Cats Fill the Hole that a Baby Left Behind
(This week, Petside is celebrating the familial relationships that we enjoy with our pets. Click here for more.)
Carson and her husband tried for years to have a baby. The day she got word she was pregnant was the happiest of her life.
She followed all the guidelines to ensure she'd have a healthy pregnancy. Yet, at the six-month mark, she suffered a miscarriage while watching TV. Her gynecologist told her she'd never be able to have kids. She was inconsolable.
With hormones still raging through her body, she was an emotional mess. She couldn't get out of bed and she took a leave of absence from work. She shut the room they had painted as a nursery and refused to enter it. Even so, just walking past its door would send her into spasms of tears.
She got a prescription for antidepressants, but even though the pills helped tame the emotional roller coaster she was on, they could not fill the huge hole in her heart left by the in utero death of her daughter.
On day, her husband came home from weekend errands with a bulge in his jacket. Carson gave it little notice until she saw his jacket undulating. He unzipped it, and two tabby kittens came tumbling out.
She was incensed. He hadn't consulted her, and she felt her life was in such turmoil that she couldn't possibly care for a pair of kittens. She insisted that he return them. Since the shelter would not reopen until Monday, he said he would, but that they would need to care for them over the weekend.
Carson went to sleep that night furious with the world. Her husband didn't consult with her on a major change to the their household, and her future looked like a big black hole. She cried herself to sleep.
The next morning, she awoke to find one of the kittens nestled into the crook of her arm, purring as if his purrer would break. She said "good morning" to him and he stepped up and gave her a few dozen licks on her face. She began to cry. He cuddled into her neck and purred as if his life depended on it. When Monday morning rolled around, she told her husband that maybe they could keep the kittens just a bit longer to see how they would adjust to their home.
Of course, they never returned to the shelter. Soon after, they were named: Darmok and Jellad, two characters from the Star Trek mythos.
I asked Carson how long it took for the cats to really become part of the family, as opposed to "just pets."
"I can't really say. I know it wasn't immediate. At first, they simply performed the role of healers. But within the first six months we considered them our family, our kids. They brought immeasurable joy into my life, and really saved me. I took my first steps on the road to recovery the first time Darmok cuddled into me."
"You wanted kids so badly," I asked. "Did you feel like the cats were a consolation prize?"
"If they were, they were the very best consolation prize you could imagine. Given the choice between having a child and having a cat, I'm sure I'd opt for the former, but of course you can have both.
"Do you think of Darmok and Jellad as your kids?" I asked.
"Absolutely. I think the reason they helped me heal was that I'd accumulated all this maternal love and instinct during my pregnancy, and when I connected with the kittens, I was given an outlet for those feelings, and that's what helped me get better. Well, that and their incessant purring, which is a better cure than just about any pill you could take."
"Were you a cat person growing up?"
"No. We didn't have any pets. My father was anti-pets and felt that all they did was cost money. I didn't hate animals, but I'd never considered getting one of my own. When my husband ran into the mobile adoption unit that day, he had planned to adopt a puppy (he'd grown up with dogs, not cats). But one of the volunteers put one of the tabby kittens in his arms, and the purring sold him on getting a kitten. He'd been hesitant about bringing home a puppy that would need to be housebroken knowing I wasn't up to that, so the kittens were not only a practical solution, but he also felt the power of purr could provide great comfort."
"Do you do anything in particular to celebrate the holidays with your tabbies?"
"Of course! They get a mini turkey dinner, and Darmok loves pumpkin pie, so he gets a bit of that as well. We always have a photo of the four of us on our Christmas card. And Santa is very generous to Darm' and Jellad because of course they are very good boys!"