When my husband and I moved to South Carolina, we were still just dating. Not only that but we had just started dating about 6 months prior. Kyle knew getting into a relationship with me that SC was my end goal. I just don’t think either of us expected it to be so quick. When we went down to Folly Beach on vacation, I had a job interview and when they offered it to me, I took it and we moved down a month later. It was insane.
It was around 3 months after the move that I got a job at a publishing agency. At that time we were able to get into a nicer place. A townhouse. With the odd hours we worked, Kyle would drive me into work early in the morning. Then, he would meet me at my job and I would take a break to run him to work before driving back to work myself. I’d go pick him up late at night, early in the morning, we’d drive home and do it all again. We didn’t see much of each other this way. We mostly were just struggling to make it work. And somehow, we did.
Nights were lonely. I remember one evening, Kyle must have had the day off. He was waiting to pick me up from work and went over to the pet store. He picked me up and told me of the small black kitten he had found. She’s so sweet, he had said. We went back together. We played with this cute, outgoing kitty cat. We liked her. We sat on it for the night and went back for her the next day. Her name is Natasha, and years later, she is still ours.
When we brought Natasha home, she immediately ran and hid under our recliner. It took a lot of coaxing to get her out, and lots of time before she got used to us. She was not the outgoing and playful kitten we picked up at the store, but an extremely shy and weary old soul. But when she did warm up to us, it was all cuddles, claws in my back as she tried to climb up my body for attention, and so much love.
One or two years later, just before our wedding, we found ourselves back in the pet store and Kyle had fallen in love with another kitten. He was so small he fit in Kyle’s hand, where he curled up and fell asleep. He was so sweet and chill. We left and brought our friend Vic back with us who convinced me to let Kyle get the kitten. Of course, when we got Ross home he also did a 180 and turned into an insane, hyper monster, who was nearly uncontrollable.
These two very different personalities, two very different cats, they were our family. We loved them. And the December after our wedding, when we found out there was something wrong with the pregnancy, and before Kyle got home, my two cats were there with me, comforting me.
Then when we moved to Virginia, when went through our second miscarriage, I had the love of Natasha to lean back on. Even through my pregnancy with Kiara, I had her purring away on my stomach. I joked how she was going to be so upset with my bringing a baby home. Like I was betraying her. Because to Natasha, and to me at the time, she was my baby.
Well, when I had Kiara, I did betray Natasha. Just not in a way I ever expected. It was like a switch inside me had turned off and I didn’t know how to love my cat any more. I couldn’t help but think she was disgusting because she used the litter box and then would crawl all over everything. She was the reason everything was dirty. And the hair! The hair was everywhere and got on everything. Then, when she meowed I would get fiercely angry. Even though she was just meowing for food, or clean litter, or attention from her momma, it was like the most annoying sound to ever pierce my ears.
Did Natasha change? No. I did. And I never saw it coming.
Naturally, I took to the internet to find out if I was alone. I wasn’t. But among those who, like me, stopped caring for their animals after birth, were a ton of people criticizing and bashing these people. And the guilt continued to grow.
I was honestly beside myself. I didn’t know what to do. We were the only family Natasha had ever known, but I didn’t think I could be what she needed any more. I didn’t want to cuddle her or to love her. She needed someone who could give her their love and attention and that wasn’t me. So, we decided after months and months of debate, maybe it was best to re-home that cats. And we tried. We reached out with no response. Another option was to sign up for one of the adoption events they held at PetSmart, but we’d have to sit there with the cats all day and be there if someone chose Natasha or didn’t chose Natasha and I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it. I couldn’t sit there looking at her all day knowing I was letting her down.
So, I did chose the harder path, which is keeping my cats. It’s been almost 16 months since Kiara was born and I’m trying, really trying every day to get better. To be more patient. And to let Natasha back into my heart. At this time I’m also 22 weeks pregnant and completely terrified of how I’ll feel after I have my second baby. Will I be back at square 1? Spending another year trying to let this cat back into my heart?
This is not an easy thing for me to talk about. I’m writing this between having to dry my eyes from the tears. Because, never did I ever think I would stop caring for my animal who has been family and maybe even at times an extension of myself. This is a part of postpartum that I never expected. That no one talks about. So please, can we talk about this more? Without the criticism? Can people like me know they’re not alone and that it’s OK? It’s OK if you decide you can’t do it any more and need to re-home your animal. It’s OK if you want to take the long road like me. And it’s OK if you don’t know what to do. You. Are. Not. Alone.
There are so many parts to postpartum that can be wonderful, but it can be a raw, emotional, and confusing time as well. We need to normalize this. No more hiding the “dark side” of postpartum because other women are experiencing it too and we all need to be here to support each other.