“Hey, guys — wait, why are you acting so weird?”
Those were the thoughts that crossed Sistercat's mind as we walked through the door with our new son, Peter Aaron, who to her looked like nothing more than a car seat.
Jamie (my husband) and I were giddy, with obvious reason. We couldn't believe we were introducing Peter to his home, even if he was sleeping through the big event. Nine months is a long time to wait, but you can't imagine how it will feel to carry him over the threshold till it's actually happening to you.
A couple of days had passed since we'd seen the cats; no doubt they knew something was up as I labored more than 12 hours at home.
The moment of truth: I lowered the car seat to the floor beside our fraser fir, and myself beside it.
Muppet hopped over and casually circled the carrier till she could see the baby.
Then the boy took a deep breath in his sleep —
And the cat froze like a German Shorthaired Pointer trained on a pheasant.
It's always a treat to find a new side of your pet: when you purchase a new toy and it becomes a favorite, when you find him lying in a strange new location, or when you see him overcome adversity caused by your lifestyle.
For instance, welcoming a newborn into your home.
There would be no detectible movement from Muppet but the tip of her orange nose for a full 10 seconds.
As soon as she failed to recognize the scent of baby Peter (because how could she possibly recognize such a thing?), she bolted into another room.
Sistercat approached next, unsuspecting, but reacted the same to Peter's first audible breath. Both cats visited again in the next few minutes, but didn't stay long before making a hasty exit.
As we proceeded to settle in, put sheets on the cribs, etc., the girls already kept their distance. In fact, despite our coos, calls and extended arms to them, they made themselves scarce for the next few days, leaving us to figure out the crying and tiny clothing and breastfeeding and diapers as they bunkered down in the attic or bedroom.
I tried not to take it personally. Change had come — inevitable, wonderful change — and I couldn't feel guilty about it. The girls would be fine, I told myself, despite previous concerns. They were still coming around to eat; they'd find another place to sleep for a few months. They would rebound.
And sure enough, both resurfaced, peeking into the nursery as I nursed, wandering nearby as I fed, occasionally stopping within reach to be petted, then hopping onto the couch to get a bird's eye view of little Peter. Once we'd been five days back home, Sistercat finally hopped onto my lap as I sat up late one night breastfeeding, and I soaked up my son and Sistercat's silky fur into the wee hours of morning.
Eleven days in, the girls are still not completely normal. But heck, neither are Jamie and I.
Jamie rarely chases Muppet around the house since Peter's arrival, and we've stopped narrating her visits with us throughout the day. Truthfully, she may not mind either of those things, or notice. But I imagine we'll also be back at it once we get through Christmas and find our groove, and that should make me feel more settled at least.
Comparatively Sistercat may have a little more adapting to do. She's the lap cat, and Peter is on my lap most of the time now, eating. She watches, and has now started taking advantage of lap opportunities while I'm pumping or momentarily checking my email. But meanwhile we're compromising, letting her onto my lap at the table and tolerating her "happy nails" on our couch.
It's breaking the rules, sure, but as I'm learning with parenthood, instinct leads the way. Sistercat and Muppet were my first babies, after all, and our new family will only be stronger for following our hearts through the transition.
It already is.