"To me, if a woman doesn’t have a child, she has only an abstract ability to pass judgment on issues where motherhood is concerned."
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Once again, I was reminded of Barbara Ehrenreich's book, Bright-Sided, which I recently blogged about. There's a chapter in the book about positive thinking and medicine. Ehrenreich first began thinking about this subject when she was diagnosed with breast cancer some years ago.
Sample passage from the article:
The American way is "never giving up, hoping for a miracle," said Dr. Porter Storey, a former hospice medical director who is executive vice president of the hospice group that Morrison heads.Sound familiar?
"We use sports metaphors and war metaphors all the time. We talk about never giving up and it's not over till the fat lady sings .... glorifying people who fought to their very last breath," when instead we should be helping them accept death as an inevitable part of life, he said.
Fertility clinics are great at offering us all the latest in infertility treatments & protocols -- moving us along the conveyor belt from clomid to IUIs to IVF to donor gametes to surrogacy -- offering us different drugs or different protocols when one option doesn't work. And most of us going through treatment are only too happy to grasp at whatever straws they can offer us next to hang onto.
However, clinics (and even support groups) aren't so great when it comes to helping us know when, perhaps, the time has come to say "enough" -- & supporting us through the transition from treatment to adoption or (especially) childfree living.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
"Once upon a time, the conveniences of modern life (processed foods, Lysol spray, disposable diapers, clothes dryers, polyester sheets) liberated women like my mother from their chains. But now, their granddaughters are clamoring to clap the shackles on again. Someone’s got to mash the organic applesauce, hang the diapers out to dry, and breastfeed the kid. No matter how enlightened the parental units, that someone will generally be Mom.
"It seems to me that if you had deliberately devised a plot to oppress women, it couldn’t get more diabolical than this. Highly educated, progressive and enlightened mothers don’t need men to oppress them. They’re perfectly capable of oppressing themselves!
"...it occurs to me that the high moral bar we’ve set for modern motherhood is a tremendous deterrent to motherhood itself. Any thoughtful woman would have to think twice, thrice, or three times thrice before committing to a task with such demanding standards. Can you blame them for deciding not to? If we want to raise the birth rate, perhaps we need to lower the bar."She has a point. You know, as much as I wanted children, I have to admit -- at times, I find myself relieved that I didn't. I know parenting is hard work, but yes, the bar these days does seem to be set incredibly high.
Friday, June 25, 2010
"Progressives celebrated Gillard’s selection, and her pro-choice stance, while conservatives deplored that she is Godless, husbandless and childless. Which is nothing new. Gillard, 48, has long been attacked by the Liberal opposition (in Australia, Liberals are the main right-wing party) for not starting a family. One Liberal senator said she was unfit for leadership because she is “deliberately barren.’’ A Liberal frontbencher claimed she couldn’t “understand the way parents think’’ because she has no children. Even her sexual orientation has been questioned, despite former romantic links to a union official as well as a fellow politician, and her current four-year relationship to hairstylist Tim Mathieson."
QUOTE: ''Women are not breeding machines, you know.'' —Gillard’s 81-year-old father, John, on the slights his daughter has endured for being single and childless in public life.
I was/am a Laura Ingalls Wilder/"Little House on the Prairie" fan. More so of the books than the TV series, I think, but let's just say I grew up on both.
I scooped up Melissa Gilbert's memoir, "Prairie Tale," when it came out last year (it's now available in paperback). I have a weakness for gossipy Hollywood biographies & Melissa's didn't disappoint -- lots of name dropping & juicy details on everything from her cocaine use to how she found her first husband having sex with a hooker on their sofa; how she got pregnant with Rob Lowe's baby, decided to have an abortion but had a miscarriage before going through with it; and the premature birth of her son Michael (named after Michael Landon).
Now Alison Arngrim, better known as every schoolgirl's nightmare Nellie Oleson, is telling her own version of the "Little House" story -- "Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated." And it's a doozy. Not so much her revelations about "Little House," perhaps, but the stories from her personal life. Perhaps even more so than Melissa Gilbert, Alison has a lot to confess, & does so with breathtaking openness & brutal honesty -- as well as humour & wit.
