OK, I don’t really need a new baby, at least not of the human variety. I think I’m done with that—at least until I hit menopause and begin craving grandchildren. Right now, what I need is a new baby creature, preferably of the furry variety, to cuddle and nurture.
Enviro-spouse estimates that I’ve brought a new baby into our home—kitten, puppy or human—every three years on average. In truth, the time between new babies is decreasing. My puppy’s only 18 months old, and already I’m feeling the need for a new … something.
I must be getting too much sleep. No one’s waking me up every few hours to be fed or taken outside or comforted. You see, once my maternal instinct turned on—once my hormones conspired to convince me that my primary role in life is “mother”—I haven’t been able to rid my subconscious of that conviction. Of course, now I’m a mother forever, of two quickly growing humans, and yet I find myself pining for doe-eyed furballs, if not tiny toes and gurgling smiles.
Surely I’m not the only one dealing with maternalism gone wild?
Here’s my mothering story so far. My first baby was a black-and-white stray kitten named Gatsby (yes, I was getting my master’s degree in literature at the time). I was a flighty mother then, and the moment I got a pass out of the state of Georgia, I left Gatsby behind with my mom. He lived with her while I flounced from job to job and city to city. Six years after I’d abandoned Gatsby to what one friend called “Kitty Taj Mahal” (Gatsby had quite the pampered life with Mom), I brought the cat back to live with me and my new husband in Asheville. Gatsby was not impressed with his reduced standard of living after moving from the big city to a small apartment in north Asheville. He showed his displeasure by nipping Enviro-spouse’s toes in the middle of the night.
Soon after moving here, we were blessed with human baby No. 1, the girl. Gatsby didn’t like her much either, but he put up with her. Three years after that came human baby No. 2, the boy. Those early years are a blessed blur of mothering and kitty care in my momnesia-afflicted mind. Sadly, Gatsby died when my boy was 18 months old.
I cared for my kids, and you’d think that’d be enough. I knew that I didn’t necessarily want a third baby, but my maternally re-engineered soul yearned to care for something small and fuzzy.
So my friend, Nancy, and I left town for a girls’ night out, ostensibly to help me try to uncouple the boy from my breasts. We came home the next day with four tiny kittens. Nancy adopted two, and I took two.
Enviro-spouse was not amused.
But every time the boy said, “Nurse, nurse, Mommy!” I said, “Look at the cute kittens!” For male toddlers, at least, kittens can be more satisfying than boobs.
The tiny yellow fur balls grew up to become one thin cat named Houdini and one obese, demanding beast named, appropriately, Rocky. This was one of those clear cases of name determining destiny.
Then everyone started growing up. The kids became more and more self-sufficient. The cats only needed food, water and love on their terms.
I needed a new baby.
So we adopted Biscuit, the Dorkie-Poo mutt, this time with E-spouse’s grudging approval. He lifted the dog moratorium after the boy asked: “Mommy, can we get a dog when Daddy dies?”
But the babies—even scruffy little Biscy—are getting big. They’re no longer babies. What to do? Can someone turn this hormonal craziness off? Am I really going to need a new baby every two or three years from here on out? Help, please. But don’t tell me that you have a litter of adorable little creatures in need of a good home, or my marriage may suffer.