Monday, May 31, 2021
Sunday, May 30, 2021
"Still Glides the Stream" covers familiar territory for a DES novel, both geographically and thematically. After 12 years of military service, during WWII and afterwards, Will Hastie returns to his father's estate in Scotland to take up farming. His best friend from boyhood, Rae, died during the war, and Rae's younger sister Patty is engaged to her cousin Hugo, who is also (conveniently) the new heir to her father's estate since Rae's death. Before he died, Rae sent Patty a final letter, hinting at a big secret he hopes to share with the family on his next leave home. When Patty shares the letter with Will, he decides to head to France for a holiday to investigate. What he learns there will change everyone's lives...
Like Stevenson's other books, this is a warm, gentle little story of a bygone era -- sometimes almost too much so, perhaps? One Goodreads reviewer points out the novel's "Anglo-chauvinism." For example, the people Will meets in France are almost uniformly disagreeable, to the point of caricature. And Julie's sacrifice might seem somewhat horrifying to modern readers, but there was likely no doubt in the minds of readers of the day that it was the proper thing for her to do.
Still, despite its flaws, it's a sweet, rather wistful story of post-war grief and loss, with the well-drawn characters and lovely descriptions that were Stevenson's hallmark.
3.5 stars on Goodreads, rounded up to 4.
I've volunteered to organize our group's discussion of this book (after we've finished reading and discussing "Summerhills" together, later this summer)... I suppose I didn't have to read it first to get volunteers and a discussion schedule organized, but I usually read do the book through once myself in advance of our chapter-by-chapter discussions. I'm glad I did it now, and I'll count it again as a re-read once we're finished our discussions, later this summer.
Saturday, May 29, 2021
- Crazy weather this week: Tuesday, we reached 30C and a humidex reading of 35C (that's 86F and 95F). The air conditioner was running non-stop. Yesterday, we woke up to 3C/37F, and rain mixed with... SNOW?!! On May 28th!! Gotta love springtime in Canada, lol...
- Gateway Women's Jody Day said she wanted to make 2021 her "Year of the Podcast" -- and she's getting her wish, lol. She's been spreading the word about childlessness on one podcast after another recently, including three this month (so far!) -- and most of them outside the childless community, too:
- On "A Certain Age" with Katie Fogarty, Jody talked about being childless at midlife and how to be a better friend and ally to the childless women in your life.
- On How to Be Sad with Helen Russell, Jody touches on various aspects of childless-related grief (and talks about some things she's never publicly discussed before).
- On the Virgin.Beauty.B!tch podcast, Jody takes a deep dive into some of the societal and structural issues around life without children that rarely get discussed -- including how pronatalism and consumerism have fetishized and commodified motherhood, and how this oppresses all women, whether they are mothers or not. (And how it all started with Demi Moore...!) Says Jody: "This interview goes places other interviews I've done have not." It's fascinating!
- I haven't actually listened to all of these yet, but podcast transcripts are available to read on the Gateway Women website, under "News."
- In her TEDx talk a while back, Jody called childless people "the biggest workplace diversity issue that HR has never heard of." That's starting to change! Gateway Women operations director Karin Enfield and GW members Shar and Cecilia recently took part in an online conversation about childless women in the workplace. It was hosted by Julia Fomoniva, the founder of an organization called Human Rocks, who is advocating for more support for childless employees in HR policies. They were also joined by Dr. Galina Boiarintseva, Assistant Professor of Management at Niagara University in Ontario, who does academic research into diversity & inclusion policies for childless employees. This is an important issue that is FINALLY beginning to get some attention as a valid concern alongside other diversity and inclusion issues. Watch this groundbreaking conversation on YouTube here.
- I've created a new tag/label for posts on this blog that mention interesting podcasts.
Thursday, May 27, 2021
Tuesday, May 25, 2021
We're just wrapping up our discussion of "Chronicles." (My initial review of the book from my first read-through is here.) I'll admit I didn't re-read every single story in the book ;) but I have still been following along with the discussions and occasionally throwing in my two cents. My initial review cautioned that "many of these stories are definitely of their time, and contain themes/elements that those of us who have been through infertility or childlessness might find uncomfortable or even offensive." I was relieved to find, during our discussions, that others shared my concerns about some of the more more dated elements of the book that haven't aged very well (ALI-related and otherwise). At the same time, our discussions also deepened my understanding and appreciation of other elements of the stories.
But, not enough for me to change my initial Goodreads rating, of 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3. :)
Our next LMM book will be announced shortly. If you're an LMM fan, you are welcome to join us, at the link above! :)
This was Book #30 read to date in 2021 (and Book #7 finished in May), bringing me to 83% of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 16 books ahead of schedule. :) You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2021 tagged as "2021 books."
