behind most developed countries. Nations such as Australia, France, Israel, Norway and Germany all offer various kinds of coverage, as do some health-maintenance organizations (HMOs) in the United States.

"Canada is a huge anomaly. It's an embarrassment," says Jeff Nisker, a medical ethicist at the University of Western Ontario who has written about the issue. "I applaud Quebec. It's about time someone had the courage to do this."

According to Dr. Nisker, also a professor of obstetrics and gynecology, Canada sees IVF as "something for the rich, like cosmetic surgery. Elsewhere in the world, it's seen as a serious problem and it deprives women of being mothers.

"Canadian women are discriminated against more than any other women in the world."

He says that granting coverage is not only fair, it also makes sound medical sense. Women who can't afford IVF may turn to high-powered fertility drugs that result in multiple births, which often require costly neonatal care.

Mr. Charest's promise - and his reference to infertility as a "medical condition" - was seen as a significant step toward victory for the couples and doctors who have been seeking public financing.

"This promise is profoundly symbolic," says obstetrician and gynecologist Pierre Miron, director of the fertility clinic at Montreal's Maisonneuve-Rosemont hospital. "It may not increase the birth rate that much, but it gives a social signal that the state supports births even more.

"We are the Gaulois, resisting," he adds, comparing Quebeckers to the ancient Gauls who stood up to the Romans. "With this, we're coming up with an incentive for infertile couples."

Dr. Miron, who has been helping couples conceive since the 1980s, predicts that whoever wins the vote on Dec. 8 will now find it difficult to back down from the IVF promise.

After all, it's a true motherhood issue.

Ingrid Peritz is a reporter in The Globe and Mail's Montreal bureau.


The after-tax annual cost per child of daycare for a Quebec family with two children and an income of $75,000 a year

The figure for Saskatchewan, with the next cheapest child care.

The Canadian average, excluding Quebec.

Source: Le Québec, un paradis pour les familles? by Luc Godbout and Suzie St-Cerny (Laval University Press, 2008).

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Show & Tell: 'Tis the season...

Christmas has always been a special time for my family. But it's also been the busiest time of year for us at work, which has added a lot of stress to the holiday preparations. After our daughter was stillborn in August 1998 -- followed by the death of my grandfather later that fall -- I found myself re-evaluating just what was absolutely essential to my definition of Christmas, & what could go by the wayside -- in other words, where I most wanted to spend my limited energy.

I had no energy for Christmas baking -- most of the stuff I made was stuff my mother made & I could eat at her house anyway -- and no matter how much I gave away, I always seemed to have a ton left in my freezer to nibble on -- so I don't think I have baked since then. Likewise, I've had very little use for holiday parties -- particularly since the Worst. Christmas. Party. Ever. in 1998. So I don't care whether I attend any of those now.

But we have always put up a Christmas tree -- which, over the years, has become a Katie tree. And I have always sent out Christmas cards & a Christmas letter. When I lived at home with my parents, I always did my mother's cards (I can count the number of years she's sent out cards herself since I left home on the fingers of one hand, lol). Having moved around a lot, & having a large extended family, my card list is more than 100 names long.

When Katie was stillborn, I used our annual Christmas letter to tell everyone about it (although most of them had already heard through other channels). Every year since then, I've managed to work in a reference to her, albeit usually in connection with the volunteer work we do for our pregnancy loss support group.

The cards themselves are also usually a tribute to Katie, although not everyone would realize that. Most years, I've managed to find cards with a Classic Pooh theme (Katie's nursery was to have had Classic Pooh decor). Other years, when I haven't been able to find Classic Pooh, I've used angels.

I usually know "the card" when I see it, and even if I continue to look, I will usually return to the one I initially felt in my gut was the right one. That was the case with this year's card (below). No Classic Pooh was to be had, but I knew in my heart that this card -- a little girl, looking at Santa inside of a snowglobe -- was the right one for this year. The inside message reads: "Tis the season of magic. Merry Christmas." It's by Papyrus and I bought mine at Chapters/Indigo here in Canada.

Now, to set aside a few evenings to get them done...!

For more Show & Tell, visit here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

First the kids, now the grandkids...

I spent Saturday at a "crop" at an area scrapbook store with about 12 other women. As I've written before, it seems like an odd hobby for a childless woman (dominated as it is by mommies) -- but I still enjoy it, although the mommy talk does tend to get stifling now & then (depending on who I am sitting with). The majority of the women at this particular crop were actually older, more like my own mother's age, & I was having a good time.

It does seem like there's always at least one "ouch" moment at every crop, though, & this one was no exception. At one point, everyone started talking about their grandchildren & how great it was to be a grandparent. Someone brought up the old bumper sticker slogan, "If I knew grandchildren were this much fun, I'd have had them first," & even one of the younger women (whose kids are probably still in grade school!) said that oh, she just couldn't wait to be a grandparent someday!

