Sunday, February 8, 2009


Lately two recent stories regarding multiple births have been circulating in the mainstream media. It seems there is a collective appetite to bask in the murky glow where science and childbirth intersect, illustrated dramatically in the recent accounts of a mother of 6 children giving birth to octuplets and a 60 year-old woman in Calgary giving birth to twins, both through the magic of in vitro fertilization.

In addition to inspiring the shock tinged sound bites from the inevitable pundits in the media, I think on another level these stories function as sort of post-modern cautionary tales that captivate our imaginations in the early 21st century.

They reflect both our sense of awe and dread towards science. We marvel at the wonders of our accomplishments and yet we are held equally spellbound by the freakish and unimagined consequences of scientific experimentation, thus providing great material of our increasingly macabre imaginations.

These are the new cautionary tales that are gradually embedding themselves in our collective psyche, where we are left aghast when the expression of individual rights and desires are manifested in previously unimagined ways. These stories remind us that we are wandering in new directions, unable to heed the reliable signposts that were once able to guide us.

It makes me think of those ghastly Victorian-era cautionary tale for children where a terrible fate awaits those foolish enough to ignore conventional morality. In these tales impetuous children who refuse to take heed of the wisdom of their elders end up falling through the ice or being eaten by wild animals, though now the consequence are more dramatic and far reaching.

Will we tell our children tales of cloned sheep run amok or octuplets crying all night and driving their parents to the brink, all because science was blindly embraced? Will we warn them sternly of what occurs when the desire to achieve one's own end, regardless of the means, creates some horrible outcome that one is doomed to endure?

Personally, I'll stick with the classics, like the Beatrix Potter tale of the "Fierce Bad Rabbit" who gets his tale shot off by a hunter after being greedy, or the "Dreadful Tale of Pauline & The Matches", which ends with rather obvious consequences;

Of course there is also the tale of "Little Suck-A-Thumb" who looses his offending digits courtesy a mad scissor wielding tailor after failing to heed the warnings of his mother;

Perhaps I'll throw the "cautionary to the wind" and stick to some stories geared towards inspiring wonder in my children, rather than dread. They will see enough of the bizarre in this brave new world soon enough, and perhaps their moral compass can be shaped through other means other than fear!

Still though, aren't these new tales grand?


Comrade Kevin said...

Eight is too many. The woman has fourteen now! Fertility treatments need to be toned down when things like this result.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Now I am rather wondering what form the cautionary tale will take in 100 years' time. A little caution is not a bad thing, but it has to be tempered with hope.

Randal Graves said...

The Dreadful Tale of Pauline & The Implanted Embryos just doesn't have the same ring.

Science, like anything, can easily be used for nefarious ends, says Captain Obvious.

Hey, people, yearning for love? Get a pet. Yeesh.

Liberality said...

The fault lies with the doctor, and a medical establishment, willing to do this woman's bidding. She has issues but they could have been addressed in some other way that would be more beneficial to her and to society. So I am not jumping on the 'hate-this-wacky-woman' bandwagon because the system allowed this when it should have never happened.