At the time of this writing, I am sitting on my couch with two cats -- one on the cushion above me, one on my torso -- looking across the coffee table at my husband, who is enjoying a glass of Côtes du Rhône.
We're also exactly 7 hours 45 minutes from our due date, and waiting for my body to tell us it's time to deliver our son.
It's the best and the strangest time of my life, and one cat in particular continues to make it even better and stranger.
Muppet's been fairly consistent this year, sticking to her usual appearances throughout the day and finding places to lay within eyesight but not reach at night.
But Sistercat, she's been acting like something's up for months now, equally more affectionate and eager for attention, especially in the past couple weeks.
Bathroom breaks in the middle of the night — she's there. No matter where I'm sitting — the couch, the dining room table, the desk — she wants to be touching, preferably perched on my belly.
The cuddling has been amazing. I've taken advantage of every advance.
It's just that I'm starting to get worried I've done it all wrong.
I've done nothing my readings recommend to prepare the cats for the newborn: gradually spend less time with them, accustom them to baby noises and smells, carry a doll, require them to receive an invitation before jumping onto my lap, etc.
They've proven quick to adapt in the past; things like our floor refinishing this summer and moving last year were minor blips without those recommended preparations.
I'm also planning a gentle introduction to baby, knowing that scolding, ignoring or isolating the girls would hurt the situation worst of all.
But how will Sistercat react to our thenceforth divided attention?
Just a few minutes ago, we could hear her crying somewhere upstairs, the same that has awakened us in the middle of a handful of nights in the past month. Turning down down the TV and rising to investigate the sad sound— easier said than done for me these days — we found her at the base of the steps dropping a stuffed mouse from her mouth.
And then she just stood there, unsure of what to do next.
The mice are her new thing, and what's made me worry the most. They're toys she's had for years, but she's just recently started leaving them in places we'd find them around the house. The other morning she even left them together at the doorway of our bedroom. And now this scene on the stairwell this afternoon.
A whole truckload of anxieties occupy me these days. Labor. His health. His name. Breastfeeding. Well-wishers. Getting home. Sleeplessness.
And then there's that whole parenting thing.
Does Sistercat already sense a change of tides?
Could she be so sensitive that she's adopting our mounting anxiety as her own?
Or is it possible, in the past few strange weeks, she's trying to be the distraction we need right now?
Maybe I'm the one who really needs to relax — just take those mice as they come and enjoy these last precious days, just the four of us.