I had no idea that:
- her parents were both actors (AND they were Canadian!!);
- her father was gay;
- her mother was the voice of Gumby, Casper the Ghost & Sweet Polly Purebred in the "Underdog" cartoons (all staples of my childhood viewing);
- nevertheless, they were so broke at times that her father resorted to stealing tips off the tables at a restaurant in order to buy groceries so they could eat;
- her older brother Stefan was also a child actor, & was in "Land of the Giants," another fondly remembered series from my childhood;
- he also beat & raped Alison from the time she was 6 years old.
This has the makings of a horrific story -- and it is, in some respects. But it's also a fun read that frequently had me laughing out loud. I knew that Alison had become a standup comedian in the years after "Little House," and her sense of humour -- obviously well honed as a defense mechanism -- shines throughout the book. She gives full credit to Nellie for giving her a safe outlet for acting out all the pain, anger & frustration she felt during her bizarre childhood.
There's something else that Alison has struggled with. When I picked up the book, I read on the jacket that Alison "lives in Los Angeles with her husband." It suddenly occurred to me that I had never heard anything about her having children. I wondered it that would be mentioned in the book. There is exactly one sentence, toward the very end, that explains a lot (p.266):
"As if my mother's death wasn't depressing enough, after a couple of years of trying to have a baby with Bob to no avail, the doctors had officially informed me that the chances of my producing a child through the usual means were essentially slim to none."
But then she adds:
"Yet despite all these circumstances, I was strangely happy on my fortieth. Not exactly dance-in-the-streets happy, but I knew things could be worse, and I felt grateful for all I had."
Later, on page 294, she notes:
"I always manage to find ways to be happy, even when things are awful. It's more than just a "well, the show must go on" attitude. I just always see the humour in situations, no matter how dark. My husband says I'm the only person he knows who can figure out how to have fun doing absolutely anything... I am just ridiculously, stupidly happy. I am often cheerful to the point of being annoying as hell. I don't know if this is a sign of good mental health or recovery, or if it means I've finally snapped and just gone the rest of the way to completely batshit crazy."
One of the things that Alison believes contributes to her happiness is her volunteerism & activism -- first on behalf of AIDS patients (prompted by her friendship with actor Steve Tracy, who played her TV husband Percival & later died of AIDS) and then on behalf of victims of child abuse.
I think there's a lesson in there for those of us struggling to find purpose & meaning in a childless life. I wish she had given us more of her thoughts on infertility & childless living, but I suppose she & her editors felt the book already had enough drama & personal confession in it. In a way, she communicates a lot with just that one sentence, and in the way that she has lived her life, finding her own way to happiness, despite everything she has dealt with. Even if you weren't a huge "Little House" fan, I think you will enjoy this book. I did!
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
- Day 3 of G-20 week. Woke up this morning to hear that the bomb squad was searching a house in a very nice area of Toronto (!) & that it was "G-20 related."
- When we got to work, we heard there was a scare on the subway (which turned out to be nothing).
- More police & security officers, everywhere.
- About 1:45 p.m., I was sitting at my desk when I felt an odd sort of vibration/swaying sensation. My first thought was "explosion" -- but there wasn't really any sound. People started popping out of their cubicles saying, "Did you feel that?" A few minutes later, we learned it was an earthquake. We later learned it was at least 5.0 on the Richter scale, centred north of Ottawa. It's not the first earthquake I've been in since moving to southern Ontario 25+ years ago, but it's the first time I've been in one at work. Growing up on the Prairies sure doesn't prepare you for these things...!
- I heard from a friend in Ottawa that their offices were being evacuated but no such luck here. We did get an e-mail from security, assuring us that our data centres were unaffected. As Archie Bunker used to say, "Whoop-dee-doo." :p
- Went downstairs to get a tea, passed by two pregnant women en route, had one standing in line ahead of me & one in the line beside me. It just seemed par for the course...!
- On the train ride home, I got to listen to two idiots not only going through the crossword puzzle together -- loudly-- but the guy was actually SINGING some of the clues to his girlfriend. (!!)
- I get to work from home tomorrow & Friday; however, dh still has to go into the city. Protest activity is expected to escalate over the next few days. We didn't ask for this (whose bright idea was it...??), & I can't wait for it to be over. I haven't slept well all week.