Just a reminder (that I didn't need) that infertility is the gift that keeps on giving. :(

If you live in Quebec...

...things may be changing. (Of course, it's only an election promise at this point... but...)

*** *** ***

Charest pledges to fund in-vitro fertilization

Opposition parties pan move as election ploy
Nov 18, 2008 04:30 AM
Andrew Chung Quebec Bureau Chief

MONTREAL–After his government long insisted that infertility wasn't an illness and refused to pay for in-vitro fertilization treatment, Premier Jean Charest did an about-face yesterday.

Charest promised that if his Liberal party were returned to power in the Dec. 8 election, in-vitro fertilization would become a publicly funded medical service under Quebec's health-insurance plan.

Quebec's two opposition parties panned the $35 million pledge as a copycat idea, too late in coming.

But for Charest, it's a plan that would place Quebec at the forefront in Canada of fully funded assisted reproduction, and boost the province's mini baby boom. The Liberals believe Quebec could see an additional 1,500 babies born each year through funded in-vitro fertilizations.

Under the new regime, the first two in-vitro treatments would be covered. After that, couples still needing treatment would be able to count on a 50 per cent tax credit, already in place.

Ontario funds three courses of in-vitro fertilization treatment, but only if the woman's fallopian tubes are blocked.

Other provinces offer "zero," according to Dr. Seang Lin Tan, medical director of the McGill Reproductive Centre in Montreal. Tan said if Charest's plan is implemented, Quebec will become the most generous province when it comes to such treatment.

A cycle of in-vitro treatment costs about $5,500 in Canada, plus up to $4,000 for drugs used in the process.

Canada has one of the lowest rates of in-vitro fertilization treatments in the developed world, partly because of cost, and the availability of treatment only in urban centres, Tan said.

Action démocratique du Québec Leader Mario Dumont said Charest lacked honour because for the last year he has panned the ADQ's idea to fund in-vitro fertilization.

The Parti Québécois asked why Charest would do this now, after so much time refusing the same.

"Having waited for an election campaign to respond to this legitimate demand from people suffering from infertility demonstrates the cynicism of Jean Charest," said Dr. Réjean Hébert, dean of the University of Sherbrooke's faculty of medicine and a PQ candidate.

*** *** ***

Another article, same subject. (But are they funding treatment, or tests?? The reporter needs to get his facts & terminology straight...):

Quebec may cover in-vitro treatments

Nov 17, 2008 05:58 PM

MONTREAL – Already rich with a history of policy-makers encouraging baby-makers, Quebec could become the first province to pay entirely for in-vitro fertilization treatment under an election promise made today by the governing Liberals.

Premier Jean Charest has joined a long line of Quebec political and religious leaders to play a role in family planning.

The Roman Catholic Church spent centuries imploring Quebecers to reproduce as their religious duty. Liberal premier Robert Bourassa introduced so-called baby bonuses in the 1970s. More recently the ADQ party has urged the government to pay for fertility treatments.

Now the ADQ says Charest has stolen its idea by promising parents two free fertility tests, courtesy of the Quebec government.

Opposition Leader Mario Dumont says he's happy to see help for people who have troubling conceiving a baby, but he castigated Charest for the sudden policy shift. He noted that the premier has spent a year torpedoing the suggestion.

"He's trying to be a progressive hero but for 12 months, he was trying to bury this," Dumont said in Joliette, north of Montreal. ``I hate personal attacks in an election campaign but I have to say that Jean Charest is shameless."

Charest announced the help as part of his health-care platform in the campaign for the Dec. 8 election, dovetailing it with his emphasis on the economy as the No. 1 issue for voters.

It's a tactic that plays to polls that have indicated the economy and health care are actually tied neck-and-neck in terms of priorities for Quebecers.

"When I say `the economy is first,' I also want to say `the economy and health, the economy and education' and `the economy for all Quebecers to live better'," Charest told a group of supporters.

Charest announced several financial incentives to keep nurses in the public sector and plans to boost the number of family doctors and encourage more medical students to choose family medicine as their specialty.

Quebec already offers a 50 per cent tax credit for families who need fertility treatments but Charest announced Monday that if his team is re-elected, the first two tests would be covered by the provincial health plan.

Parents who wish to keep trying in the event of failure would be covered by the tax credit for further treatments.

The Liberals estimated that 1,500 births annually would be generated by the plan, with costs estimated at about $35 million per year.

The plan is a reversal from a stand taken by Philippe Couillard when he was health minister last year. Couillard opposed covering the cost of treatments because he said infertility isn't an illness. Couillard isn't running in this election.

Beverly Hanck of the Infertility Awareness Association of Canada praised the Liberal plan and said it's a one-of-a-kind in Canada.

"It's wonderful," she said. "Quebec is the only province that is doing anything substantial for patients so they're really leading the parade in that."

Hanck, the executive director of the Montreal-based organization, said she has been working with other provinces on the issue, although money has always been a sticking point. Ontario and Alberta are also considering bringing in some kind of help.

