Wednesday, May 03, 2006

afternoon with the vet, evening with the midwives

Over the past few weeks I have slowly become convinced that there is something wrong with the cat. At first it was just that she seemed to be a little neurotically possessive of my lap. Then she started looking a little less well-groomed than usual. Then she was sleeping a lot, and getting kinda smelly. Then, she started occasionally spitting up. Not hairballs, just spitting up after she ate her kitty treats and lapped up her special cat milk that comes in cute little juice-drink-like purple boxes. Then, her spit up started looking reddish, like she was bleeding somewhere and I thought, okay, it's time for the vet.

Still, it took me three weeks to find a vet, call a vet, make an appointment and take her there. I just couldn't decide if she was really sick or if this was just kitty stress that would eventually go away. I vacillated. We're on a budget that consists of stipends, loans and part-time employment. If kitty's not really sick, then we could really use that $50-$100 elsewhere...

Anyway, I finally took her. When we got there, the vet said in surprise, "How old did you say your cat was?" "Three and a half years," I replied. "Why is her coat so horrible?" she exclaimed. "I don't see coats like this on cats unless they're 18 years old!" "I don't know," I said helplessly. "That's one of the things we've noticed lately. She isn't grooming and I don't know why."

The vet leaned down and peered into my poor kitty's mouth. "This is the problem," she said. "Her teeth are awful."

My poor kitty. She stinks and spits up and hasn't been grooming because she has stomatitis, a really terrible and advanced kind of feline gingivitis and her whole mouth hurts her. She can't chew (so she chokes on her food and spits up) and she can't groom (obviously) and, of course, she's stinky because it's like halitosis from hell when your whole mouth is full of infection.

So we have some antiobiotics to give her--1 cc every twelve hours. This morning, her third dosage, Brent and I spent an hour wrestling with her trying to get the syringe close enough to her mouth that I could squirt the stuff in. It never worked. I can't begin to describe how incredibly awkward that was for me at this point in the pregnancy, on top of all the stress and frustration inherent in trying to get your cat to do something she really, really doesn't want to do, plus how bad it makes you feel to cause an animal pain even when you're just trying to do what's best for her. She was frantic and freaked, and finally, I called the vet to plead for help. Isn't there another way? I begged. Her mouth hurts her so much she flinches long before I get close enough to actually get the medicine in there.

Apparently we can put it in her food. Would've been nice to know to begin with, but at least there will be no more human-kitty-pregnant-human wrestling matches on the floor.

I wish that was all. There's a chance that the antibiotics alone, though they should clear up the infection, won't be enough and that she will need dental work and teeth extracted before we're done. How much that costs depends on how many teeth will have to go, and how hard it is to get them out, but the Doomsday Scenario is about $1000.

It's pretty hard to contemplate pulling $1000 out of nowhere to spend on our cat's dental health when we 1) have no income to speak of, 2) expect a baby in a month, and 3) haven't been to the dentist ourselves in literally years.

But what are the options? We can't not take care of the cat. We just don't know how we're going to get it done.

So, after the afternoon with the vet, we spent "an evening with the midwives." The midwives at Princeton Midwifery Care (where we go) hosted this informational event at the University Medical Center, and since Brent and I have opted out of formal childbirth classes, we thought we'd go to this one-time free event in case there was anything we could learn that we haven't already. Mostly, the information covered was stuff I'm already well familiar with by now, but it was great to be able to tour the hospital wing where we'll be giving birth. That was helpful in a lot of ways--it made the whole anticipated event a little more real, a little more concrete, and a little less unknown. The LDRP rooms are spacious and pretty homey. You can slide cabinet doors closed over all the emergency equipment and once the warming crib and monitor stuff is moved out it looks more like a bedroom than a hospital room. Lots of lighting options, private bathroom, little fridge, fold out chair for Brent to sleep on if he wants, and lots of chairs. There's a Jacuzzi down the hall and--this was very exciting--the midwives recently acquired a birthing stool that I can try if I want (I don't know how comfy that will be or if it will work for me but it sounds nifty). So I can now get back to work on my birth plan with a better idea about the facilities and some of the procedures at the University Medical Center. But the real highlight of the evening for me was a little talk given by a doula and childbirth educator on Gail Tully's forthcoming book Spinning Babies. When she asked if anyone in the room was 36 weeks or more, I jumped at the chance to volunteer for her to diagram how the baby is lying. (I beat out another girl who also said she was 36 and a half weeks along--feel a little bad--oh well.) Basically, it's a logical sort of analysis based on where you feel strong kicks, flutters, and where the smooth bulges are in your belly. It turns out that Baby _____ is head down (knew that already), with her feet up near the right side of my ribs (where I consistently feel strong kicks and occasionally see weird bulgy bumps that must be a foot stretched out or something), partially facing out toward my bellybutton, and with her hands down in front where she occasionally punches my pelvic floor with nice little staccato drum rolls that make me wince and head toward the bathroom. And now I have a nice big diagram to put in Baby ______'s little book. Before the birth, she'll need to turn so that her face is toward my spine. But there's plenty of time for that to happen and most babies do this themselves when the time comes.

So...cats and babies. I still carry this residual feeling of guilt that I have been a terrible caregiver for Tiamat and that this bodes ill for upcoming motherhood. My kitty's teeth are practically rotting out of her head and I barely even noticed. I hope I manage to be a little more attentive from now on--to cat and child.


RM said...

You'll be a great mom, Jen. I feel your pain about Tiamat. Poor kitty! As for the smell, would kitty wipes help?

JTB said...

Basically, nothing will help except getting the infection cleared up. Actually, the vet said she doesn't smell nearly as rank as most cats with this problem... Good news: Tiamat takes her medicine quite eagerly when mixed with her cat milk, so no more fighting about that and we can be reasonably certain that she's getting the full dose on time. Yay. Bad news: even after the infection is cleared up after this round of antibiotics, there's still the matter of whatever underlying cause it is that started all this in the first place, which is why the vet's talking about teeth extraction and stuff. Bottom line, kitty was acting quite a bit perkier than she has been last night, and seems to be doing better already. Big sigh of relief.

pat said...

If the teeth have to come out, could they just come out naturally and not have to be pulled? My friend who is an animal lover said to ask that question. And she said that Tiamat could live quite well on soft food and be groomed by you.