Menopause, Motherhood, And The Orca Whale.

Mindy Stern
Human Parts
Published in
6 min readFeb 17, 2023


Lessons on love and letting go.


6:40 am. Scrolling the internet, sipping coffee, procrastinating packing. I’m visiting my daughter, 24, now living 3,000 miles away. An amazing weekend together. Laughing, talking, long walks in the park.

“How about I stay a little longer?”

“I would love that.”

So here I am, a little longer later, ready to leave, wanting to stay. Let this be the moment of remembering. How grateful I am to love and be loved. To be needed and wanted.

Humans, Orca whales, and short-finned pilot whale females are the only mammals that go through menopause, who live decades beyond their breeding ability, who defy the rules of natural selection that prefer females die soon after their fertility does.

Orca mothers care for their children long after they are babies. The aging females chase salmon and take the lead hunting for food. They share their hard earned wisdom with younger whales. When food is scarce, they give their adult children and grandchildren the food they caught for themselves.

3:00 pm. I lie on the cold steel table, the operating room lights glow overhead, my husband in a surgical gown and mask sits beside me. I have no feeling from my abdomen to my thighs. “Your baby has turned footling breech…