Hanck praised the refundable Quebec tax credit, although she said she would like to see it raised even further.

"All of Canada has a total fertility rate of about 1.5 and you need 2.1 to be replacing your population," she said.

"I think politicians are very foolish not to be looking at this," said Hanck, although she praised the Quebec parties for their attentiveness to the issue.

Birth rate has long been an issue for Quebec, most famously in the pre-Quiet Revolution period when Quebecers were urged to have babies in a symbolic settling of scores for the conquest of 1760.

That so-called 'Revenge of the Cradles' had come to an end by the end of 1960s, as Quebec underwent an abrupt transformation from its religious, largely rural past where giant families were the norm.

Within a generation such traditions were replaced by a largely secular Quebec, increasingly urban, and with one of the lowest birth rates in the world.

But the latest trend has seen a small-scale baby boom, with an eight per cent jump in 2006, the biggest birth-rate hike since 1909. In 2005, there were 1,700 fertility treatments, costing between $10,000 and $20,000 per treatment.

Dumont didn't dwell on the fertility issue, however. His main focus on Monday was crime....

If you live in Ontario...

...(as I do) you may want to give the government your $.02 about your experiences with the province's infertility services and/or adoption system. I did the survey & it took me about 20 minutes to complete. Your mileage may vary, depending on how many comments you want to leave, of course! There is also an opportunity to be contacted for a followup interview by a researcher. (I'm still mulling over whether I'll do that.)

Earlier this year, the Ontario government formed an expert panel to advise the government on how to make infertility treatments and adoption easier and more affordable. (I wrote about the panel in a post shortly after it was formed this summer.)

Here's a news item I received through a list that I'm on:


Ontario¹s Expert Panel on Infertility and Adoption is gathering information from Ontarians who have an interest in, or experiences with infertility services and/or the adoption system.The panel is interested in hearing about your experience if you:

* have sought or used help with infertility and/or adoption in Ontario during the past 10 years OR
* are a provider of these services
* were adopted or donor conceived
* have opinions you want to offer.

A confidential survey can be completed on-line until December 15, 2008 at

Please Note: This survey is voluntary and anonymous and is being compiled byan external consultant using an external survey tool on behalf of the panel. Non-identifying results will be used to inform the work of the Expert Panel on Infertility and Adoption.

BACKGROUND: Ontario has appointed an expert panel on fertility treatment and adoption to help find solutions for people who are trying to start or expand a family.The panel will recommend ways to help make both fertility treatment andadoption more accessible and affordable.The 12-member panel will provide advice to the government on:

* Improving access to infertility treatment and making fertility monitoring available to women so they know if they are likely to have problems conceiving a child.

* Improving Ontario¹s adoption system so that more children can become part of families more quickly.

Panel members include adoptive parents, people who have had personal experience with infertility, and representatives from the medical and adoption communities. The panel is expected to report back to the Minister of Children and Youth Services with its recommendations within a year.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Ten years old

That's how old our Katie would be today, had she lived and been born on the original due date I was given. Ten. Years. Old. Double digits, as I hear my friends say about their kids turning 10. On her way to being a (gulp) teenager.

What kind of birthday party would she be having?

Would she be best friends with the little girl who lives next door?

Would she be doing well in school?

Would she be taking figure skating lessons? Or playing hockey? (Would she be a total washout at sports, like her mother?)

Would she be a Girl Guide?

Would she like to play video games with her two older boy cousins?

Would she love to read, like her Mommy & Daddy? Would she have already plowed through Mom & Grandma's collection of old Nancy Drew books (which have no doubt mildewed by now in Grandma's basement, waiting to be passed along to the next generation)?

Would she be driving Mommy nuts by dipping into her scrapbooking supplies?

Would she beg to be taken to the next Hannah Montana and Jonas Brothers concerts? (Mom never attended a concert until she was 15.)

Would she be pestering us to get a dog?

Would she have Mom's blue eyes and Dad's wonderful smile?

So many questions, never to be answered.

Tonight, dh & I are going to a memorial mass for his cousin's mother-in-law. After 10 years, I don't expect anybody there to realize the significance of this day for us. Why should this year, this day, be any different from the ones that have gone before? :(

But as the prayers for the dead are recited, dh & I will be thinking about our little girl.

Happy birthday, little Pooh Bear (well, you wouldn't be quite so little anymore... but you will always be our little girl). Mommy & Daddy love you.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Remembrance Day

Today is Remembrance Day in Canada and, since it's a bank holiday, I have the day off (although dh does not). I slept in & have been puttering around the house all day, doing a bit of this & a bit of that, not quite accomplishing much, or anything that I thought I would, but enjoying the day that is all too quickly flying by, nevertheless.

