Adoption is a long process. There’s applications, interviews, research, and lots of planning. Everything has to be in order. You also have the awkward task of asking people to write reference letters about you, attesting to your good character. There’s a lot of waiting. Nervous waiting. When you finally get “approved”… it’s the greatest feeling ever. You’re getting a 9 week old bundle of joy, one you dreamed about since you were a child. On the day I went to pick him up at the airport (he was coming in from Missouri) I was equal parts excited and terrified. My husband had to work that day so I brought two friends for moral support. Finding the right gate at JFK was impossible. I went to where I was told to go only to be told to go somewhere else. My baby landed an hour ago and he was waiting for me. I ran around the airport like a lunatic until I got to the right building. And there, in the cargo unloading area, in a crate marked “live animal” was my baby. My new Bouvier des Flandres puppy, Cecil. He was my one and only child — that is until I got pregnant — and I still refer to him as my oldest. I hate to admit it, but I’m one of those people who treats her dog like a child.
A 100-pound child.
When I was expecting my second baby (a human) I had to make sure all of my animals (not just my dog, but my husband’s cats and our reptiles) were baby ready. During my last trimester, my dog had to go to my parents’ because I physically couldn’t walk him anymore. I remember being excited when I was in labor because I knew that I would get my dog back.
Cats are complicated. My husband still has the two cats he had before we met. One of them still hasn’t forgiven me for existing. I’m not a paranoid person, but I’m fairly certain that this cat is constantly trying to sabotage me. I was seriously concerned that he would harm the baby. I’m still concerned he will harm the baby. That cat is evil. Sceleritatis purae.
We set strict boundaries with the cats. We didn’t allow them in the bedroom with Adi until she was bigger than they were (they’re 20lbs each). By the time Adi was big enough to push them around, they left her alone. Sammy, the evil cat, the bane of my existence, is terrified of Adi. She chases him around yelling “kitty kitty kitty” trying to catch him. For some strange reason, Sammy is the favorite cat. Not the nice cat who sits quietly and purrs, the evil devil spawn cat. Sammy was even Adi’s first polysyllabic word. Figures. Sammy has scratched Adi a few times, but never anything serious. At this point, I’m more worried for the cat’s safety. But I wouldn’t put it past Sammy to kill me in my sleep and then eat Adi. Seriously. That cat is evil.
As for reptiles, proper hygiene and containment is super important. Every couple of years you hear a horror story about a snake killing a toddler. PUT LOCKS ON YOUR SNAKE TANK. And always wash your hands after handling a reptile. My snake, Chompy McBitebite, is best friends with Adi. She’ll even watch him eat mice and rats. Chompy is about 5 feet long and an absolute sweetheart. But snakes are snakes and Chompy has the potential to really harm Adi. Every visit is supervised and all of his tank locks are childproof. Adi knows that she needs to wash her hands after playing with him.
If you haven’t yet noticed, I have a lot of pets. Pets and a baby in the same apartment is a lot of work. A LOT OF WORK. If you’re expecting a baby (or if you already have a baby and want to get an animal) talk to your pediatrician. She might have concerns. When I was pregnant I couldn’t handle cat litter or reptile tanks.
Adi is a little naturalist. I believe that our animals (even the dread Sammy) are teaching Adi an appreciation for wildlife and nature that you normally can’t get in the city. All the work is worth it for us. But animals, like a baby, are a huge commitment. Make sure you know what you’re getting into before getting one.
Rachel Figueroa-Levin is a soapmaker, cofounder and educator at Urban Babywearing, a hyperlocal Inwood blogger and organizer, a political/life/religion/parenting satirist, and all around trouble maker. She is also the creator of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Spanish-speaking alter ego @elbloombito. You can reach her via twitter @Jewyorican.