Over the years I have been surrounded by animals which is hilarious since my mother is not a fan. This is a trait I got solely from my father. Starting at the tender age of ten I began horseback riding and in seventh grade I got a pony which was the gateway drug to my future ownership of three more horses. How my mother coped? They didn't live at home--they lived at the barn so that was doable. In fact, I've only been without a horse for less than a year if you can believe it.
I adopted my first live-at-home pet before Bryan and I got engaged, and Cleo the kitty cat became our Princess.
I even lobbied to have her as our ring bearer but Bryan quickly did the math and realized that would be our first step towards divorce. After we got married I was hired as Head of Adoptions at an animal shelter. There was no job that I didn't touch. Outside ten hours a day, walking and picking up after dogs, cleaning nasty cages, administering medications, taking animals to the vet, you name it and I did it all. That's how we actually found our next two cats, one kitten named Irwin who was born sick and we cared for him until he had to be put to sleep at 8 weeks old. Then we went the opposite route and adopted Bert who was 14, deaf and in kidney failure. We had him a little less than two years.
After the shelter job I became a vet tech and in the beginning I honestly didn't know if I could handle all the emotional stress. I saw animals so sick and it pained me that I couldn't help them more than I did. Animals came in to be put to sleep, dogs were terrified in cages, surgeries that had to be tried even with less-than-hopeful results. I was able to move past that all and do my job, still with empathy and compassion but without the pain in my chest on a day-to-day basis.
I've always had a soft spot for animals is what I'm saying. I will pull over to the side of the road and move a turtle. I have called 911 on a family of ducks trapped on the shoulder of the highway and made myself sick wondering how they were doing. And don't even ask me to count how many times I've done the Ugly Cry at movies or commercials that involve a well-placed montage full of big liquid eyes and a fluffy tail. I might have even locked myself in the bathroom after watching Dances With Wolves because of Cisco the horse and TwoSocks the wolf. Might. You'll have to ask my mom.
So when we got pregnant people started telling me that the cat would be annoying or that she'd fall from her Princess pedestal. "Because it HAPPENS" they'd say. "You'll forget to feed her sometimes" I'd hear. Well then those people mustn't love their pets as much as I love mine I clearly reasoned. Our cat had a water fountain. I scooped her litter box twice a day. If she would lay on me (which was always) and I had to go to the bathroom or answer the phone? I WOULDN'T. I would stay there until she got up because I didn't want to bother her. So I actually, honestly and truly, thought everyone ELSE had the pet vs. baby problem and that those concerns didn't and COULDN'T apply to me.
It takes a lot for me to admit this but it's true. After the baby I turned into a terrible pet owner.
But it all made sense. Severe sleep deprivation, stress and anxiety with a newborn, a tiny thing sucking on me every two hours and wanting to be held giving me no personal space whatsoever. So once I'd met every one of Theo's needs, attempted an actual conversation with my husband, and then remembered to wash my face which made me feel downright PAMPERED, I literally had nothing left to give the cat. I just gave her a heaping bowl of food to nibble on over a few days as opposed to Before Theo where she got precisely measured kibble twice a day at the exact same times. The litter box got scooped once a week at best. If she tried to lay on me I'd feel claustrophobic because just GET OFF ME ALREADY, GOD. The sound of her chatting and meowing was like nails on a chalkboard and her hair all over the house even after I finally cleaned and what is the name of that hairless breed again? Woe.
But what breaks my heart the most? Is that she never acted out by any of the major changes in our house. Was, and still is, tolerant of Theo and his unpredictable behavior. She gladly accepts any touch we give her and her eyes roll in the back of her head and she purrs and purrs and purrs with delight. She'll sit by an empty food bowl waiting without complaint (well, for a little while at least). And yes she's getting older so she has toned down a bit, evidenced by her lack of hunting milk rings as of late. We bought her a special fluffy bed, and I've even been known to move it in front of the picture window so she can rest in the sun and chatter at the robins.
I never thought I'd be this way after having kids, but then again I never knew what would happen to my heart once they arrived. My edginess has worn off to a degree and I think the four of us are getting along much better now. I hope anyone who is pregnant with pets doesn't befall the same fate but take a tip from me, realize that if it DOES happen that doesn't mean you love your pet any less. ANYTHING can make you crabby when you're tired and overwhelmed. And if you have a fabulous furry friend like we do, she will understand and love you to bits anyway.