Trigger Warning: This post contains depictions of miscarriage and pregnancy loss.

This post was originally published on August 17, 2018, on Lottie & Me as Why Husband is a Father.

The day we lost Declan, I was five hours away from home with two kittens in my backseat and five hours yet to drive.

Let me explain.

The week before the 4th of July, a stray calico began frequenting my backyard.  I paid her no mind. See, I have a history of attracting strays, and I knew if I so much as made eye contact with the beast, that cat would be moving in. So I ignored her on principle.

I pretended I didn’t hear my dog grumbling at the backyard, I averted my gaze whenever she’d perch on our back fence, and I didn’t so much as blink when she looted our trash. She was a stray. She would move on, and so would I.

But over lunch one day, the cat threw herself at my feet, blocking me from entering my car and returning to work. She was skin and bones, over heated in the summer heat, and desperate for a belly rub. What was I supposed to do, let her starve in the name of principles?

I returned home from work with a small water bowl and a can of Fancy Feast. I begged my husband, until finally he nodded his head. We could feed her until someone else could take her in.

But that weekend was the 4th of July. I was terrified that the fireworks might scare her away or some hooligan might terrorize her. On the drive home from work, I saw a calico dead on the side of the road, and I raced home in tears to make certain my calico was okay.

That night, Lacey moved into our basement. We could foster her there until someone else could take her in.

A week went by, and we quickly realized that Lacey was growing faster than a few days of Fancy Feast should allow. It wasn’t long before we had to face facts. This cat was pregnant.

Nick called me from the vet one afternoon to confirm our suspicions.

“She’s pregnant,” he said.

“She has five kittens in there. Maybe more,” he said.

“The vet says we won’t be able to find homes. Everyone in town is full up on kittens. The vet wants to end it,” he said.

“End it?” I said.

“The vet can terminate the pregnancy.”

I began to shake.

“This cat chose me. She knows I’m a mother, and she knows I lost my baby, and she chose me.”

“I’ll tell the vet,” he said.

We piled old towels in a box and made a corner nice and cozy. Nick made sure the house was quiet, that Lacey wasn’t disturbed. “Cats can delay their labor,” he said, “sometimes even days if something startles them good enough.”

When the kittens came, Nick counted them (three). He checked them in the morning, then again over lunch, and once more that night.

Nick changed out the bedding when Lacey moved the babies, and he made sure they had plenty of food and water. In the evenings, Nick lay on the ground with kittens piled on his chest, watching them wriggle across his shirt and down his arms.

I found homes for two of the kittens with friends who lived two states away. We would keep the third. “We’ll name him Bootstrap,” Nick said. “Bootstrap Bob. Or Wicket.”

Fast-forward to October 16th, six weeks pregnant and four hours in to a five hour drive, when I began to bleed.

We’d had a similar episode two weeks earlier. We thought we’d made it. We thought we were going to pull through. And if our first angel taught us anything, it was that bleeding could mean any number of things. I would not go back to an emergency room, so Nick kept me talking while he kept driving.

We said goodbye to our baby in a gas station restroom.

Outside, I hugged my friends and handed them the kittens. The kittens that bandaged my soul when our first baby left for heaven.

I smiled and told them to drive safe. To send me lots of pictures. I crawled back into the car and we drove for five minutes. Then I began to scream.

I sobbed and I yelled and I slammed my fists against the door. Nick tried to call his parents, and I wailed as he spoke on the phone. For two hours, Nick drove with one hand on the wheel and one on my leg, and every town we passed he tried to stop. I wouldn’t let him. I would not go back to the emergency room. Take me home, take me home, take me home.

We pulled off the interstate in the dead of night to sleep at his family’s cabin. I was mad.

“I’ll mess their sheets,” I said. “Take me home,” I said.

Nick handed me his mother’s sweat pants. I told him I would ruin them. He dressed me in them anyway.

He found me Tylenol and water and bundled me into bed. In lieu of a heat pack, Nick tied rice in a dish rag and warmed it in the microwave. When the rice started on fire, he tried again.

I lay in bed with my heat pack pressed to my stomach, curled on my side, staring at the wall. Nick crawled in next to me, a worn book clutched in his hand.

As I burrowed into his chest, he began to read. “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal…”

He didn’t stop until I fell asleep.