Monday, May 24, 2021
Pronatalism applies to guys too! We were watching the local suppertime TV newscast on Saturday night, prior to game #2 of the Toronto Maple Leafs versus Montreal Canadians (playoffs series) -- always a big story hereabouts, of course...! Earlier this week in Game #1, the Leafs young captain, John Tavares, was injured (concussion), and they expect he'll be out for at least two weeks while recovering. There was a clip of the team's GM being interviewed, and my ears pricked up at one of his comments. I found a transcript of his remarks later, and here's one of the things he said [emphasis mine]:
The head injury and the concussion is difficult to place a timeline on for when someone is going to return. We handle those in a very conservative nature and handle them very sensitively. We will follow the protocols to a T with that. We can’t replace that element with John and can’t repair it. We have to be very careful and keep in mind that he has a young family and there is an onus on us to protect him and his future in that regard.
I yelled at the TV, "What if he DIDN'T have a young family? You'd just send him back out there, because his life and future is less valuable then??"
(Dh just rolled his eyes at me, lol. Sorry -- once your eyes are opened to this kind of stuff, you see it EVERYWHERE!)
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here.
Friday, May 21, 2021
- We spent part of one morning this past week with SIL & Little Great-Nephew -- maskless, but mostly outside. LGN (who turned 18 months old earlier this week) played in his paddling pool on the deck & displayed his artistic skills by drawing all over the deck boards with chalk (lol), and we took him (and the dog) out for a walk. SIL can't handle both dog & toddler at the same time on a walk, so the dog often gets left at home these days. SIL put on his collar and leash, and I took it as we headed outside. He was clearly happy to be out, and I'm not sure who got the better workout, him or me, lol. When we first headed out, he'd stop to sniff at every tree & fire hydrant (lol) -- but when we turned around to go back home again, he took off like a shot (leaving dh, SIL & LGN in the dust) and probably would have run all the way back, if I'd let him!
- LGN held dh's hand for the entire walk, and asked to be picked up three times, which MADE DH's DAY. LGN seems to be losing some of his shyness around us, now that he's seen us a little more often lately without our masks. :)
- COVID-19 update: The provincial government announced a new plan to reopen the province in stages over the next three (summer) months -- but only if certain targets/metrics are met within certain time frames, including vaccination rates. (Hey, after a full year plus, I think they're finally getting it...!!) The current stay-at-home order remains in effect until (at least) June 2nd, but some outdoor activities will reopen this weekend (our Victoria Day May long weekend). Outdoor dining, some non-essential retail, etc., is expected to open back up around June 14th. No haircuts expected until mid-July though. (Sigh.)
- Our new daily case numbers have been dropping, and even went below the 2,000 mark a couple of times this week, which is good news. (1,890 today.)
- My home province of Manitoba, however, is not doing so well. :( There were 603 new cases there yesterday, fuelled by the new, more contagious variants (mostly in the city, but still...). That would be equivalent of 6,452 new cases here in Ontario. For reference, our highest-ever one-day new case rate was 4,812 on April 16th. Yikes!! :(
- The good news is the percentage of Canadians who have received their first vaccinations continues to climb -- and was scheduled to surpass the percentage of Americans with first doses this week. (The U.S. is still further ahead of us on second shots.) Who would have thought this back in early March??
- Sarah at Infertility Honesty has some brilliant observations (as usual) in a post titled "Parenthood and Grandparenthood in the Pandemic: Reflections on what’s missing from a year of headlines." Definitely worth a read!
- I am generally a big fan of Dr. Jen Gunter -- and not just because she's from my home province of Manitoba, lol. I loved her book "The Vagina Bible" (reviewed here) and I've been eagerly awaiting publication of her new book "The Menopause Manifesto." The subtitle is "Own Your Health with Facts and Feminism" -- what's not to like, right? ;) However -- a childless friend flagged an excerpt from that book published in The Globe & Mail this past weekend that she found troubling (bold-faced emphasis mine):
When most people think of evolution and survival of the fittest, they only consider the individual and their offspring. This can’t apply to menopause, as menopausal women don’t reproduce, so they’re no longer passing their genetics directly to the next generation. But after menopause, women can still protect their genetic legacy by contributing to the survival of their grandchildren.The evolutionary advantage of menopause is grandmothers. It’s known as the grandmother hypothesis, and there is plenty of science to back it up...
After delivery there is the toll of raising a child until it can care for itself... Who can help with these resource-heavy tasks? A grandmother. But she can only be gathering food and water, sourcing shelter and providing child care if she isn’t burdened with those tasks herself. The most helpful grandmother hasn’t recently finished with her reproduction; she’s enough years from childbearing that she can leave her own offspring unattended.