When I was growing up on the Prairies, in the late 1960s & 1970s, Remembrance Day was a solemn occasion. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, was closed (although I believe this is not the case any more). Stores could be fined for selling anything more than bread & milk. I believe we had the day off school, but with everything closed & the weather usually bad, there was nothing much to do except stay at home and maybe watch TV. Of course, we only had access to one television channel (the CBC) until I was 14, & most of the day would be devoted to Remembrance Day programming, including the broadcast of the ceremonies in Ottawa at 11 a.m., with endless war documentaries to follow in the afternoon.

The day before, we would have an assembly at school, with readings & sometimes skits. Then there would be the traditional two-minute silence, during which someone would inevitably burst into giggles, only to become the object of a withering glare from the nearest teacher.

As a teenager who played alto saxophone in the school band, I would often be obliged to attend and perform at the services at the local cenotaph, or war memorial. Every small town of any size in Canada has such a memorial, usually made of granite or marble, on which are inscribed the names of local soldiers who gave their lives in the First and Second World Wars -- and sadly, there are many. (I can never hear "Abide With Me" without flashing back to frozen fingers & lips on metal keys & mouthpieces.)

When I moved to southern Ontario, I was shocked to find out that all the stores were open (although banks and other federally regulated institutions were closed). I could go SHOPPING on Remembrance Day!! And I have done so -- although never quite without guilt. I've also spent the day baking cookies, scrapbooking and at the spa.

But whenever I'm at home on Remembrance Day -- as I am today -- I pause to watch the service from the National War Memorial in Ottawa on CBC, as I always do whenever I'm at home. I am not aware that the United States marks Remembrance Day in quite the same way as the Commonwealth countries do. One of my high school girlfriends' husbands served in Afghanistan (early in the conflict) as part of a UN mission, & noted that the poppy was not something the Americans he met on the base were familiar with. This Wikipedia piece describes the ceremony & the significance of the poppy quite well.

You really have to see it to appreciate it, however, & although it has been many years since I attended a cenotaph service, I would love to attend the one in Ottawa some day. (I have been to Ottawa, & the National War Memorial is truly awe-inspiring.) The sight of the old soldiers saluting and then, after the ceremony, marching down Wellington Street; the bagpiper's lament, the trumpeting of the Last Post, the reading of the Act of Remembrance and the children's choir singing "In Flanders Fields" (the only poem committed to memory in my school days that I can still recite by heart -- dh challenged me to do so this weekend, & was impressed!!) all move me to tears.

Although I am hearing laments that fewer people are wearing poppies these days, I still see lots of them around. Right around Halloween, old soldiers & others from the Royal Canadian Legion appear in the underground concourse linking the office towers of downtown Toronto, selling poppies for whatever donation you care to make, with proceeds going to various veterans' causes. Seeing them brings a lump to my throat & I always feel a wave of guilt, although I can never quite explain why. No politician or official would dare to appear in public, or on Canadian television in early November, without wearing a poppy on his or her lapel.

The only problem with the poppies is that they never stay put. Yesterday, venturing into the city, I made sure I had my poppy firmly fastened to the lapel of my jacket as the train pulled into Union Station. Ten minutes later, I noticed it was gone. Bought another one from one of the concourse vendors, went to a cafe for a latte & croissant, & as soon as I left the restaurant, it was gone too. (I gave up after that & am spending Remembrance Day guiltily poppyless.)

Remembrance Day has had a slightly different meaning for me these past 10 years. November 14th was Katie's original due date, and although the due date kept getting changed as the pregnancy progressed (and finally ended in August), the 14th has always been the date that stuck in my head. It's never held quite the same significance or pain for me that August 5th & 7th do, but it's still a landmark date. I always try to imagine the birthday parties that probably would have been held this weekend.

Remembrance Day 1998, though, was still pretty painful. The 14th was on a Saturday that year, but I remember being at home on Nov. 11th that year, treating it like my own personal day of Katie Remembrance. Going through all her things again, posting to the new friends I'd made on my e-mail list. I've never quite been able to bring myself to ask for the 14th off work -- coming as it does so soon after the 11th, & at our busiest time of year -- so the 11th to me is also a day of personal remembrance. I watched an interview with this year's Silver Cross Mother on TV this morning, and while our losses are so very different, I feel a bond of understanding at a deep level, of what it's like to live with grief.

They shall grow not old,
as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them,
nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Show & Tell Doubleheader: The Bathroom & Burton

If you're a regular reader of my blog, you'll know that dh & I renovated our bathroom this fall (mentioned in previous posts here and here). Having repaired the towel bar (which pulled out of the wall, having not been attached to a stud) & re-hung the photo (which still went with the new decor), I'm now ready to unveil the results!

First, some background. Our house was built in 1983-84, so was about 7 years old when we bought it in the spring of 1990. The original owners had done some work -- the acrylic panels that formed the tub surround were obviously not builder issue, & they had two kinds of wallpaper on the walls (floral print on top with a bluish green on the bottom), with a dark wood chair rail dividing the two sections.