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Since I shared an old photo of my mom, sister & I on Mother's Day, I thought I'd do the same for Father's Day. This photo was taken in the early/mid-1960s,when I was about 4. I'm on the right & my sister is on the left, holding our one & only puppy, Honey. (This is one of only two photos we have of her.) She proved too much of a handful (the dog -- not my sister -- although she has proved to be a handful in her own right over the years, lol) & we took her to my grandparents' farm on our next visit there -- where she was run over by a car some months later. :(
It was my first encounter with death. I remember my mother holding me as I cried & cried. She told me that Honey was in heaven. I asked if there would be lots of bones for Honey to eat there, & dogs for her to play with, and she assured me yes. That made me feel better.
*** *** ***
My dad was typical of many dads of my generation, I think. He worked hard, long hours, to provide for our family. (He still works -- albeit part-time now -- even though he's almost 71. I don't think he'd know what to do with himself otherwise.) But he was a fun dad too -- wrestling on the living room floor with me & my sister, building tents with us out of TV trays, blankets & sofa cushions, making popcorn for us on Sunday nights to eat while we watched Ed Sullivan, taking us to the general store in our PJs to buy us Revels (chocolate-covered ice cream bars). My mother was the disciplinarian, & her rants & threats were something we were used to. My dad seldom got angry with us -- but when he did, man, was that effective.
My dad had an emotional side that I only became aware of as I grew up. I had never witnessed him crying until his own mother passed away, when I was 14. It was (& still is) the worst thing in the world for me to witness. The day after my wedding, my new husband & I were preparing to leave my parents' house to return to the city, & from there head off on our honeymoon, & then to our new life in Toronto. Saying goodbye to my parents, my dad broke down in tears. It startled me. It hadn't really hit me until that moment that I was really leaving home for good.
When our daughter -- his first and only grandchild -- was stillborn, he couldn't even speak to me on the phone. My mother flew to be with us & was there when I delivered our Katie, & helped us plan the funeral. Dad arrived a few days later, as they had originally planned for their holidays. In the interim, he played in a golf tournament that he takes part in every year. Initially, I was a little peeved -- was a golf tournament more important than his granddaughter?? On second thought, though, I realized maybe that was the best thing for him to be doing at that point.
One of the hardest things about Katie's funeral was seeing my dad standing by her niche at the cemetery, his shoulders heaving, wiping his eyes.
We're not a family that says it out loud a lot. We tend to submerge our true feelings behind layers of sarcasm & wisecracks.
But I love you, Daddy. You're the best. : )
*** *** ***
The Toronto Star profiled four fathers-to-be in today's paper, talking about what kind of fathers they want to be, their hopes & plans for the future (trips already in the works to see grandparents and go to Hawaii in December, plans to celebrate both Jewish & Christian holidays, etc.). I guess it's the dead baby mama in me (still), but I couldn't help but wonder at the supreme confidence of both the fathers and the paper in running such a story.
I wish them all well and I hope all their plans come to fruition.
*** *** ***
I left today's agenda entirely up to dh. We saw his dad last night, & visited our Katie at the cemetery (he thought it would be too sad to go there today). We thought about going to see "Toy Story 3," but kiddie movie on Father's Day (not to mention opening weekend) sounded like a recipe for disaster, so we've decided to wait a few weeks for that. We went out briefly to our favourite megabookstore but have otherwise spent the day lazing around the house. (I've even let him have the computer for awhile, lol.)
I think we both need it. We're gearing up for what may be a difficult & stressful week, (absolutely no) thanks to the G-20 meeting a few blocks away from where we work. Potential havoc may be played with our commute, particularly as the week wears on. We've been advised to carry food & water with us -- but not to drink TOO much, since most of the washrooms on board the trains may be locked for security reasons. Wonderful. :p
Wish us luck...!!
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Susan J. Douglas has a real knack for using pointed examples from pop culture to illustrate her arguments -- which generally focus on feminist-related themes.
About 15 years ago, I stumbled onto her book Where the Girls Are, which analyzed how women have been portrayed in mass media. How could I resist a book that discussed all my childhood cultural icons -- including Mary Ann & Ginger ("Gilligan's Island"), Samantha Stevens ("Bewitched), I Dream of Jeannie and Ann Marie ("That Girl") -- as serious subjects of study, not to mention from a feminist angle?
