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Blessed be the Fruit: The Handmaid's Tale Nursing Edition

Written by Emily Pazel

Image from: Hulu Handmaid's Tale, Season 2, Episode 13

 

Many are counting down the days until the season premiere of The Handmaid’s Tale, one of Hulu’s most popular television series that is based on a dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood. The show is returning for the third season, beginning the first Wednesday of June.

If you haven’t seen the show, it should be warned that it’s not for the faint of heart. As many of the characters in the show experience terrible tragedies and undergo life or death situations. Throughout this blog, we’ll unveil some the key character injuries they face, as well as how nursing and medical assistance play pivotal roles throughout the series.

Spoiler Alert: This blog contains spoilers from the previous two seasons; this is your last chance to turn back now before we uncover key character plots and the twists that they experience.

 

The Importance of Fertility (“Blessed Be the Fruit”)

Throughout the series of The Handmaid’s Tale, fertility and birthing rates of babies is the main, predominant theme in which all the characters come to face. The setting of the series takes place in a fictional dystopian future called Gilead, where fertility rates collapse and a totalitarian government takes over to establish what they see as a way to fix the problem. “Blessed be the fruit” becomes the standard greeting among the residents of this new world, with “May the Lord open” being the traditional reply.

The women are mostly divided into three main categories: wives, handmaids, or marthas. The show follows the main character storyline of a handmaiden known as Offred, who’s actual name is June Osborne.

Due to the lack of fertility rates, the handmaids, which are known as the fertile women, become an important part of society. However, they also become the most oppressed group, as they are assigned to the homes of different commanders and are tasked with becoming pregnant and then birthing a child that ends up being handed to the wife of the commander. As each handmaid as assigned a commander, their first name turns into a combination of the word “Of” and the first name of the commander, such as “Fred”, making the name “Offred”.

Prior the handmaids getting assigned to the homes of commanders, they are put through a type of training at the hands of aunts. These select women are some of the highest-ranking women and are responsible for overseeing the training and birthing process of the handmaids. Marthas, who are infertile servants to the wealthy families, also aid in the birthing ceremony.

The show is based on an extremist interpretation of the Biblical account that’s mentioned in the Book of Genesis. The story recounts that Rachel, who failed to have children, convinces her husband, Jacob, to impregnate her handmaid, Bilhah, so that Rachel can have children “through” her.

This cruel way of having children to raise “through” another woman is the dark, unfortunate storyline that the series follows. However, not everyone accepts this new way of doing things and ends up revolting or going against the tyrannous government, which more times than not, leads that character to facing an unfortunate consequence.

 

Key Character Injuries & Recoveries

 

Handmaid_Tale_S1_E3Image from: Hulu Handmaid's Tale, Season 1, Episode 3

 

Emily (Ofglen):

Emily, also known as Ofglen, is a handmaid who revealed to June that she’s a member of an underground resistance called Mayday. Emily was once a college professor and was married to her wife, Sylvia. Not long into the series, Emily is accused of having an affair with another martha and is taken to a facility where she is forced to undergo a clitoridectomy.

 

  • Type of Injury/procedure: Clitoridectomy, female genital mutilation
  • Recovery Process: This is a surgical operation that involves removing the female clitoris which can involve a hospital stay up to two weeks; complications can include severe pain, excessive bleeding, infections, and urinary problems

 

handmaid_tale_s2_e11Image from: Hulu Handmaid's Tale, Season 2, Episode 11

 

June (Offred):

As the main character of the television series, June, also known as Offred, undergoes one of the biggest, painstaking scenes of all when she goes into labor with no other people around to help or to provide medical assistance. She ends up in this predicament by escaping from the Waterford’s home and trying to flee to Canada.

 

 

  • Type of Injury/procedure: Child labor
  • Recovery Process: Recovering after child birth typically takes 6-8 weeks; from abdominal pain to general soreness to hormonal shifts, it could take weeks before getting back to normal

 

handmaid_tale_s1_e1Image from: Hulu Handmaid's Tale, Season 1, Episode 1

 

Janine (Ofwarren):

Initially, Janine, also known as Ofwarren, comes off as a rebellious character. During her time at the Red Center, which is where the handmaids receive training, Janine confronts Aunt Lydia with some vulgar language and is punished by having her right eye removed. After this happens, Janine suffers a mental breakdown and later tries to commit suicide.

 

 

 

  • Type of Injury/procedure: Eye removal, enucleation
  • Recovery Process: Due to severe eye injury, eye cancer, or other serious eye diseases, it may be impossible to save the eye and it must be removed; the most common surgery is called enucleation, where the entire eye is removed and an artificial eye can be inserted later

 

handmaid_tale_s1_e10Image from: Hulu Handmaid's Tale, Season 1, Episode 10

Commander Warren:

Commander Warren, who is a commander in the Republic of Gilead, is accused and ultimately found guilty of having a secret affair with handmaid Janine (Ofwarren), where he tells her that he loves her and planned to escape with her. Commander Warren’s wife, Naomi, asks the highest councilman of Gilead that her husband receive the harshest punishment possible, which is when he left hand is amputated.

 

  • Type of Injury/procedure: Cut off hand, amputation
  • Recovery Process: Although we don’t get to see how they tend to Commander Warren’s hand in the show, when a patient loses a limb it would be wrapped by a dressing and changed regularly; the patient would then receive medication to ease the pain and help prevent infection; physical therapy, beginning with stretching exercises would also be implemented

 

Women’s Work

In Season 2, Episode 8, Janine’s baby, whom she had to giveaway to her commander and his wife upon its birth, becomes extremely ill and is sent to the ICU. Panic begins to set in when the lead male physician reveals that he cannot figure out what the problem is and has no other treatment options available for the baby.

handmaid_tale_s2_e8Image from: Hulu Handmaid's Tale, Season 1, Episode 10

Serena Joy, the wife of Commander Waterford, tells June that there is one last hope, but it would require bending the new laws a little. Serena convinces her husband to let this one pass and a famous neonatologist name Dr. Hodgson arrives as a Martha and is briefed on the baby’s condition. During the brief, the male physician tells her how much he admired her work before she became a martha and she begins to cry as she puts on her hospital wear.

 

After running several tests, Dr. Hodgson is unable to find out what exactly is wrong, but suggests that the baby needs to feel comfortable and warm. At this point in the series, Janine hasn’t seen or touched her baby in months. With the doctor’s orders in place, Janine carefully cradles and kisses her baby.

handmaid_tale_s2_e8bImage from: Hulu Handmaid's Tale, Season 2, Episode 8

At the end of the episode, Aunt Lydia wakes up in the ICU to find Janine in her underclothes and holding her baby, who is finally cooing and happy, and cured by her mother’s touch.

If anything, this episode reveals how the new laws of Gilead are not working in anyone’s favor as planned and that this dysfunctional way of living is not the answer. As we look forward to the third season airing in June, we can only hope that there’s a better outcome for these characters and their chance to survive.

 

 

The Handmaid's Tale presented by: Hulu.com