The paper was not water resistant & was mildewing & peeling by the time Katie was stillborn in August 1998. As a "keep busy" project, my parents rewallpapered the bathroom while they were here. Again, we chose a small floral print (dark rose & sage green) on top, beige below with a coordinating large-printfloral border separating the two. I also had a ventilating fan installed while I was at home that fall.

The wallpaper held up fairly well, but the border had started to come loose in several areas & some of the seams were beginning to separate. The acrylic panels on the tub surrond, however, were yellowing. Then, in February, we noticed a leak on the living room ceiling below the tub. We recaulked the tub (thankfully, we have a second bathroom with a shower in the basement) and it held up for awhile, but started leaking again in August/September. We tried recaulking again (twice!) but the leaking continued. We decided it was time to take the plunge & renovate.

The question was, how? Dh, for all his virtues, is not especially "handy." His dad did our basement for us 10 years ago, but he will be 80 soon, so asking him was out of the question. We weighed the pros & cons and evenutally decided to ask dh's stepbrother (stepMIL's youngest son). He has a small business doing renovations & we'd seen his work, and although we knew there might be some hazards asking a family member to do the job for us, we knew he would do a good job for us at a reasonable price. (And he did!)

First, here are some "before" photos.

The old tub -- with most of the shampoo bottles, etc., removed (I had already taken down the shower curtain too -- it was sage green). You can see the mildewed caulking & soap scum on the yellowing acrylic panels.

Another look at the tub surround.

The old toilet (beige fixtures), toilet paper holder & wallpaper. We kept the picture on the wall (Il Bacio) -- I love it, & it went just as well with the new decor.

Here you can see the old 80s-style lighting fixture, mirror (which we kept), and medicine cabinet door.

This is the old vanity (we had actually replaced the chipped-up sink & stripped faucets less than two years ago, so we re-used the relatively new faucets. The doors on the vanity & medicine cabinet are the same as our kitchen cupboards downstairs. It wasn't a bad vanity/sink overall, but6 the doors on it kept falling off, which was starting to drive me nuts.

Now for the "after!"
Here is the new moulded acrylic tub.

Another view of the tub/shower head & tiles we used, including the "border" tiles in the middle. I forgot to ask stepBIL about including somewhere to hang the washcloths & put the soap, so we got a metal rack that hangs over the showerhead.

Here you can see the new (white) toilet, chrome towel rack & toilet paper holder, with the new blue towels & toilet seat cover (we also got matching bathmats). FIL did the floor tiles for us about 7 years ago. We still had a box full in the basement & stepBIL used them to fill in the floor around & below the new vanity. We also got a new grate for the heating vent. The window blinds are the same. We painted the walls Pink Beige by CIL, to complement the dark brown in the wall tiles.

A view of the new lighting fixture, medicine cabinet door (which we painted white -- although I'm thinking of painting it the same colour as the wall), & the marble countertop & sink of the vanity.

Here's the new vanity. It looks black here but it's actually a very dark brown cherrywood. We had trouble finding one we liked, & I thought it might be a tad too dark (& the marble a little too yellow), but it's not a bad fit. It is slightly smaller than the old vanity, though, which took a little reorganizing & paring down of my stuff!!

*** *** ***

I have a "double header" Show & Tell this week. Despite a busy week at work, I snuck away from the office for an hour at lunch on Wednesday for a noon hour concert at First Canadian Place, near where I work. Over the years, I've seen a variety of Canadian talent performing at "the Waterfall Stage," a makeshift stage erected outside the Gap by a small waterfall near the elevators.

Wednesday's concert, though, was special. I don't know if the names Burton Cummings or The Guess Who mean much to those of you in the U.S. Burton was the lead singer of the Guess Who in its glory years, and left the band in the mid-1970s for a successful solo career. They were the first Canadian band to make it big in the United States in the 1960s, paving the way for todays Nickelbacks & other success stories. Their best-known song is probably "American Woman," which is heard in "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me." A re-recording by Lenny Kravitz is heard over the closing credits of that movie.

Not only were the Guess Who Canadian, but -- special point of pride -- they were from Winnipeg, Manitoba -- the capital city of my home province. I wasn't quite old enough to remember the Guess Who in their heyday, but my mother tells me they played a teen dance at the city hall in her hometown when my sister & I were small, & even then, they were drawing big crowds. Thanks to Canadian content regulations, I heard lots of their music while I was growing up. Cummings has a beautiful, distinctive voice, one of the most instantly recognizable in rock & roll. He can rock, he can croon ballads, he is an accomplished piano player, and even plays the flute.

Cummings went solo in the mid-1970s & shortly after that -- some 30+ years ago now, yikes!! -- my sister and a few of her friends went to see him in concert for her birthday. I missed the concert, as I was at a student council conference that weekend, but heard all about it afterward (& saw him several times in concert myself in later years). Several of us were talking about it at band practice, & Miss M., our music teacher overheard us. She was a sharp, no-nonsense Brit. Classical music was her forte -- not rock & roll.
So we were shocked at what she said next. "Burton? Oh, I know him," she said, to much shrieking from us. Turns out she had taught him music in both elementary & high school, and she brought in her old yearbooks to prove it to us, pointing him out in the cast of the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta she had directed. She told us he was talented, but didn't apply himself (he wound up dropping out of high school), and she thought that a well-known local criminal lawyer who had attended the same high school actually had the better voice!!