Ovarian function slows in the mid- to late-40s and then has a hard stop around 50, but not because women are weak or that the ovaries fail. Rather, this slowing and stopping of fertility while there are still many productive years left is a planned biological event that allowed ancestral grandmothers to contribute to their family unit and improve survival.
You can probably guess why my friend (& I) took issue with this passage. What about those of us who are not & never will be grandmothers? Women without children (let alone grandchildren) are not included in this interpretation of menopause at all.(Or any other discussions of menopause that we've encountered, for that matter.) I realize this is just an excerpt -- but will there be any content in this book that acknowledges us and our specific circumstances and concerns as we enter menopause? (Yes, even if we don't have grandchildren, we can still "contribute to the survival" of the next generation... but there's a bit of a quid pro quo that's not mentioned here, i.e., the assumption that families will, in turn, care for grandmothers later in their lives. Will that same level of care be extended to us, if we're not leaving a "genetic legacy" behind? -- sadly, I think we know the answer to that one...).
- **SPOILERS AHEAD!!** I'm still watching "The Handmaid's Tale," -- although the question of "how many times will June ALMOST escape Gilead?" was starting to wear a little thin. And then, this past week, at the very end of episode 6 -- she did!! It was a highly improbably scenario, but she finally set foot on Canadian soil & reunited with Luke. I had to bring out the kleenex twice: in the flashback scene where she told Luke she was pregnant, and then when she finally faced Luke again. So I could relate to these lines in the Vulture review of the episode. And then I realized I could relate in more ways than one... (boldfaced emphasis mine):
...she’ll have to explain to Luke why she failed at that which we expect of all mothers: to put her child first, to die for her child, to take on superhuman capabilities.The flashbacks with Moira were sweet touches, reminders of their fierce love and complicated friendship. But it was the scene in which June tells Luke she’s pregnant that hit me like a brick. Her rush to tell him the news, even at the expense of her “plan,” just rang true. And it restored June as a wounded being, not an unstoppable force able to take on anything to keep her child alive and well in her arms. The Indestructible Mother is a dangerous trope that insists women can and should absorb any blow for their babies. Giving birth or adopting or sheltering a child doesn’t bestow some cloak of immortality on parents. June smashed through every barrier for far too long — it’s far more gripping when she finally comes up against one she can’t surmount. And at its heart, this is what The Handmaid’s Tale can be: the story of a mother’s imperfect but buoyant love.So when Luke bangs through that door and sees his wife for the first time in years, it makes sense that her first words are an apology. “I’m sorry I don’t have her … I’m sorry it’s just me.”
I know it's a stretch, but I could relate to this passage as a childless woman. After all, doesn't "that which we expect of all mothers" seem to include what we're expected to do to have a child in the first place, if we "really" want one? Isn't it expected that (if we REALLY wanted a child), we'd do "whatever it takes" to get one -- multiple rounds of IVF, donor gametes, surrogates, adoption; endure multiple miscarriages and other pregnancy losses, take on staggering amounts of debt, put our physical and mental health at risk? Doesn't "the dangerous trope that insists that women can and should absorb any blow for their babies" -- include the babies that only exist in our dreams? Or the ones that did exist in our wombs, but we weren't able to save, even with the help of the best medical support available?
Until "she finally comes up against one she can’t surmount." And she has to leave her baby behind. And face the world on her own, without the child she's wanted and expected to have all her life.
Sometimes, there are some things that just can't be fixed... some endings that will not be happy/of the fairytale variety. (And yes, that sucks.)
"I'm sorry... it's just me."
Tuesday, May 18, 2021
"Mrs. Wilson" is based on a true story. Actress Ruth Wilson plays the title role of her own grandmother, Alison, whose grief over the death of her husband, Alec, in 1963 becomes complicated when another woman claiming to be his wife shows up on her doorstep (!). And that's only the beginning of the web of lies and deception that she begins to unravel in trying to learn the truth about who her husband really was. The two met in London during the Second World War, when Alison was his secretary at the Foreign Office. Was he (still) an intelligence officer/MI6 agent of the British government? Was he a liar and con man? Or perhaps a bit of both? (The Wilson family is still trying to learn the truth: the British government refuses to release its files pertaining to Alec Wilson.)
Incredibly, Alison kept what she knew (and what she suspected) about her husband from her two sons until she handed them the manuscript of a memoir, years after his death. The TV series was based on this memoir, published in 2019 as "Before & After: The Incredible Story of the Real-life Mrs. Wilson." After watching the TV version, I found the book for a very reasonable price and bought it for my e-reader. (I also found a 662-page (!) biography of Alexander Wilson by Tim Crook on Amazon, but decided to pass on that one.) The book includes a foreword by Alison's younger son, Nigel (the father of actress Ruth), and an afterword by Ruth herself, outlining what more the family has learned about her grandfather since Alison's death, how her story was brought to the screen, and where fiction departed from fact. It's not very long, and I read the entire thing in less than 24 hours.
