As I get older, I realize how many of the little things I tend to forget, sometimes big things too. Though, when I look back to 9 years ago, July 1, 2003 to be exact, I remember that day with clarity….it was the day that my newborn son was born still…and it is also the day that I discovered the greatest friendship of my life.
Mikey was just a kitten, 4 months old, I rescued his mother only weeks before he and his litter mates were born in my bed, yes, in my bed. The litter included 3 white kittens and 1 black and white kitten. I noticed right away that one of the kittens had a little tuff of blackish gray hair on top of his head but didn’t think much of it at the time, I would later learn that many newborn white kittens who are deaf, have this ‘tuff’ of hair that disappears as they grow up.
Shortly after the kittens were born, I found out that I was two months pregnant with my second child. My oldest daughter was living with her father so I was excited at the thought of little feet once again running around the house. I think with all of the excitement of a new baby coming, I didn’t get as caught up in the kittens as I would of if I hadn’t been pregnant. I totally loved them and cared for them but hadn’t formed any sort of bond with any of them at that point.
By the time the kittens had reached about 2 months of age, I noticed something odd about the little white guy with the tuff on his head…he didn’t seem to respond as the others did and he slept a whole lot more than the other kittens. I had Mama cat set up in her own room with her kittens so she would have privacy and I could keep the kittens some what contained for the time being When I began to supplement their mother’s milk with kitten formula, the kittens would charge me as soon as they heard the door opening…except for one little kitten, he would just be sleeping away. I would walk over to him and touch him and it would startle him so he would let out the loudest little meow for a kitten. He always drank his milk but I was concerned, I thought he was sick at first but it wasn’t long before I realize that he couldn’t hear. I preformed a few home made hearing tests at home to come to this conclusion. He was definitely deaf.
By three months of age this little kitty guy had taken over the house, he was so full of life and mischief. He terrorized his brother and sisters, they would let out screeches that he just did not hear when he attacked them, life was interesting. I was then 5 months along in my pregnancy and the thoughts of how I would care for this deaf cat in the future was weighing on me heavily. How would I do this with a new baby? How would he be with a new baby? So far, seeing how he played with his siblings was not so encouraging. I thought about finding him another home which is not my style at all but I felt pressured with a new baby coming and my concerns on how I could manage this were very real.
I decided to wait and see how things would go. I had no idea of the journey I was about to set out on…no idea at all.
By the time I was in my sixth month pregnancy, I was finally feeling pregnant, my ultrasound 2 weeks prior showed that I was carrying a healthy little boy, it also showed that I had a Subchorionic hemorrhage. (Bleeding between the amniotic sac and the placenta) My doctor assured me everything was fine and I should carry on as usual and so that is what I did but on June 30, 2003, I woke up feeling anything but usual. My tummy kept tightening and when I asked the doctor about this at my previous appointment he said it was just Braxton hicks, false contractions that prepare for the baby. I tried to keep that in mind that morning but I didn’t feel right but felt like a pest to keep asking my doctor so I waited it out, knowing it would pass.
By that evening, I had noticed that the baby was moving around a lot more than usual and by 10pm I felt like I was in labor. After arriving at the hospital and having some tests, I was told that I would be delivering my son and that he would not survive. I listened to his heartbeat all night long on the monitor and by day light the doctors and nurses were telling me to push as I refused. I knew he could not survive outside of me but nature took over and my son was born, he never took a breath.
Leaving the hospital without a baby in my arms was one of the most disturbing experiences in my life. I am thankful that I was allowed time with my son before leaving that day, it helped but my heart was broken right in two, I just wanted to go home.
When I walked in the house, I hadn’t thought about all of his things that were already set up in his bedroom, I immediately went to his room, I needed to be near him and these were his things. The door to his room had always been closed but on that day it was open a little. When I walked into the room, the first thing I saw was my sons bassinet and the tears just fell, as I walked closer to the little baby bed I saw this little white kitten with a tuff on his head curled up in a little ball fast asleep in the bassinet. There were no other cats in his room, just this one.
