The Small Shield
Kittens, Aztecs, and the primal nature of motherhood.
Content warning: This post discusses birth, and contains descriptions of blood, bodily fluids, and surgery.
Our cat, Mimsie, had a litter of kittens in early April. She’d already had one when I found her, a tiny dark grey kitten so small that he looked like a mouse.
I sat down beside her as she licked his bedraggled fur and waited for the next one to join us.
I’d never seen an animal give birth before, and I was shocked by how intense it was. Each kitten was born inside its own birthing sac, which Mimsie ripped open with her teeth. She'd lick the kitten’s face to help it start breathing and then continue grooming it, passing her rough tongue over its tiny body. Eventually, she'd deliver the kitten’s placenta, which she tore into with gusto, devouring as much as she could before the next kitten arrived.
She did this again and again, and when all was said and done, Mimsie had delivered five kittens altogether: four boys and a girl. She lay exhausted, the fur of her face and backside covered in blood, the kittens slippery, and mewling. Everything was warm and damp and messy and perfect.
It felt so right to me, this version of motherhood. It made sense, somehow, this primal world, her hard-won victories. She’d fought five battles with the entirety of her body, everything she had.
Of course, she should be covered in blood like a soldier. She’d earned every drop.
We sanitize modern motherhood.
Before I had Olive, the idea of having a baby brought to mind neatly stacked cloth diapers and clean onesies. Lullabies and nurseries and the irresistible scent of a downy newborn’s head.
It was those things, of course, but I wasn’t at all prepared for how physical it would be, too.
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