Years later, I watched an episode of CBC's "Life & Times" series featuring Burton Cummings. Back at his old school, he paused outside the principal's office. "Many times Miss M. sent me here," he said ruefully, & I almost fell off the couch laughing. I could just see her doing it.

Wednesday's concert was to promote his new album -- his first solo album of new material in many years. It was just him and a keyboard, & he played for nearly an hour. The area around the stage was jam packed -- some people had been waiting for hours. I tried taking photos with my zoom lens, but they didn't turn out very well.

He played some new songs, as well as a few songs from his older albums & Guess Who days. His voice still soars, even though he is now 60 years old. And at the end, he did a theatrical little bow with a flourish.
After the concert, he was signing CDs at the nearby music store. I knew the lineup would be long, & I had already been gone an hour, so I regretfully passed & went back to work.
I wanted to ask him whether Miss M. had taught him to bow like that.

To see what others are Showing & Telling this week, hop on over here.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Canadian perspective on tonight's events

OK, I wasn't going to blog about the U.S. election today, but in the end I couldn't resist. : )

I am Canadian (actually, I am half American through my American mother, and eligible for dual citizenship, although I have never claimed it), and so don't have a say in what's going on. Which doesn 't mean I don't have opinions. ; )

Like many other Canadians, I've been envious these past few months. We just had an election ourselves a few weeks ago, but it was nowhere near as exciting. (On the bright side, it was also nowhere near as LONG, lol.)

As a feminist, the thought of the first woman president was absolutely thrilling. But then so too was the idea of the first black president -- the first president from my own generation.

Obama may not have experience on his side, but he is obviously gifted. As a sometime speechwriter, I am blown away by his ability to deliver on the podium, to create a vision with his words, to inspire, especially young people. Inspirational figures are far & few between these days, it seems, and inspirational politicians...?? The response to Obama shows just how hungry people are to be inspired, to be challenged -- not just in America, but all over the world.

Words arent' everything, of course, and should Obama win tonight, there is no way he will be able to live up to all the expectations heaped upon his slender shoulders. But words do matter, and he has used them well and wisely during this campaign.

I'm the same age as Barack Obama (just a few months older). I was barely a week old when John Kennedy was inaugurated, & in grade school when his brother Robert was assassinated. I've had a lifelong fascination with the Kennedy family (much to my diehard Republican mother's bemusement). I would read Robert Kennedy's speeches & the stories of his campaign, & wish I had been around to experience that kind of passionate politics.

But by the time I was old enough to be interested in politics, the idealism of the 1960s had given way to the cynicism of the '70s. (If it wasn't a moon launch wreaking havoc with my Saturday morning cartoon schedule during summers at my grandmother's, it was the Watergate hearings)(she got FIVE channels with her rotary antenna, compared to the measly ONE I grew up watching -- the CBC -- until I was 14 & we moved closer to the border, and then got cable).

The closest I ever came to a truly inspirational political figure, I think, was Pierre Trudeau, Canada's Liberal Prime Minister from 1968 to 1979 and then again from 1980 to 1984 -- a good chunk of my formative years. (My very first political memory, in fact, is of the 1968 election, and asking my mother how to spell Trudeau.) Trudeau was a charismatic but highly controversial figure in Canadian politics (still is), and he was hugely unpopular in the area of the country where I grew up. He lost the 1979 election (the first one I voted in), but the Conservatives who defeated his government only held a minority, and in the winter of 1980, we were plunged back into another election.

At that time, I was a first-year student at the University of Manitoba. I didn't especially like Trudeau (& in fact, was a member of the campus Progressive Conservative club), but when we heard that he would be making a stop on campus, my roommate & I decided we would go see him. How often do you get to see a prime minister up close and in the flesh?

He was speaking in the student union building around 12:30 that day. Around 10:30, my roommate returned from a morning class. "We have to go NOW if we want to be able to see him," she said. So we went, and people were already waiting. By the time he finally arrived, it was wall to wall people, with kids lining the stairwells and looking down from the second floor.

It was a classic Trudeau performance. He stood in front of a microphone on the stage and spoke to us -- no lectern, no notes, certainly no teleprompter, his thumbs hooked in his belt loops in what the press called his "gunslinger" pose. I don't remember what he said that day, but I do remember laughing & shaking my head at how deftly he handled the inevitable hecklers. I never did vote for him, but I came away with a new respect for the man.

