Monday, April 06, 2009

She's Having My Baby

(Please read the one before this, or be prepared to live in confusion.)

Wednesday, April 1st, I came home from dropping the kid at school and the minute I walked through the front door I suspected something was different with the cat. This isn’t a testimonial to some deep emotional bond she and I have forged. It was because for the first time in three days I couldn’t hear her -- you should pardon the expression -- caterwauling in the garage. I raced back out to the garage and tiptoed in. Carmen was resting on her side. Next to her was something very small and very wet. At least I thought there was something next to her. Carmen is a tabby and the thing next to her was a tabby and it kind of looked like her leg and they were both pretty disheveled. When I tried to get a closer look, Carmen hissed at me demonically. I comforted myself that if it wasn’t her leg it appeared to be nursing. More comforting was that she wasn’t making her noises anymore. I tiptoed out.

Within two hours, we had more small wet things. How many more was hard to say because several seemed to be the same color as Carmen; or I kept seeing the same one. Also, Carmen tucked them under herself and hissed at me whenever I approached to look at them. The hiss worried me; her eyes told me that her loathing of me was still deep and profound, but the hiss was weak. Yes readers, I was worried that she didn’t hate me enough. She’d given birth several times but her belly seemed as distended as before. I suspected she wasn’t well, which wouldn’t have been a surprise as she’d been in labor for two days and had some health issues that came along with having lived on the streets. She wasn’t bothering to clean herself or the kittens. We birth partners know when we need backup so I called Kate, the head of the rescue group.

Kate arrived within an hour, bringing another volunteer who had extensive experience with feral cats. We stood around her cage, loved ones and medical professionals softly conferring about the patient. Kate and the volunteer gently pressed on her stomach. It was hard, which wasn’t a good sign. Carmen allowed this, which was a terrible sign. Remember, she once sliced open the side of my finger for changing her water. Now with a fresh litter and a crowd of aliens hovering overhead, she was suddenly complacent. Hmmm.

The pros agreed she might have at another kitten in there, maybe two, and either she wasn’t strong enough to give birth to them or there was a dead kitten inside which could eventually cause blood-poisoning. Carmen hissed slowly at us. Kate called the vet who works with the rescue group who also makes house calls. The good news was that between the three humans, we were finally able to get a definitive kitten-count: three tabbies, one black, one grey. Kate had me draw up some warm water and wash-rags, and we gently cleaned them up. We placed them next to their weak and hostile mother.

Within the hour, the vet came by along with an assistant. I raced them through the house, listing her symptoms or, as I was now disturbingly referring to them, our symptoms. We’d been in labor for two days. We have five kittens. We had a distended abdomen. We were fundamentally sweet but prone to lash out.

(Actually, I’m going to remember that last symptom as a potential inscription for my headstone.)

The assistant opened the cage, confidently grabbed Carmen with both hands and gently shook the kittens off her so that the vet could examine her. Kittens plopped like larvae into the bed. Unconsciously, I counted them. And then I counted them again. And then I told the vet that we, in fact, had six kittens. In the previous hour -- five hours after her last arrival -- she had given birth to another grey. I think I said something boundary-blurring like “We’re mothers again!” We birth-partners get a little keyed-up.

The vet prodded, poked and mumbled something to the assistant, who prodded and poked the same spot. The vet finally said, “There might be another kitten in there. I either felt a kitten head or a kidney.”

Sure, yeah. I wasn’t in a position to dispute that. I asked worriedly, “But what if she can’t give birth to it?”

[I’m going to write down the answer the vet gave me, because I found it fascinating, but I’ll write it as the first comment in the section below. So, if you have a weak stomach, you can avoid it. Suffice to say, I had to keep a close eye on her but she wasn’t in any immediate danger.]

“But what about her abdomen?” I persisted. “She’s huge.”

Carmen, wrapped in a towel for her examination, hissed at me and she was right. It was a bitchy thing for a birth-partner to mention. The vet put her hand on Carmen’s belly and pushed. She said, “I think it might be..."

The sound and the odor filled the garage for almost fifteen seconds.


The vet suspected the kittens had been sitting in such a way as to block her colon. The wideness had not been twelve kittens, as we feared, but six kittens and a thousand farts. Her stomach was already visibly smaller. Carmen, possibly out of relief, lay her head on the towel and shut her eyes. We washed the back end of her and put her back in with the babies, who inched over to her blindly and latched on. The vet and the assistant packed up. I stayed in the garage with Carmen, watching our babies eat. She watched me through slitted eyes. Slowly, I slid my hand in and petted her head. I whispered, “Well done, Carmen.”

She hissed mildly, and then for just a second rubbed her head against my hand. I went out to get myself a celebratory cigar.


Blogger Unknown said...

Now, what the vet told me was the a kitten might still be in the uterus but as long as the uterus wasn't punctured during the birth, Carmen would be fine. The unborn kitten would sort of dessicate in there and be removed along with the uterus when she's spayed. As long as she didn't run a fever or start leaking green fluid, she was safe.