I lifted him out of the bassinet to carry him out of the baby’s room and noticed that it felt good to hold him in my arms, he was warm and didn’t resist being held at all. I carried him to my room as I was exhausted. I put him on my bed and then I put myself there as well, I grabbed a pillow and cried like I had never cried before, this cry came from a place within me that I never knew existed because I had never lost a child before and this cry is especially made for this loss. I felt so lonely in that moment, so incredibly lonely, my entire body ached for that lost little boy.
I woke up a couple of hours later to something scratchy on my face, it took a moment to realize that this little kitten I earlier brought into my room was now licking my face, he was licking dried tears I thought, and then wet ones as I began to cry again, he never left me, when he was done cleaning me up, he curled up in my arms and that is where he stayed until I woke up again. This time when I woke up I found myself looking for him to be there and he was right there…I was comforted. We had a long night that night, but I wasn’t alone and my arms they were not empty.
I don’t remember seeing any of my other cats during this time…just this one.
By morning I managed to get to the bathroom and before I could shut the door he wormed his way in. He has followed me everyday since.
I began calling this little kitten of mine “My Kitty”, I lacked anything creative at the time. But I did realize that if I said “My Kitty” fast enough…it sounded a lot like “Mikey” and so he had a name and I had just made a friend that would become my Rock through the toughest of times and a light for me to hold as I walked through the darkest hours of my life.
The days and weeks and even months ahead were difficult for me to deal with, I had never given a moments thought about what would happen if I lost my child, no one ever thinks this will happen so when it does you are completely unprepared. I found myself picking out a casket instead of baby clothes, purchasing a burial plot instead swings or strollers and planning a funeral for child that nobody even had a chance to meet except for a select few.
During this time, while I was grieving, the only thing that seemed to bring a smile upon my face was Mikey. For a kitten, he was so aware of how I felt; it was as if he were looking after me when it was I who should have been looking after him. Depression can set in pretty rapidly after going through something like this but it didn’t happen that way because after a few weeks of being cared for by this amazing little guy, I knew I would need to begin figuring out how I would care for him and his needs as a deaf kitten. I spent countless hours researching his deafness as he sat on top of my monitor or slept on my printer, he never left my side for long.
It wasn’t too long thereafter that I began to see the sun shining again, I was stepping slowly out of the darkness and with each step I took, Mikey stepped with me.
I decided it was time for a change when Mikey was a year old and we moved to the mountains where we live now. We have 22 acres, but he is an indoor kitty…we do have a large home so he has plenty of room. We built him an outside enclosure with a tunnel that runs from the house to an open area where he can sit on his log and bask in the sun. Also last year I started taking him out on a harness and he is doing well with it, as long as we are together he does well with anything, I seem to do well this way also.
Some people have questioned my devotion to Mikey and have viewed him as spoiled and all I can do is smile because he is absolutely spoiled…as he should be.
When I look at him, I don’t see a pet, I barely see a cat or an animal. What I do see is this beautiful soul who chose to be my friend when I really needed one. Most kittens just play and are busy just being kittens but I’m convinced that Mikey’s mission was so much more than this, I know we were always meant to be friends.
Today he is 8 years old, he has become a part of who I am. Our lives now are so full of joy and laughter. On June 29th 2005, almost two years to the day after I lost my son…Miss Haley was born…healthy. Haley calls Mikey her older brother… and he is.
As Mikey approaches his senior years, I know I will someday have to face a day when he will no longer be next to me, at least not in a bodily sense. I will never be sorry and for Mikey, I will be strong no matter what because he deserves me to be. I have learned so much from our friendship and I am a better person today because of him.
I became a photographer because of Mikey’s beautiful face, captivated by his loving heart that always seems to show up in every image I take of him. He seems to reach even those who only know him in pictures and he has become my little ‘Rockstar’ through my lens.
In my heart however, he will remain my ‘hero’ for all of time….
because he rescued me… because he saved my life.
Thank you Jennifer for the privilege of sharing your work.