You might expect "Before & After" to refer to Alison's life before and after Alec Wilson's death -- and it does -- but it is also about her life before and after her conversion to the Roman Catholic church -- a testimony of her spiritual awakening and her personal relationship with God. In 1967, she joined a secular religious community and took vows there; later, she became the first laywoman in England to study Catholic theology at a Jesuit college that had only recently opened to women students. After five years of study, she embarked on a new career, teaching Christian mysticism.
I generally prefer to read the book before seeing the film version. In this case, I'm actually rather glad that I saw the TV show first. It's a complex story, with many pieces still unclear or missing, and some of the details have obviously been embellished or smoothed over for the sake of better storytelling (some of the details revealed in the TV series actually did not come to light until after Alison Wilson's death) -- but overall, it was riveting viewing.
The book, while somewhat interesting and providing details not covered in the TV drama (while clarifying others), is less riveting. Alison's spiritual/faith journey, while touching and sincerely and earnestly told was, frankly, not quite as interesting to me, and I will admit that I found myself skimming over long passages of the "After" section.
2.5-3 stars (recorded as 3) on Goodreads. (TV series: 4 stars.)
This was Book #29 read to date in 2021 (and Book #6 finished in May), bringing me to 81% of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 16 books ahead of schedule. :) You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2021 tagged as "2021 books."
Monday, May 17, 2021
As one of the back-cover blurbs describes it, it's kind of like a cross between Agatha Christie's Miss Marple and "The Crown," ;) with Her Majesty in the role of detective. :)
In the spring of 2016, Queen Elizabeth II is at Windsor Castle, getting ready to celebrate her 90th birthday, when an overnight guest is found dead in his room. Initially it's thought to be an accidental suicide (with some kinky overtones); it quickly becomes a murder investigation. Of course, MI5 and Scotland Yard have got nothing on ERII, who enlists the help of her young assistant private secretary, Rozie, to make discreet enquiries on her behalf.
Poignantly, Prince Philip makes several appearances throughout the book (as do the corgis! and plenty of horses).
As with another recent mystery I read, "The Thursday Murder Club" (reviewed here), I sped through this book with a growing sense of exhilaration. (Just go with the flow and enjoy it.) (I would love to know if Her Majesty has read it too, lol.) It sounds like this is the first book in a planned series. I'm already looking forward to more!
4 stars on Goodreads.
This was Book #28 read to date in 2021 (and Book #5 finished in May), bringing me to 78% of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 15 books ahead of schedule. :) You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2021 tagged as "2021 books."
- Temperatures in the mid-20sC (low 70sF) -- finally!!
- Having the balcony door wide open all day, letting in fresh air and breezes.
- Seeing the explosion of green outside -- trees almost fully leafed out, after months of stark, bare branches.
- Going without socks inside for the first time in months.
- Bringing out my capris and sandals. :)
- Trying on the capris -- they still fit!! (More or less -- cough!!) ;)
- Looking forward to freshly washed windows later this week. :) (The condo board hires window washers every year around this time... I'll still have to do the insides, and the balcony door/window, but I don't mind.)
- Knowing that Older Nephew gets his first vaccine today, with his wife, Younger Nephew & his wife all getting theirs over the next week or so.
- The prospect of a brief visit with Little Great-Nephew and his grandma later this week.
- Being absorbed in a great new book. :) (Which I will, of course, review here when I'm done.) ;)
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here.
Saturday, May 15, 2021
My D.E. Stevenson fan group just finished our chapter-by-chapter reading and discussion of "Katherine's Marriage" -- a sequel to "Katherine Wentworth," which we read together last summer (reviewed here and here). As is my usual practice, I read the novel through on my own before we began our discussion (and reviewed it here).
Our group discussions usually add to my appreciation/understanding of the book -- and that was certainly the case here -- but not enough to raise my previous Goodreads rating of 3 stars. ;) (Perhaps 3.5?) Generally, I thought "Katherine Wentworth" was a better book, and I rated that one 3.5, rounded up to 4.
Our group's next DES novel will be "Summerhills," a sequel to "Amberwell," which we read together last summer (reviews here and here). I very much enjoyed "Amberwell,"and I'm looking forward to reading more about the Ayrton family and what happened to them after the war!
This was Book #27 read to date in 2021 (and Book #4 finished in May), bringing me to 75% of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 14 books ahead of schedule. :) You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2021 tagged as "2021 books."
