Menopause, Motherhood, And The Orca Whale.

Mindy Stern
Human Parts
Published in
6 min readFeb 17


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. You need a C-section.” A sheet hangs at my waist so I cannot see them cut me open.

I’m in a Catholic hospital in upstate New York on a glorious autumn day. So many Jesus hanging on the walls. I don’t want to be on an operating table in upstate New York, in the town I grew up in — and couldn’t wait to leave — surrounded by Jesus.

I want to be in the very secular hospital in Los Angeles where I live and planned to give birth, but my husband has to work in New York for six months. It’s here together or there alone, so it’s here together.

“Mom, can we live with you for a few months?”

“Of course, I would love it!”

We are not close, my mother and I. Our relationship is neither contentious nor intimate. It just… is. I don’t want to live with her or return to her house of demons and ghosts. His rage, my fear, her silence. But my father died two years ago. Perhaps it…



Mindy Stern
Human Parts

Screenwriter. Essayist. Wannabe Novelist. Adoptee.