Later in the year, the province of Quebec held a referendum on separating from the rest of Canada. The recent accusations that Obama is a Muslim, because of his middle name, Hussein -- & Colin Powell's response, "he's not -- but so what if he was?" -- reminded me of a famous incident during the referendum. In Trudeau's own words:
"I was told that no more than two days ago Mr. Lévesque [Rene Levesque, then the separatist Premier of Quebec] was saying that part of my name was Elliott and, since Elliott was an English name, it was perfectly understandable that I was for the NO side, because, really, you see, I was not as much of a Quebecer as those who are going to vote YES.

"That, my dear friends, is what contempt is. It means saying that there are different kinds of Quebecers. It means that saying that the Quebecers on the NO side are not as good Quebecers as the others and perhaps they have a drop or two of foreign blood, while the people on the YES side have pure blood in their veins. That is what contempt is and that is the kind of division which builds up within a people, and that is what we are saying NO to.

"Of course my name is Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Yes, Elliott was my mother's name. It was the name borne by the Elliotts who came to Canada more than two hundred years ago. It is the name of the Elliotts who, more than one hundred years ago, settled in Saint-Gabriel de Brandon, where you can still see their graves in the cemetery. That is what the Elliotts are.

"My name is a Québec name, but my name is a Canadian name also, and that's the story of my name."

That was a pivotal moment in the referendum, and a great one in Canadian speechmaking. The famous opening line of a famous book about Trudeau reads, "He haunts us still," & and I don't think there has been anyone quite like him since he exited Canadian politics almost 25 years ago. (Certainly not our current cold fish of a PM.)

Trudeau died in late September 2000, just as I was completing my first IUI. Dh & I had taken the week off to accommodate my appointments & do stuff around the house, & we wound up watching the extensive coverage of his funeral. The eulogy was given by his oldest son, Justin, now a newly elected member of Parliament himself, who proved to have the oratorical skills of his father (not to mention the theatrical skills of his mother... but that's another story...).

Anyway -- all day long, for some reason, I've had an old Tom Cochrane song running through head. I just knew the refrain & the melody, not all the lyrics, & I finally had to look them up. At first read, it was nothing like what I expected. But when I read them again, I could actually see some application to current events. I am hoping it truly is a "Victory Day" all round -- for the United States, for all of us. (And now, I'm off to watch the returns!):

She's got her reasons, she's got her pride
Though she's beaten black and blue
One fine day she'll be walking outside
She'll turn to see what is true
Won't draw no curtains, be hiding no way
On that Victory Day

She's stuck it out, she's hung in tough
She won't be running away
He says it will change, but each time it does
It starts up all over again

He wants the thunder, the crashing of waves
The guts, the glory of victory parades
She says it just never happens that way
On that Victory Day

Victory Day, Victory Day
There's no rockets flaring, there's no loud display
If you walk with me we'll get there someway
On that Victory Day

In the sun, walk by the water, in the sun
She says life isn't big, not it's kind of small
Made of small moments, they're all strung together
If you don't look out, you might miss them all
Then it's just passed you on by like the weather

He wants that thunder and crashing of waves
The guts, the glory of victory parades
She says I'll give you much more than you'll take
On that Victory Day

Victory Day, Victory Day
There's no rockets flaring, there's no loud display
If you walk with me we'll get there someway
On that Victory Day

And he's gotten so close and he won't let it fade
And the reasons still haunt you for the mistakes you made
She says let it go, 'cause it's time for a change
But he's still a little boy trapped between pages
Time to walk away from him
She said "I'll take you some place where I know it will change"

Victory Day, Victory Day
There's no rockets flaring, there's no loud display
If you walk with me we'll get there someway
On that Victory Day, on that Victory Day

Monday, November 3, 2008

November, again

My Halloween kicked off, at work, by reading C's heartbreaking post, marking one year since the stillbirth of her son, Callum.

Then I went downstairs to the food court to get a tea. And ran smack dab into the kids from the building's daycare centre, dressed up to the nines for Halloween, and being escorted by their caregivers (all wearing funny hats & headdresses) on a tour of the merchants in the concourse for trick-or-treating. With a gaggle of beaming, camera-toting mommies & daddies tagging along.
I've worked in this building for 20 years, and this is an annual event, so I'm not sure why I was so taken aback by the sight of them. It just had totally slipped my mind as something that I might encounter this morning.

I was also taken aback by my reaction. I was more than just teary-eyed, as I have been some years, at the sight of them (& the sound of their excited, childish voices). Great big tears rolled down my face & blurred my vision as I tried to get money from the cash machine, & I gasped as I tried to choke them back. I had to find a quiet corner (where hopefully nobody I knew could see me), wipe my eyes & try to compose myself before going back upstairs to my desk and my colleagues.

I went to the bathroom & there was a pink stain on the toilet paper. AF arrived, a trifle early for me, on day 29. Well, that explains it (at least in part).