So when I saw that she had a new book out, I scooped it up and read it while I was visiting my parents recently. "Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message That Feminism's Work is Done" once again uses examples from pop culture to make Douglas's point -- which is, as the jacket of the book describes:
"Revisiting cultural touchstones from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Survivor to Desperate Housewives, Douglas exposes the women in these shows as mere fantasies of female power, assuring women and girls that the battle for equality has been won, so there’s nothing wrong with resurrecting sexist stereotypes—all in good fun, of course. She shows that these portrayals not only distract us from the real-world challenges facing women today but also drive a wedge between baby-boom women and their “millennial” daughters."I grew up in the 1960s & 1970s, proud to call myself a feminist (then & now). I've found it disheartening that many younger women today tend to shy away from the "f" word and seem unaware of both how far we've come & how far we still have to go. Douglas makes a compelling (albeit sometimes convoluted) case for how the media has helped to bring this situation about.
Of course, I was particularly interested in Douglas's observations about the media's current fascination with pregnancy and babies,as well as its portrayal of childless women. On p. 245, she writes that "hypernatalism... has become thermonuclear." Later, on p. 259, in a chapter about the rise of celebrity culture, she says:
"Losing your man is a tragedy, but remaining childless is a thermonuclear disaster. It's as if the makers of Pampers, Gerber's, and Legos owned these magazines. Babies are always "a bundle of joy," only produce "baby bliss," bring "new meaning to life," and make the man love the mother "even more now than he did before." Babies always bring couples "closer together." Clearly, no projectile vomiting, sleep deprivation, thwarted adult conversations, or fights over whose turn it is to go to the playground in these households. If you have twins, you get "Twin Bliss!" "Twins are double the work but twice the fun," confides In Touch; here, Charlie Sheen, former party animal and client of Hollywood hooker Heidi Fleiss, announces, "The Twins Made Me a Better Man."
After a discussion of "the hypernatalism of celebrity journalism," and the "bump patrol," she observes:
"...pregnancy has now become compulsory for female stars: they must have a baby to fulfill what is allegedly every woman's dream to be a mother. If they don't have children yet, we are assured they desperately want to in the future. If they have one, when is the next one coming? If they have two, what about three? Julia Roberts was constantly hounded about having kids until her twins arrived. George Clooney, by contrast, is not hounded about when he will reproduce. Jennifer Aniston's breakup with Brad Pitt was blamed on her alleged refusal to have children, as was her breakup with Vince Vaughn. We are back to the 1950s -- you are not a real woman if you don't have kids."Douglas's argument tends to take some convoluted twists & turns at times and, as one reviewer I read said, I sometimes felt like I was being bombarded with one example after another. Nevetheless, it's an interesting theory and, as with her previous book, it's fun to get a new take on your favourite old shows.
Douglas has authored another book: The Mommy Myth. It has long been on my "to read" list. I have some more vacation time coming up shortly -- perhaps it's time to unearth this one from the depths of the pile...!
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
A few months ago, I blogged about seeing Barbara Ehrenreich on Jon Stewart's The Daily Show, promoting her new book, "Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America." I bought the book when it came out & finally got around to reading it while I was visiting my parents recently.
Ehrenreich illustrates her thesis through a series of examples, beginning with her own diagnosis of breast cancer some years ago. This is, perhaps, the part of the book that holds the most relevance -- and is of most interest -- for those of us who have dealt with infertility &/or pregnancy loss, or any kind of illness or medical condition.
She traces the history of positive thinking in American culture, and particularly its impact on American corporate culture -- moving through Dale Carnegie & Norman Vincent Peale to "The Secret" and the "prosperity gospel" preached by the likes of Joel Osteen and, finally, an examination of how an over-reliance on positive thinking may have contributed to the recent near-collapse of the global economy. There were people who recognized that their bank's subprime mortgage portfolios were crap and about to go down the toilet, but nobody wanted to spoil the party by speaking up -- and the few who did so either found their words falling on deaf ears ("lalalala....") or out of a job.
I have thought a lot about this book as I've read the headlines about the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Nobody seems to know how to fix the damned thing, because it appears that nobody gave serious consideration to the possibility that there might be negative consequences to their plans. Naysayers were drowned out by the chants of "drill, baby, drill." Ehrenreich isn't advocating that we all become Debbie Downers -- just that a healthy dose of skepticism and critical thinking might be in order.
As I mentioned above, some chapters were more interesting than others, & the book did drag a little in the middle. If you're not sure this book appeals to you, you might want to borrow it from the library or wait for the paperback before dropping $23 ($29.50 Canadian). Nevertheless, I found it to be a fascinating read, and an argument that made a lot of sense, for the most part.
