you do what you can . . .

kittens in the windowThe empty nest just got emptier. Tim and I took our five kittens (born in late February to the feral kitty who showed up at our back door last summer) to the animal shelter for adoption Sunday.

We had talked about the shelter as a possible eventuality—if we weren’t able to find homes for the kittens (we already had four cats, so keeping any kittens was out of the question) —but didn’t really have a plan as to when. We figured we’d know when it was time.

So, this weekend, old friends (one allergic to cats) were coming from Iowa to visit, due to arrive Sunday night. After cleaning in preparation for them most of the day Saturday, Tim and I awoke Sunday morning to discover kitty poop on our bed, the couch, a few spots on the floor. . . washing machine not working . . . toilet clogged.  . .  kittens underfoot and hanging from the curtains.

It was time.

We took the kittens to the shelter, crying all the way. Me, I mean. Feeling very sad. And very guilty.

The guilt felt familiar. Similar to how I felt almost 20 years ago when I admitted that I really wanted to quit breastfeeding—even though Reeve was not yet a year old. Guilty and selfish and sad—but aware of my limitations. I was tired and wanted my body back. I wanted my autonomy back. I didn’t know anybody else breastfeeding a toddler. I felt I could not continue. (Had I known then what I know now about the additional benefits babies—and mothers—gain from extended breastfeeding, perhaps things would’ve been different.)

When I started at Mothering six years ago, I was working with Peggy on a new look for the magazine, and we were talking about changing the tagline which runs under the logo. I suggested “Your guide to natural family living.” She said, no, we don’t want to guide parents: “We want to make information available so that they can learn to trust  their instincts where their children are concerned— after having armed themselves with information.”

I love this. This philosophy suggests that we ought to be respectful of thinking parents who are trying to do what they can to raise their children the very best way they can—even if their choices might be different from our own. While, yes, we aim to, say, give birth naturally or breastfeed for two years, these might not be goals we are capable of meeting, for reasons beyond our control, and we have to assess, adjust, and change course. We do what we can, understanding that we’ve tried to do our idealistic best in a real-world situation.

Tim and I couldn’t keep the kittens any longer. It would have been wonderful to have held on to them longer or to have been able to place them with people we know, but it didn’t happen that way. We took in their mom when she showed up at our back door, fed and sheltered her, provided a place for her to give birth, then nurtured her kittens for eight delightful, fulfilling weeks. We did what we could, and that has to be OK.


Photo of three of the five kittens, enjoying Sunday’s sunshine from the vantage point of our front window

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3 thoughts on “you do what you can . . .”

  1. You did great with them! 2 of the boys are already over in the adoption center, and all five are healthy (and alive!) because of the 8 weeks you gave them.

  2. We saw a battered limping white cat yesterday in Mexico, yowling in pain with every step (broken hip?) that had us both in tears; thought about kidnapping it and bringing it back across the border for veterinary care/euthanasia (impossible, for so many reasons). And so many feral cats in our neighborhood in Phoenix; last night a beat-up orange tom walked right inside the kitchen and sat down wearily in the doorway, mewing up at me silently. If only we could save all beings! I’ll reference Winnicot here and say you have exemplified the good-enough mother, to cats and young men alike. Hope they get good homes soon–I got my Eloise from this same shelter as a kitten, and she was dearly, dearly loved.

  3. Winnicot! Thanks for the evocation. . . (But so sorry to hear about all the homeless kitties in your area. Wonder why so many?)

    .-= Laura Egley Taylor´s last blog ..Death of Sibling =-.

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