10:48 AM  
Anonymous jen said...

That could be your new blog tagline: "Six kittens and a thousand farts."

Seriously, you're a great friend to animals. There's a soft bed and countless chew toys waiting for you at your final reward.

11:19 AM  
Blogger Robin Raven said...

Aw, I feel for her already. I'm not great with cats (thankfully found a great home for the last one I rescued from a Burbank shelter), but I'll take her in if she can't be placed. I'm a vegan and huge animal lover. :)

11:25 AM  
Blogger Char said...

so glad Carmen (and you) made it through the experience. I hope she has a speedy recovery for her upcoming surgery.

11:25 AM  
Blogger Sara J. Henry said...

I don't know if I've ever before laughed out loud at a blog post - but I just did (at the six kittens and a thousand farts). Congrats on a successful birthing.

11:32 AM  
Anonymous Tom said...

Hmmm...that is rather interesting, and kind of gross. Far more than I needed to know, and now I won't ever forget it!

Oh, and much grammatical love to you for saying, "Suffice to say," instead of the used-so-often-I'm-beginning-to-think-I'm-the-one-who's-wrong, "Suffice IT to say." Gah! I hate that!

11:39 AM  
Blogger preppyplayer said...

Wow! We had a very feral cat so I can imagine the scenario. I wonder if the kittens will be "friendly?"
Make sure that when they are old enough you handle them as much as possible..

12:21 PM  
Blogger Leta said...

Congratulations to Carmen and the entire birthing team. Glad it turned out well.

12:30 PM  
Anonymous Josie Helen said...

Goodness, such hard work. It's great to know that Carmen is feeling better after all that hard work! Very lucky that poor Carmen only had bad wind, the answer given by the vet sounds much less appealing! All the best with the new kittens.

12:43 PM  
Blogger Deberlee said...

Wow, what an experience! Bless you for taking in this cat during her obvious time of need. My mother-in-law volunteers her time at a rescue shelter for animals and has some stories, too.

6:02 AM  
Blogger Lene Andersen said...

Six kittens and a thousand farts. Laughed like a hyena. The cat looked at me funny. (the cat, by the way, suffers from chronic gas and boy, does that make a cat cranky. She's on Ovol)

Congratulations to mama cat and birth-partner!

p.s. I read what th vet said. Not sure I should've.

8:35 AM  
Blogger BiPolar Wife said...

I envy the non-allergic peoples who can enjoy cats in this way. Just being around someone who OWNS a cat and might have the slightest bit of cat hair on them sends me into severe asthma attacks, a fact that the nice people at my corner drugstore can attest to as I stumbled in one Christmas Eve after having spent the evening with someone who loves cats, dresed to the nines yet hissing and wheezing..."Benadryl....where's the Benadryl?"

Anyway, my point is (and I do have one) is that I would LOVE to own a cat but since this is physiologically impossible, I make up for it with four short-haired dogs who do not render me into respiratory arrest.

9:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hilarious and sweet. But maybe I will try to read your blog at some time other than when I'm having my lunch...

10:04 AM  
Blogger Antique Mommy said...

You're a great story teller. Can't wait for the book.

7:59 AM  
Blogger Kathryn said...

Wow. The whole distended colon thing reminds me of the birth of a certain son about 34 years ago. Maybe I am part cat? Thank you for caring for this animal, and congratulations on all the kittens!

9:06 PM  
Blogger Karla Porter Archer said...

Antique Mommy suggested I read this after she saw me twitter that our cat was expecting a litter any day now.

You are a fabulous story teller.

Mine will probably read something like: "yeah, the Queen pooped out some young 'uns"

;0) K

9:14 PM  
Blogger Chatty said...

I am a long-time (well, over two years) reader. I keep my comments to a minimum, but I am definitely not a lurker…
This latest batch of wonderful posts reminds me of something Tom Lehrer said, when commenting about a woman named Alma.
Although you are young, I am fairly certain you are aware of Tom Lehrer, and perhaps even know the song I’m talking about. It is on his album “That Was the Year that Was” - the year being 1964 – and I am referring to the comments he made about Alma that had led to composing the song.
He said “It’s people like that who make you realize how little you’ve accomplished. For example, when Mozart was my age - he had been dead for six years.”
You make me feel like that! You do so much, and write about it so wittily - that it makes me wonder why the heck I even bother to write a blog.
Oh, yeah, I get some fun out of it – but nothing ever really HAPPENS to me - so finding material is tough. You, on the other hand, have so much to write about that a mere blog cannot contain it – and oh, how happy I am that a publisher realized that, and to hear that your book is coming out in July!
I wish Carmen and company all the best - and most of all, I wish you, Consort, and Daughter many more interesting situations that turn out BEAUTIFULLY!
Please keep writing – because by doing so, you continue to define excellence in blogging.
You rock, QC!
And I don’t care how modest you are – you had better post this - because everyone who reads your blog will agree with me – whether you do or not!

6:11 PM  

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