Victoria Jelinek


The Pregnancy Diaries – 2

Our perfect companions never have fewer than four feet.” Colette

My doctor doesn’t think that anything I’ve done to date will harm this baby – not even smoking. However, he is concerned about the fact that I’ve acquired a kitten. Apparently Toxoplasmosis is common in France – ‘because we eat a lot of raw meat and are dirty,’ he told me. I thought it was something one got from tampons, but apparently not. I’m pleased it gets me out of kitty litter duty, but my doctor is not amused. As a result, I shall be tested for Toxoplasmosis weekly for the first three months, then monthly.

We found this kitten when we purchased a used car from a French mountain guide and his wife. The man had been left alone to care for the mother cat and had let her ‘prowl’ unguarded while she was in heat, so his wife had returned to a pregnant cat. As a result, they were getting rid of the kittens immediately. We drove out to their farm outside Annecy. Their stone house has been in his family for generations. We first saw the kittens as they were nursing from their mother! I asked the farm lady if they were old enough to be taken from their mother? She said that they were eight weeks and that was plenty. I was sceptical, thinking that one of these babies would be parted from the safety of their mother that very day and that me, a mother-to-be, would be the culprit that literally pulled the kitten from its mother’s tit. I told myself that the mother cat would be batting these kittens away in the days to come, wanting her independence again, and I’d give it a good home, but my hormonal heart wept. We sat on the ground in their living room with all five of the kittens playing around us while the woman made a fresh quiche for us from the eggs their chickens had laid that day and her husband smoked incessantly and looked grumpy. My husband wanted one of two particularly feisty tabbies, but there was a wee black one that kept coming up to me, and I knew that this was my kitty; she is brave and independent. We took her from her mother that day and put her in a box with a dirty piece of cloth that her family had been sleeping on in their cellar. She mewed in the car on the hour-plus drive back to our house, her little heart beating so quickly, but she never wet or pooped. How scared she must have been with the sound of the cars motor and the movement. She was so small, then – the size of a teacup. She immediately took to her litter box even as she had to scale its wall and fall into it. It was difficult for her to eat food, so we wet it and she would eat one little nugget at a time. I couldn’t bare the idea of her sleeping alone so I slept on the couch with her for the first several days. She would suckle at my neck when she was getting ready to sleep, which was a little ticklish and a tad uncomfortable, but mostly poignant.

And now my doctor is telling me that my brave kitten is dangerous to my baby. What have I done? No, I will not get ‘rid’ of the creature (either one). We took the kitten to the vet’s to have a check up. I told the vet that my doctor tells me that the kitten is bad for my unborn baby. She was irate and demanded to know who my doctor is. When I told her, she called me a liar (she’s tactless, but a great vet). Then she promptly got on the phone and called his office. After a rapid-fire conversation with him, she told me that I am not to clean the kitty litter, or to sleep with the kitten anymore, and I’m to wash my hands every time I touch it. My doctor hasn’t said anything about the phone call, and he still prescribes the weekly toxoplasmosis test.



The Pregnancy Diaries

‘He does not weep who does not see’ (Victor Hugo)

When my doctor confirmed that I was pregnant I burst into tears. I’d just returned from a week’s holiday with friends and had drunk my body weight in alcohol. But it’s also the realisation that there is, once again, the possibility of the life-changing reality of a baby. Did I think this through all those times in which my husband and I had been having ovulation sex?
My doctor, a great swath of a man with hands the size of hams, waited calmly for me to stop crying before he remarked, ‘I don’t know if those are tears of joy or sadness…’ ‘I don’t either,’ I replied. Undoubtedly, it’s both. After a few miscarriages, my husband and I have altered our expectations of ever having children to encompass the possibility. We agree that if a child doesn’t happen after the next, and final pregnancy, which I suppose this is, we’ll buy a VW California van. We’ll tool around Europe in it doing things that folks with infants can’t, such as eating leisurely, sleeping in, reading, lazing about on a Sunday afternoon, and watching DVD’s that we want to watch. Can I handle the sadness of losing another pregnancy? I’d named my first baby ‘Appleseed.’ It had never occurred to me that I’d lose that baby…of course I knew it was possible, even statistically likely at 25%, but when I did lose Appleseed I was heartbroken. Can I cope with looking for blood every time I go to the bathroom as the first indication that something is wrong? What about my budding career as a writer? After the last pregnancy, I’d thrown myself into work. I’ll lose this momentum with a baby. Will my personal needs ever really factor into my life again? In the midst of my neurotic circles, minutes passing in the doctor’s office while my mind raced, (no wonder his waiting room is always full), I decided to address the most pressing worry – my recent week of debauchery. I gave my doctor the litany of my activities while on holiday and he was nonplussed; ‘ce n’est pas grave…’ the baby is an ‘atom’ at this point and nothing will have harmed it.
I adore my doctor. He embodies all of the theoretical reasons that motivated me to move to France – leisure, thought, beauty. It has historically been a safe haven for misanthropes, artists, and buggers who didn’t belong elsewhere, and now it’s home for me. He’s plump, but not obese. He’s untidy, but he knows where everything is in his office. Unkempt, there’s a robust sexiness to him, and sometimes on Sunday evenings there’s the resonant smell of a good cigar. His purpose on earth seems to be to help women to deliver healthy babies; not in an officious, ideologically driven manner, more of a lust-for-life-meets-his-specific-skillset. He always seems to be working, holding late office hours and weekend hours (very un-French actually). It’s difficult to get an appointment with him in the first place and it really depends on the mood of his secretary as to whether it’ll take five or nine months to get one. In the first instance, I simply announced to the secretary that I was pregnant and bleeding and she gave me an appointment immediately; there are some advantages to having a hostile uterus. I came to know my doctor well through my miscarriages, all the tests he ran and the office visits as a consequence. All this attention and it’s 100% covered by my carte vitale – very civilised. In England, while free to anyone, (unlike the French system where we must pay taxes first) I would have been left to chew the umbilical cord off of my baby in delivery and if the baby didn’t make it that far, well, so be it.
By the time I left the doctor’s office my worries were abating. My doctor said on parting, ‘I have a feeling about this one…this one is strong…and stubborn…’ Tears welled up in my eyes, but I chuckled and said, ‘A “feeling”? You sound like a New-Age hippie. Stubborn? He’ll have to be to withstand nine months in my womb.’