Came home & handed out treats to the 101 tricksters who landed on my doorstep, including the little girl next door, who was our first visitor -- dressed as Sharpay from "High School Musical." (I HAVE heard of HSM, although the significance of Sharpay escapes me...!) She went out later with some of her friends. I kept wondering whether she & Katie would have gone out together. And thinking back to other Halloweens, as we've watched her grow up.

Her very first Halloween, when she was about six months old (and Katie would have been on the verge of turning one), her parents dressed her up like a flower & sat her in her swing in the hall by their front doorway to greet the trick or treaters. I remember laughing & crying at the same time when I went out on my front porch to light the candle in my jack o'lantern & saw her. She was adorable.

The next year, she came over for her very first trick or treating, dressed as a bunny. She was so little she could barely climb up the front steps. The next year, however, when she was 2.5, she was a little cowgirl. We were the first house she came to, & she wasn't quite sure what this was all about. I put the candy in her bag & she looked at it, & looked at me & said, with surprise and delight in her voice, "Oooohhh!!" lol About a half hour later I saw her tearing up a driveway down the street, with her mom running after her. I said to dh, "She caught on fast!" lol

Our nephews have always lived too far away to come to our house for trick or treating (and we were never invited to go there to be part of their fun -- I suppose their parents -- and we -- always thought we'd have kids of our own to take out for Halloween someday...), but cousin/neighbour's wife used to bring their two little girls over. I would have special baggies made up with Laura Secord chocolates in it for them (honouring the memory of kind older neighbour of my childhood, who used to spoil my sister and me, and a couple of the other neighbourhood kids, with big baggies filled with chocolate every year). Being 17 & 15 now, they are too old for trick or treating & haven't been over in years. (I remember the huge disappointment I felt the first year they didn't show up at my doorstep, & I was left, literally, holding the (candy) bags.)

Of course, some kids don't know when to quit, it seems. One of the last bunches of kids I shelled out for before closing up shop around 9 p.m. was a group of five great big hulking teenaged boys. After they left, dh said, "When your voice starts changing, I think it's time to stop trick or treating," lol. I added, "Yeah, & when you can't put down your damned cellphone long enough to say 'trick or treat' & hold your bag open...!!" That was a new one for me!!

*** *** ***
Halloween, of course, is closely linked to All Saints & All Souls Days, which Mrs. Spit wrote movingly about this week. And to the custom in some countries, particularly the Latino ones, of Dia de Muertos -- Day of the Dead. The company I work for has a sizeable presence in Mexico, and one of my Mexican-born colleagues circulated a PowerPoint presentation to on Halloween morning, explaining the customs surrounding Dia de Muertos.

Ten years ago, when Katie & my grandfather died, our church held a special service for All Saints Day on the Sunday afternoon closest to Nov. 1. Dh & I attended. Families were asked to call in advance if they wanted their loved one remembered in the service leaflet, & I had their names added. We lit candles for them and heard their names read aloud. It was tremendously moving and comforting.

Hearing the name of a dead loved one being spoken can be a powerful thing. Three years ago, in October 2005, dh's uncle passed away in Italy. As is their custom, his family arranged to have a mass said for him at the church one branch of his family regularly attended, close to where dh grew up. It was Nov. 1st -- All Saints Day. It was a rush for us to get home, have a quick dinner, change and drive back into the city in time for the 7:30 service, but we made it. The church only about a third full as we sat down near the front and began talking to other family members as they drifted in.

Several members of dh's family took part in the service, giving readings and leading prayers, and one of his cousins stood up at the beginning and said that, on behalf of [dh's two surviving aunts here in Canada], they wanted to dedicate this mass to the memory of their brother who had just died, as well as their parents and three other siblings who had passed away. Then she started reading their names -- including that of dh's mother -- the mother-in-law I never knew. I felt a lump rise in my throat & tears in my eyes. Dh took my hand & I squeezed it. He said he too was struck with a wave of emotion as the names were read aloud. And he silently added Katie's name to the list.

At the end of the service, we got up. To our amazement, the pews behind us were packed. Some of the people were no doubt faithful parishoners attending mass as a matter of course -- but most were relatives, cousins, friends, paisan from the old country -- and there are many who live here in the Toronto area -- who had heard & come to offer their support. I wondered how many people would have come to Katie's funeral, had we not opted for a private, immediate-family-only service.

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So now it's November... "the cruellest month," as I blogged last year. All the things I found depressing about November then still hold true now. With the time change, we've been plunge into darkness. It's dark when we get up and dark when we leave for work. It was still light when our train pulled out of Union Station shortly before 5 tonight, but almost dark by the time we arrived home around 5:30.

Some day, it will be light again. Until then, I guess I'll just muddle through as usual...!

Article: "The Bubble of Silence"

Childess-not-by-choice blogger/artist Tiffany Lee Brown (she prefers the interesting term "nymphe") has published an article in the Oregon Humanities magazine about the "bubble of silence" surrounding childlessness and the grief some of us feel about it. Have a read!

(Pamela Jeanne explored the same subject in a recent post in her blog, Coming 2 Terms.)