Friday, May 14, 2021
Thursday, May 13, 2021
- COVID-19 updates:
- My province (Ontario) has halted first-dose use of the AstraZeneca vaccine (which is, of course, the vaccine both dh & I got -- after being urged to take the first vaccine available to us), because of the clotting issue. Also cited: the fact that only a limited number of new AZ doses are scheduled to arrive soon, versus a ton of Pfizer on its way. Any AZ leftover/received will likely be used for second doses. (Ontario is not alone: there are now 7 Canadian provinces that have suspended use of AZ.)
- Now there is some question as to whether we'll be getting AZ for our second shots in mid/late July, or one of the MRNA vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna). (There won't be enough AZ for all of us who had first shots with it to get second shots within the current Canadian standard 16 week/four month time frame.) There's a study coming out of the UK soon on mixing vaccines that's supposed to help the authorities decide what to do.
- I have no fears of a second AZ dose (the risk factor is supposedly much less with the second dose than the first, for whatever reason), and if they tell me that mixing is safe, I'll be happy to get a Pfizer or Moderna shot -- I am thankful for whatever I can get to become fully vaccinated. But quite frankly, I can't help but feel like a bit of a lab rat. :p
- After reaching a pandemic high of 4,800+ new cases in a single day in mid-April, both our daily new case levels and the 7-day rolling average have dropped below 3,000 (on a couple of days recently, new daily cases have been in the low 2,000s). Those are still pretty high numbers, though, and hospital ICUs are still at capacity.
- The stay-at-home order that went into effect in early/mid-April was due to expire next week, on May 20th -- just before our Victoria Day long weekend -- and rumours that it would be extended another two weeks, to June 2nd, were confirmed this morning. Which of course will not please the anti-lockdown crowd, but the evidence is clear that long weekends/holidays have fuelled big spikes in case numbers and contributed to the second and third waves we've experienced. I'm happy to keep things locked down until the numbers get a whole lot lower.
- Jody Day was the guest on the podcast "A Certain Age" -- on the day after Mother's Day, no less! Links to the podcast and a transcript here!
- Journalist Jill Filipovic (who is childfree) recently mused on Twitter:
I would really love to read more essays and op/eds from women (and men, too) who regret having children as early as they did, regret having as many as they did, or regret having children at all. There's not much about motherhood that remains publicly unexplored, but that does.
In her Substack newsletter, Filipovic admits "Perhaps I am naive, but I was surprised by the level of vitriol and blowback." (I wasn't.) Her entire essay on the subject of maternal regret, the decision whether to have children (or not -- and if so, when) and why these subjects are so taboo, titled "The Things We Don't Discuss," is worth a read.
- A couple more MDay-related articles/essays worth reading:
- Another brilliant piece by Yael Wolfe, Asking Some Hard Questions About Mother’s Day. Sample passage:
Try to tell someone you don’t like Mother’s Day and the response that elicits can be pretty harsh — especially for those who feel sad on and around Mother’s Day because they weren’t able to become mothers as they had hoped. That’s almost guaranteed to inspire a harsh response that lacks any sense of compassion.If you don’t like Mother’s Day because your mother has passed on or because you lost a child, you’re likely to get a little more sympathy, but there’s still not an open invitation to share freely.
(And this:)Does another woman’s pain about Mother’s Day actually take away anyone’s joy or ability to celebrate in a way that suits them? Can there not exist the nuance that a woman can feel grief around Mother’s Day and still support and encourage mothers?And do we really need to be so miserly about how we celebrate this holiday? Is it really necessary to insist that women who struggle with this day just sit down, smile, and shut up?
- Rebecca Solnit had a similar essay in the Guardian, expressing her "conflicted feelings" about Mother's Day. "The holiday feels coercive, as though it tells us what to feel and what our experience was, and it leaves out those who don’t fit its template." Yes to all that!
Tuesday, May 11, 2021
A friend from one of the childless forums I'm on was recently preparing to speak to a group of women who are trying to decide whether to walk away from infertility treatment. She asked us: what advice/suggestions/words of wisdom could we offer from our own experiences?
I've probably shared some if not all of these tips/observations in previous posts over the years I've written here, but I'm not sure I've ever put them all together in one post before. It's a huge subject, and everyone's experience/advice will be different, of course, but this is what I told her was helpful for me:
- Take a realistic look at your situation. What has the cost of this journey been so far to your mental, physical, emotional and financial health? Can you continue without doing further damage to your health, your finances, your relationships? Could you handle another loss/failed cycle? -- are you prepared for that outcome? Realistically, what do you think your odds of success are?
