I had been a mother for a little over eight years when I first became the mother of a mother. I felt more than ready. I felt confident, even.
But after we moved to our rural property and welcomed a very spirited rescue kitten into our family, I would soon come to realise that I was not at all prepared for what it means to be the mother of a mother.
Our little farm kitten arrives. And we name her Belle. My eight-year-old daughter’s first pet.
Belle quickly establishes her place in the family. She becomes firm friends with our older cat. She’s my little companion while 8 is at school and in the evenings sitting with me while I write. And over the next few months, I watch my daughter naturally flourish into a doting mother.
But one night, after the usual evening mouse-hunt, Belle isn’t waiting at the front door to come in. She doesn’t come trotting around the corner when I call her. And there’s no sign of her in the garden.
I’m still trying not to worry when my husband’s torch beam falls on a tiny figure huddled under the wheelbarrow. Belle. So badly injured that she can barely walk, barely even look at us. There is too much blood. And she is far too still.
Please 8, I whisper to myself, as we gently carry the shocked kitten into the house, please stay asleep. You don’t need to see your baby like this.
I contact the emergency vet, find towels and the cat box. My husband drives her in while I stay behind with our own sleeping children. And I wait, and do whatever I can to keep my mind busy. Anything to keep from thinking the worst.
The vet knows it’s serious, but since there’s no other option this late at night, Belle comes home again. We will have to nurse her through the night.
I look down at my baby’s baby. And as silently as I can manage, I break down.
My husband gives me his hand, but not his eyes. She might still make it.
But I’m already grieving for our sweet little kitten. I’m already lost for the words I will need to say to our children in the morning. And my heart already aches with the strength I’ll need to give my daughter when she finds her kitten like this.
I am a mother. And the depth of emotion I have for my children still, after all these years, takes my breath away at times.
But I am now also the mother of a mother. The flood of emotion I’m suddenly caught in is overwhelming. Did I honestly think that it would somehow buffer me from the worry? Did I honestly think that I would be somehow less connected?
In this moment, all I want to do is protect my daughter from this inevitable pain.
Morning arrives. And with it, fresh hope as the little black bundle next to my bed begins to stir. The recovery will be long, the vet tells us the next day, but Belle will hopefully regain full function of her tail and hips.
As a mother, it has been tough to watch my daughter cope with this difficult side of motherhood.
Although it has made me especially grateful for the many years of adjustment I still have left before my children might actually begin having real babies of their own!
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