Friday, May 21, 2021

This week's odds & ends

  • 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.) 
  • 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."   

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