Sunday, March 11, 2012

Babies Vs. Pets (Round One)

It has been about two months since Matt and I found out that we were going to be parents to an actual human being. The news was exciting and we were happy, but like many women who experience that kind of shock, I cried immediately. However, my tears had nothing to do with worries that we might not be good parents or that we couldn't handle the situation. My initial panic was brought on by the irrational thought that being pregnant would make me suddenly dislike my pets. All of a sudden, I was one of those people.

This was something I had thought about in the past, even before I considered that I might actually want a baby. For so many years I had watched one person after another abandon or become completely cold to their pet the moment a baby entered the picture. I even heard more than one person say that "Once you have a baby, your dog just becomes a dog." That saying never sat well with me and deeply irritates me to this day.

I remember being teary-eyed and looking down at my sweet Obi-Wan and goofy Cricket... I even looked over to Sugar, our foster dog at the time, and cried even harder. What if everyone was right? What if, like them, I suddenly stopped caring very much for my pets? I knew I loved them and I didn't feel that anything could change that but what if pregnancy, with all of its insane physical and hormonal changes, could cause some crazy chemical imbalance in the brain that forced a woman to abandon all nurturing feelings she once had for her beloved pets?? If that were the case I could never be me again. The thought, irrational or not, was terrifying.

Despite the comforting words and reassurance from Matt that I would always be me and that nothing was going to happen to our dogs, it has taken quite some time for me to calm down about this. That isn't something that I like to admit but is something I find myself having to constantly face. If you've ever been in my shoes you might have experienced having people you barely know (or some who actually know you fairly well) imply that your dogs/pets have no place in your life anymore. No one has actually come out and stated this to me (who would really be brave enough to insult me in that fashion while I'm a crazy pregnant lady?) but it has certainly been implied.

Of course, I am still me. Since finding out the news of being pregnant I've taken on more dog training clients, taken in a blind border collie foster puppy, and spent this entire weekend by the side of my poor Obi-Wan who just endured surgery to have his blind eye removed. I am somewhere around 14 weeks along and so far the hormonal voices in my head haven't instructed me to dump anyone at the shelter just yet. Their only demands thus far have been for popsicles, grilled cheese, fruit snacks, and cold turkey sandwiches that I'm not allowed to have.

As suggested by a friend, I will try to document some of the things that we do to prepare our four-legged family for the presence of a two-legged addition. Hopefully, this will be helpful to others and we can fight society's message that having a baby somehow means it's perfectly ok to suddenly abandon your dogs or cats. I don't believe it's normal for an animal lover to suddenly stop loving their animals. That said, I don't claim to know exactly what it's like to be a mother. I fully expect this to be a challenging, difficult road. I also expect to love and value my human child even more than I love my pets. But I guess that's the point that I'm trying to make: It's not about loving them equally; I honestly don't believe that is realistic. If you absolutely had to choose between the two you would easily choose your child. However, I also don't believe that this should be misconstrued or misrepresented as diminished love for your pet. Instead, it should be regarded as a testament to just how much a human being can love their own flesh and blood. I have a great deal of love and respect for my pets and will always do everything I can for them. Knowing that the love I'll have for my child is going to be even stronger than this gives me great hope that I will be a good mother.

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