- If you're not sure you're ready to stop yet, try taking a break for a while and then revisiting the subject once the dust has settled a little. While you're on break, try to reconnect with your partner and some of the things you used to enjoy before infertility took over your lives. We had pretty much decided to throw in the towel by the time our third medicated IUI failed (in June 2001), but then we headed off on a family vacation on the Oregon coast. Having some time to rest, relax and distance ourselves from treatment helped me know for sure that I couldn't do this any more... I was done.
- Perhaps discuss your options with a counsellor/therapist. (One who is familiar with infertility/childlessness/loss & grief issues can be especially helpful.) We did this as we were heading into treatment and then again as we were heading out, and I am so glad we did. She did not try to talk us into continuing treatment, or push adoption as an alternative. She treated childless living as a valid option, and asked what we thought a family of two would look like for us.
- Think about what a life without children would look like -- the positive things you could do with your time, money and energy, as well as the things you'll be missing out on (which we tend to dwell on). My dh & I knew a good life without kids was possible, because we'd been having one already, before ttc took over our lives. :) We looked forward to doing more of the things we already enjoyed doing together: dinners out, going to the movies & theatre, travel, spending time with extended family. We immediately knew that if we weren't going to have kids, we were going to try to pay off our mortgage as quickly as possible and retire early. (We both wound up losing our jobs before we had the chance to retire on our own terms, but with no mortgage and no children to support, and having saved some money in the years since we stopped treatment -- and having rolled with a few punches in the past, i.e., infertility & pregnancy loss! -- we were much better prepared to cope than some of our colleagues who still had families and mortgages to support.)
- The counsellor also told us "I know this is going to sound completely crazy, after everything you've been doing to try to have a family, but consider going on birth control. It's the only thing that will remove that nagging little voice in the back of your head that says 'maybe this will be the month!' " I'll admit we did not follow that piece of advice -- but I know some women who have, and I do see the wisdom in it.
- Find other childless women who can support you in this transition. There are SO many more resources, online & in "real life" now than there were 20 years ago when I was facing this decision -- blogs, forums, social media, podcasts, books (and you'll find some suggestions on the pages and in the sidebars of this blog). I actually started lurking on a few childless living forums/message boards, long before we made our final decision. Knowing there were other women out there struggling with the same situations and issues made a huge difference for me!
- Finally, remember: this takes time. You're not going to flip a switch and everything will immediately be sunshine & roses. Rome was not built in a day, etc. etc. You've spent an entire lifetime thinking you were going to be a mother someday -- you're not going to reverse a lifetime of hopes, plans and expectations overnight. But over time, it DOES get easier. It might not be the life you planned or expected, but there IS a good life to be had without children! ❤
*** *** ***
Monday, May 10, 2021
- Seeing Little Great-Nephew (soon to be 18 months old) this past weekend (stay-at-home order notwithstanding...) for the first time in over a month, and basking in all the cuteness. :) (It was just BIL & SIL at home with him, the front screen door and balcony doors were both open for air circulation, all the adults have had our first vaccines, and BIL is the only one of us still out working, so we took a calculated risk.)
- Bonus: Seeing the dog too. :)
- Bonus: Getting out of the house!! after spending most of the past month in the house. :p
- Finishing yet another book (reviewed here) and watching my Goodreads Reading Challenge total grow closer to my goal. :)
- Easy crockpot chicken & dumplings (comfort food!) for yesterday's dinner.
- WAY too many grey, dreary, cloudy (sometimes rainy) days lately. :(
- Seeing/reading about fully vaccinated people in the States travelling, venturing out into bars and to places like Disney World and getting to hug their moms on Mother's Day, while things here are (still) in such a mess. :( Those kinds of scenes are still a long way off here...
- Knowing our current stay-at-home order is due to expire on May 20th -- just before our Victoria Day long weekend -- and not trusting our provincial government to make the right call and extend it for another few weeks. :p (New case numbers are starting to decline, but they're still pretty high, and the hospital ICUs are still pretty jammed. I heard an estimate today that it will take something like THREE YEARS to clear up the backlog of surgeries that have been postponed...)
- Coming up to 9 weeks since our last haircuts, and my scraggly hair is starting to get pretty annoying again...
- (I've said it before and I will say it again: Wearing masks everywhere? No problem. Staying home for weeks on end? No problem. Staying away from malls and restaurants for more than a year? Can do! But going without regular haircuts?? Heeellllpppppp....)
I've heard/read comparisons made between this book and Bridget Jones's Diary, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and Sally Rooney's novels -- all of which I've also read. I'd say the comparisons are both vaguely apt and not quite right at the same time. "Sorrow and Bliss" is funny and witty, full of pointed observations and some amazing writing -- but it's also sad (sometimes overwhelmingly so). I felt like there was a dark cloud hanging over (almost) the entire book -- just as a dark cloud perpetually hangs over the life of Martha, our narrator/protagonist.