Friday, June 11, 2010
I was sad to hear that Rue McClanahan passed away recently. I loved "The Golden Girls," & I also loved her long before that in "Maude" (also with Bea Arthur). Long before "Sex & the City," "The Golden Girls" formed a fab female foursome.
The older I get, the more I appreciate the example set by the show -- rarely seen, before or since on TV -- the message that older women can be funny and, yes, even sexy. And I love the idea of women banding together for reasons of both finance & friendship -- taking care of each other.
An inevitable fear of childless women, of course, is "What will happen to me when I grow old? Who will take care of me?" Statistics being what they are, most of us marry men who are older than we are, & women outlive men. While we hope that friends & relatives will look out for us, the fact is that (even if we do have children!), most of us will wind up living alone at some point in our lives.
One of the first Internet havens I discovered after making the wrenching decision to stop infertility treatments & live childless/free (almost nine years ago now) was a childless living message board (now defunct). Several of us moved over to a private board some years ago, where we remain in touch. I don't remember who had the original idea, but it became a standing joke (or maybe not so much of a joke?) that when we were old & grey and our husbands had gone, we would all buy a house together, hire a housekeeper (& maybe a hot young cabana boy, lol) & live together like "The Golden Girls." The gal who posted all the yummy posts about food was elected cook, the one who was renovating her house was the designated handyman/person & so on.
We voted on who among us would be Dorothy and who would take on the role of Blanche, etc. (I would love to be Dorothy -- I loved her snappy comebacks & caustic wit -- but I'm afraid there's too much Scandinavian/Minnesotan in me -- I suspect I'm thoroughly Rose, lol.)
It's not really a bad idea, though, is it?
It's actually a pretty interesting article -- by a young guy -- examining the reasons why people become parents. It's not often that you get people articulating just WHY they became parents (assuming they consciously chose parenthood & it didn't choose them).
Read the article, & tell me what you think!
Monday, June 7, 2010
And it was just as bad & cliched as you'd expect/fear. It starts with a baby's giggle & then a cloying female voice talking about the clinic... and how the nice people there "explained everything -- after that, it was a piece of cake."
"PIECE OF CAKE?!?!?!" I practically shouted at the radio (and, unfortunately, into poor dh's ear). Yep, that's exactly what she said.
Now, I can think of many descriptions for my infertility clinic experience -- but "piece of cake" is definitely NOT one of them. And I can't think of too many (if any) other IF-ers I know who would use that term either. Sheesh.
On the flip side of the coin -- there's a great article on Salon.com right now about an innovative infertility ad campaign -- which Julie at A Little Pregnant wrote about awhile back. (She's quoted in the article.)
Do yourself a favour -- don't read the comments (sigh...)... although you're actually forewarned in the article itself, lol. Sample quote:
Thank you, Emily, for posting about this article on Facebook!
"The assumption persists that every (married) woman will have a child, even those who aren't interested. So you can imagine how that might feel for those who are. But, then, articles about infertility online, for one, often elicit ungenerous commentary that basically boils down to "boo-fucking-hoo." Our nation's collective pop-culture "bump watch" being on permanent orange alert (what Rebecca Traister called "pregnancy porn") doesn't help, either.
"Speaking of culture, it's not overflowing with positive, nuanced or compassionate images of women struggling to conceive or seeking fertility treatment. (One word: "octo-mom.") Also, if you totally forgot that there was a dramedy about a fertility clinic on NBC called "Inconceivable," good."
Sunday, June 6, 2010
So I'm behind (again) on blog reading & (most definitely) writing -- although I have a long list of potential subjects -- some of them rapidly becoming out of date. They include:
- the wedding;
- the books I read on my vacation (which included Enlightened Sexism by Susan Douglas and Bright-Sided by Barbara Ehrenreich);
- celebrity pregnancies (Celine Dion & Kelly Preston);
- maternal health & our Prime Minister's attempts to make it an issue at the upcoming G8 conference
- various memorable newspaper articles & posts by other bloggers that recently caught my eye;
- genealogy and childlessness;
- Elena Kagan, the Supreme Court & childlessness;
- "The Golden Girls";
- a recent incident in my neighbourhood & what it reminded me about being childless here;
- stuff going on at work.
More to come, soon. I promise!