My Male Cat Has Totally Softened Me to the Idea of Having a Son Someday
Some women get IUDs because they are a long-term and often inexpensive solution for delaying pregnancy. I got one because I didn’t trust myself not to sabotage my less-permanent form of birth control because holy Christ in heaven, do I want a baby. Somewhere around the age of 25, my baby fever kicked in and has continued unabated with no apparent end in sight.
I get that blissed-out feeling that people talk about happening with breastfeeding when I just hold a baby. I daydream about pregnancy and even childbirth, particularly after watching those videos that are designed to gross out teenage girls but get me all sentimental about the miracle of life.
But the second reason that I got my IUD was that more than I was scared of getting pregnant with a baby for whom I did not have the financial and emotional means to care for, I was afraid that the child would be a boy. And I simply could not hang with having a male child.
My family fantasy centered on me, a feminist dude partner, and two adopted daughters I could call Mary and Margot after my favorite lady monarchs. We would pile into a stylish but fuel-efficient car for Planned Parenthood rallies and read bell hooks together when the time came. Our home would ooze estrogen and empowered ladyhood. Excellent sartorial choices would be made by all.
Growing up in a household of women, with some extended cameos by my father when he was not working overseas, made me most comfortable around women and girls. I have never uttered nor thought the words, “I just get along better with guys!” Spiceworld is my favorite movie, and I say this without a hint of irony. Sometimes, I fantasize about old age when my best friend and I can be widows who live together making crude jokes and wearing brooches, Golden Girls-style. I am just all about girls.
To have a male child seemed an intolerable intrusion of my carefully cultivated fantasy Life-O-Ladies. Boys were a mysterious and rambunctious species with strange appetites and interests. I feared that mine would grow up to be misogynists, rapists, and general asshats. Fear of having to raise such a foreign brand of person had actually made me ready to forfeit my dream of biological children.
And then last summer, a tiny gray boy came into my life.
Orphaned and alone in an abandoned lot in South Brooklyn, when he was taken to the vet by a neighbor, he needed two itty-bitty kitty IVs to nourish him. His temperature had dropped well below normal and he was not expected to make it through his first night. But he did. And he became my baby.
At this point in the essay, I would like to address parents of real human children directly. I know that having a kitten is a very different thing than having a baby person. If you have one, you either 1) went through the emotionally draining and expensive process of adoption, 2) pushed one out of your vagina, or 3) HAD SOMEONE CUT INTO YOUR ABDOMEN AND PULL THE CREATURE OUT OF YOUR INSIDES.
And that was just getting it into your custody! Now you are raising it to be a well-adjusted member of a society wherein the odds are stacked against anyone becoming well-adjusted. Good luck and godspeed! Now, back to my cat.
When Keith was just a tot, I didn’t really think about his maleness. In the same way girl babies and boy babies are both cute mostly for their enormous heads and chubby cheeks and goofy outfits, Keith was just cute because he was super small and made a really funny noise when he tried to be tough.