As the novel begins, 40-year-old Martha has just broken up with Patrick, her husband of 8 years and friend since they were teenagers, and moved back into her childhood home with her eccentric parents (an alcoholic artist mother and a struggling poet father). The bulk of the novel is an episodic look back on the events and tangled web of relationships that led her to this point in her life.
Martha describes how a "bomb" went off in her head when she was 17, and how things were never the same afterwards. The "bomb" is never clearly identified (there's an author's note at the end of the book, indicating that Martha's diagnosis, treatment, etc., is entirely fictional), but it's obvious that she's had an almost-lifelong struggle with some form of mental illness. She longs for a baby -- her uber-fertile sister Ingrid has four (!) -- but a doctor tells her that her diagnosis and medications are not compatible with pregnancy, and so she tells everyone she does not want children. Late in the book, she receives an unexpected new diagnosis, which changes her life.
The melancholy mood that permeates this novel is lightened/tempered by a hopeful ending, and a wonderful cast of supporting characters. I particularly loved Martha's father; her kind, sweet, patient husband Patrick; her hilarious sister Ingrid; her former boss and kind friend Peregrine; and the wealthy and domineering Aunt Winsome, who bankrolls the entire dysfunctional family and attempts to hold them all together.
4 stars on Goodreads. There's a lot to chew on here. Overall, I loved it and would recommend it, but you may find some of it difficult, depending on your frame of mind!
This was Book #25 read to date in 2021 (and Book #2 finished in May), bringing me to 69% of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 13 books ahead of schedule. :) You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2021 tagged as "2021 books."
Friday, May 7, 2021
- Not sure what I did to deserve this, but why do I suddenly have Pampers diaper ads popping up in all my social media accounts?? And just before Voldemort/MDay, too... Ugggghhhhhh.... :p
- Speaking of V/MDay, Civilla Morgan at the Childless Not By Choice podcast has posted a lovely special episode full of practical advice and encouragement on that subject. It's only about a half hour long, but it packs in a ton of wisdom from 10 childless & childfree women on how they manage this difficult weekend. Some of them will be familiar to many of you, perhaps some not. Worth a listen!
- Also speaking of V/MDay, a Facebook friend flagged a post from the writer Anne Lamott in which she reproduced an old essay of hers, "Why I hate Mother's Day." I know I've read it before but not sure I've shared it here -- at any rate, worth a reshare!
- Anne prefaced her Facebook share of this essay by saying:
Here is my annual Mother’s Day post, ONLY for those of you who dread the holiday, dread having strangers, cashiers and waiters exclaim cheerfully, mindlessly, “Happy Mother’s Day!” when it is a day that, for whatever reason, makes you feel deeply sad. I told Neal last year that I didn’t think I’d run it, because I always get so much hate mail, and he said, “It’s never stopped you before.”This is for those of you who may feel a kind of sheet metal loneliness on Sunday, who had an awful mother, or a mother who recently died, or wanted to be a mother but didn't get to have kids, or had kids who ended up breaking your hearts. I wrote about how I’m still getting over having had Nikki as a mother, and how I miss her, 20 years after her passing, in Dusk Night Dawn. If you love the day and have or had a great mom and happy, highly successful kids, maybe skip this:
- A great article from Forbes (!) about "miscarriage: the costly business taboo" -- the costs to businesses, the value of greater recognition and more compassionate treatment of employees who have experienced pregnancy loss, and practical things employers and managers can do to help.
- This is a gorgeous piece by Yael Wolfe, a childless woman writing about the children she has mothered over the years.
- Quote: "Too often, I feel the contributions women make to children who are nor their own are dismissed and ignored. But I’d like to see that change — to see our culture celebrate all expressions of maternal love. All of it is worthy."
- The New York Times had a recent article/photo essay about a photographer in Berlin who is photographing and telling the stories of consciously childfree women. These women are childfree by choice, but I think there's still lots here that not-by-choicers can relate to. (Some interesting comments too.)
- This article from the NYT, published a few weeks ago, tells the story of a couple in their 60s who thought they had put their IVF treatments behind them nearly 20 years ago. Then they got a letter -- and a bill -- from their clinic. (Beware the comments section.)
- Another NYT article (& podcast): U.S. birth rates are plummeting, and the pandemic hasn't helped.
“It could be good news if women feel like they have more control over their fertility,” [Caroline Sten Hartnett, a sociologist at the University of South Carolina] said. “But it is not good news if having a child is just becoming harder than it was because jobs are more precarious, and families just can’t make it work in a minimally functional way.”
