At my fourteenth birthday party, my cat, Maya, went into labor.
I found her in our basement, meowing differently and laying down on her side.She would get up, circle around, and lay down again. I was full of excitement and anticipation as I ran upstairs to tell my friends.
My mom followed me downstairs. We found a box and placed an old towel inside. Maya jumped in and laid down on her side with her head propped up in the corner. The meowing continued.
Although my birthday party was still in full swing, I couldn’t leave my cat’s side.
Maya gave birth to 6 kittens that night, and I watched each of them being born. At one point she stretched her paw up over the edge of the box and I held it gently (I’m not even kidding – it was magical).
I tell this story, almost 12 years later, after I have given birth to my two children at home.
My perspective has certainly changed since then.
While at the time I considered the event to be miraculous, and baring witness to the special moment to be an honor, the thought I keep coming back to is this:
My cat gave birth at home. And there was nothing special about it.
Our pets give birth at home all the time. In the dark corners of our basements, at night, under the deck or up in a haystack. There are few emergencies, very little commotion and no loud announcements.
Why the stark contrast between animal births and our own human birth experiences?
Why, a vast majority of the time, is birth considered an emergency? Can you imagine if we treated one our of pets the way we treat the women of our nation?
“Quick! Maya is in labor! Grab the kitty litter, her cat-nip! Hurry, get the carrier! OH MY GOD! She’s laying down. What if she gives birth right here in our basement?!“
I’ll tell you what, if we would have behaved that way, Maya would have high tailed it outta there and hid somewhere where we couldn’t have found her. And knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t have blamed her.
But we were never worried Maya would need an emergency c-section.
Or if the pain of giving birth would be too much for her to handle and she’d need some form of feline epidural.
In fact, just the opposite. We respected her. We honored her wishes. We trusted that she knew how to give birth. And so she gave birth in a calm, loving space and stayed with her babies from the moment each of them came into this world.
So my question is this: why should birth be so different for us?