Mum to all



Illustration by Jenny Lamont

In which DD worries whether adopting a new puppy might not have been easier…

Being a crazy animal lover, the comfy life I shared with my five beloved cats and three spoilt dogs was a very contented one. Right up until the news broke, I really did think I was “barren”; destined to be a mom to children of the furred and feathered variety only. I was sure the next baby that came along would be of the puppy variety.

And then it happened.

Clearly, The Universe had other ideas and, at 38 years of age, I found myself pregnant… and stunned. For better or worse, life would never be the same again.

Mega merge

From that moment on, everything moved as fast as a dog snatching a steak from a braai grid. Before I could blink, I was faced with a family “merge” of note; this was NOT for a faint-hearted (or newly pregnant, slightly-more-mature) woman.

Amidst much excitement (probably more so from the proud paternal side) and not a small amount of anxiety, I adopted a somewhat bemused “wait and see attitude”. This seemed to work for me for the duration of the pregnancy, life as I began to know it, and even still today.

A plot was purchased (aha, this would accommodate us all comfortably) and weekends were spent with much fur kid socialisation (The Dad came with two Rottweiler-Labrador family members of this own).

By the time I could no longer see my ankles or even feel my feet by the end of the day, we were all happily ensconced in our new home. And still, I had no idea how to be a momma to a non-furry family member…

New life, new challenges

Our sudden new life came with many challenges (no water, then no electricity, deciding to put in a swimming pool a week after moving in, occasional – and, quite frankly, terrifying – visits from more than one Rinkhals snake, and the odd veldt fire) that really did test us. But, hand-in-paw, we all bravely overcame them as swiftly as they arose.

But the biggest challenge of all was the arrival of our non-furry family member, Aaron.

I don’t think anything or anyone can quite prepare you for welcoming a little person into your life. To be completely honest, there were moments in those first six weeks when I would gladly have swopped Aaron for a puppy. I just knew absolutely everything about puppies and kittens, but a baby – eep! – I knew zip. In fact, it’s quite possible that our dogs and cats knew more about babies than I did.

Historically, any new puppy invariably ended up housed in my bedroom on my bed on their first night home, but the plan was for little Aaron to be set up in the spare room. Firstly, because it was closer than his nursery, and, secondly, because everyone drummed into us that you should “start as you want to continue”. Of course, this lasted all of a couple of nights before the pink-footed child was in bed with us too, right along with the furry children.

A richer life

For the record, said furry kids weren’t half bothered by this new little being that had entered their lives and turned the world upside down. No, they took it all in their stride.

The little dogs delighted in joining us and bounding over Aaron on the bed at diaper-changing time. The big dogs were infinitely gentle with him and, like large furry gentry, would lie on either side of his pram looking noble. And the cats snuggled with him and, contrary to popular belief (really?!) none tried to smother him. He loved them and they loved him.

Meanwhile, I muddled along like a somewhat bewildered, rather dishevelled chicken. There were moments when, panicking that he was ill, I medicated Aaron only to find that he’d merely had a burp on board. When I would nod off mid-sentence (or even that time whilst driving on the highway, yikes!). When I was ready to hand my non-furry child over to his dad and was tempted to head for the hills at the end of the day. Most days, I resembled a bag lady.

But, after three months (with plenty of help from the unflappable fur kids), I finally got a handle on this whole motherhood thing. Needless to say, my heart melted into a puddle when I got my first smile.

This might not have been MY plan but, looking back now, I realise how blessed I am and how having both my furry and non-furry kids has enriched both my life and theirs.