But this comment, from a 29-year-old woman interviewed at the end of the article, set my teeth on edge, with the tired old assumption that postponing having children (or not having them at all, for whatever reason) is "selfish."
“I’m feeling a little bit selfish,” Ms. Jones said. She said only one of her friends had a child.
“Everybody in my friend group is saying, ‘When is the right time to let go of that selfishness?’” she said. “We are all putting it off.”
- I did like this take on the population decline from Jill Filipovic on her Substack newsletter: "The Great Birth Rate Freak-Out." (I enjoy Jill's writing/newsletter in general!)
- Although they allude to the gap between the number of children women say they want and the number they are actually having, neither of these two pieces mentions rising infertility rates as a factor in declining birth rates. If governments truly believe that falling birth rates are a problem, why not provide policies and funding to ensure that those who would like to access infertility treatment can do so without going bankrupt (while recognizing that ARTs do have their limits and won't work for everyone)?
Wednesday, May 5, 2021
*(a name I considered giving to this blog when I was starting it. Also the name of a poem I found long ago.)
I've been pondering the curious place I find myself in as a childless mother -- a woman without children, who actually/technically is a mother -- as we approached International Bereaved Mother's Day (last Sunday), and now in the dreaded lead-up to the "main event" this Sunday.
On the one hand: I am a mother -- a bereaved mother. I was pregnant, for 26 weeks anyway. I went through labour. I gave birth. But I went through it knowing that my daughter was already dead in my womb; she never took a breath. (Nobody wants to hear MY birth story...!) I held her for an all-too-brief time that evening, staring into her wee red face, then handed her over to the nurse to take to the morgue, and I never saw her again.
On the other hand: I am childless. I am a parent -- but I didn't get TO parent. Not in the traditional sense, anyway. I did not have a "rainbow baby." I have no living children. I will never be a grandmother either. I won't have any children to take care of me as I age.
Another bereaved mom on one of my childless forums called it "having a foot in both camps." It's an awkward place to be in, sometimes. After my daughter's stillbirth, I found comfort in the pregnancy loss community (both online and in a "real life" support group). All the pregnancy loss groups I belong(ed) to were (and to some extent still are) a place where I feel free to be the mom that I am (however limited that experience of mothering must be), where I can feel comfortable talking about my daughter and what happened to us.
But many of the bereaved moms there were already mothers of living children. And/or the vast majority of them went on to have "rainbow babies" -- sometimes two or three of them. I've watched their kids grow into young adulthood (high school, university, graduate school, work...) while Katie remains frozen in time as my one, forever baby. At get-togethers, I sat in silence while they chatted and compared notes about their growing families. Even among these people, who knew my pain better than anyone, I would occasionally get "bingoed" with comments like, "You want to take mine?" (Seriously?!) I hesitated to join in when they complained about how busy they were, because of course, how busy could I be if I didn't have children??
Once we realized there would be no more babies for us, I began to look for similar support among women who were also childless not by choice. And I found some -- but I found myself treading carefully there too. As Jody Day of Gateway Women has said, the room called childlessness has many doors. Some women, like me, are childless because of loss and/or infertility, but there are many, many other reasons why a woman might not have children. To name just a few: mental and physical health issues, husbands who already have families from previous relationships, husbands who don't want (more) children, no husbands or boyfriends to have children with...
I know some childless women envy me my experience of pregnancy. And while I understand that, and while I would never trade those 26 weeks, I would never wish a pregnancy like mine on anyone -- the wild rollercoaster ride of emotions, gradually overshadowed by a growing sense of fear and dread -- nevermind the way the whole thing abruptly ended....
Some childless women I know identify intensely as mothers to their lost children -- even those they only knew as embryos in an IVF petri dish. Others rarely mention their pregnancy(s) or the children they never got to parent. Some post faithfully on social media about International Bereaved Mother's Day and Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day/Month, but nothing about World Childless Week; with other friends, it's the opposite.
There is no "right" or "wrong" way to be a childless mother, obviously. I just find it interesting that some people seem to identify more with one part of the equation than the other. I think sometimes it's easier/more socially acceptable to identify with/focus on the "mother" part of the equation than the "childless" part.
I try to remember my audience and post/speak with care, depending on where I am and who I'm addressing. Obviously, this blog is my personal space and I write about my whole experience, both as an "older" (gulp) childless woman and as a childless mother. Some days I feel my childlessness more keenly; sometimes (like this week) I'm more in mother mode, thinking of my brief pregnancy and the little girl who would now be a young woman. But I'm always both.
If you are a childless mother like me, can you relate to this experience of having "a foot in both camps?"