Life Long Affects of Relinquishment Continue to Be Surprising
We have one cat in my house, or should I say, Scarlett has a cat named, Pumpkin. Scarlett loves Pumpkin and Pumpkin loves Scarlett, but he barley tolerates the rest of us. OK, truth be told, he’s a decent cat overall, except for some very loud meowing, but serves none of my cat needs. He won’t is on my lap, he won’t come over to me, he hates it when I insist on giving him affection, like visibly looks pained and annoyed. Basically, as cats go, he’s an asshole.
So I have been wanting another cat for like five years, but Rye has always held his guns that one cat is enough. Of course, one cannot make my dear daughter give up her beloved pet so my needs can be met, so I have unsatisfied kitten desires. Hence I have been saying I want a kitten for my birthday, fully expecting that I will continue to be sadly wanting a kitten for another five years or until something terrible happens to the ass-cat…which I cannot wish for because I am not a horrible person like that.
So my birthday comes, and even though I am coming down with some cold germ that kids kindly shared, overall it’s a rather nice day. We didn’t do anything major, but Rye made me a delicious cake and we had tapas and cocktails with friends and family on the patio. I am rather surprised when Rye sits me down mid evening and starts to explain something about the SPCA and an adoption application. Seriously, I never did think he would actually realize that I needed to have some cat affection in my life and give in. He does love me!! I’m excited beyond belief, the kids are thrilled, and apparently the local Ulster County SPCA got in over 100 kittens just the other day. It’s kitten fiesta time.
Planning for a New Kitten Baby
I am quite touched by the amount of planning and effort he already put in to get me the kitten of my dreams. He had already filled out the application, they knew it was for my birthday, and we were planning on going over on Thursday. Now since this was to be MY kitty, we, luckily, decided to just go in the am, so the kids could not push undue influence upon the kitten selection process. He was a tad bit annoyed off that they had not called him back regarding the application, since there was a birthday plan involved, but we were not concerned.
So, we get to the Ulster SPCA at 11. We are early and though the parking lot is filled, we have to kill 30 minutes until they actually open. Once we get in, Rye greets the receptionist and she seems to remember him already being there and my birthday kitten story. He expresses that he had already filled out the application, but had expected to hear back. She says she will find it and we are invited to go see the available cats.
We go into the first cat room, but there are no kittens at all. The lady there brings us to the ” younger” cat room where there are still no signs of the 103 kittens ( they were being processed still) but a nice array of teens and sweet young adults.
Adoption of Anything should NOT be Shopping
Now, I was very conscious of not ” shopping” for a cat that fit my vision of what a cat should be like. Rye and I decided that personality was most important and the new kitty had to be one that would be very interested in just sitting on my lap and cuddling with me. I am more partial to males, but would not rule out a female. I love white cats and grays, but aside from an orange tabby which we already have in the Pumpkin, I would be open. So after walking around the whole room and greeting all the cats ( and there were maybe 30 in there) I just sat down on the floor to see what would happen.
The minute I sat down, this young male tortoise shell tiger came over and plopped in my lap. Rye at this point, sitting in a chair, also had a older male tortoise tiger loving all over him. Others came to visit but, it really felt like these two guys had picked us as opposed to the other way around. My guy is rolling about, purring like a fool and just licking me all over….my hands, my ankles, were hanging out nose to nose, looking into each other’s eyes. I’m thinking..ok, slightly older and I wasn’t planning on a tortoise, but I think he is the one.
So were in there for a good 35 40 minutes. Workers and volunteers are coming in and out, and I am falling for this cat. Then, one of them comes in and tells rye that they need to speak to him. I stay with my guy and I start telling him the scoop….you’ll. have to put up with the dog, but she’s cool. Pumpkin is not the king. He was to be my baby, but Tristan would be his second, etc.
I start the kitty tests…will he dig being held like this? How about this? Can I touch his teeth, his feet, what annoys him? Nothing. It’s becoming clear..he’s my guy.
Rye comes back in. I have to come with him and talk to the manager or director or whatever. I look my kitty in the eyes and tell him I will be right back.
I didn’t know it, but I was lying.
Kitten Loving Disaster Time
So we’re are now standing in the middle of the foyer/ entrance/ hallway and this woman is saying that our application is not approved because our dog, Lilly, is not spayed.
Ok. I get rules. I can understand that they are trying to reduce the numbers of unwanted pets in the world. I understand that their rooms are filled with the products of accidents. Yet, Lilly was left unspayed for a reason, not because we are horrible pet owners. That was a conscious decisions as she is full blooded American bulldog and we had planned on breeding her since she is such a great dog, but we never found a suitable mate and now she’s going to be 8.
Yet, still it’s on THE MISSION STATEMENT. Which, I can understand, means there is not much going around that. I know we are not spaying Lilly now just to get this guy…she’s too old, I worry that she might have a personality change, get fat whatever. I wish we had spayed her as we are not going to breed her now for the same reasons..she’s too old now..it’s a pain when she goes into season twice a year. She has to wear pants. Yes, I do my dogs laundry. I sew her pants. It’s pathetic, I know.
Anyway, we’re having this discussion in the entrance/foyer/ hallway about how it is ” their mission statement” and they just will NOT adopt out pets to a household that has any fertile animals in it. Whether I sew my dogs period pants and launder them is a moot point.
I am hearing her words and they register mentally, but inside I am screaming WHY DIDN’T SOMEONE TELL RYE BEFORE THEY LET ME IN THAT ROOM!!!
My brain clicks to the conclusion that I will not be taking that cat home with me. Rye knows, too, and we go to leave.
In Which Claud Loses Her Mind
We make it out the double glass doors and I burst into hysterical tears. Not weeping, not crying, but gut wrenching hysterical deep soul crushing sobs. Rye looks at me shocked, I am beyond all logic.
I make it about ten steps to the car, and then turn around….sobbing, tears flowing down my face, I go back in with the invention of telling them how wrong it is to do this to a person. I am not sure what I said. It was like I had stepped on an emotional land mind and now all this shrapnel of myself was just flying. I was just so damn angry ..not at their rules, but that they let me go in that room. I know I made a scene, which is NOT something I tend to do at all, really, ever.. in person. ( online, completely different, in person, I avoid conflict!)
They said something about talking to a manager, there was a volunteer who was very sweet and followed us out and apologized. As I said, I was beyond reason. I have no idea what I said. I think I yelled. I know I just cried and cried. Honestly you would think I had spent the last 40 years with Mr. Kitty, not the last 40 minutes. After I raged abut a bit, I just couldn’t be there near them anymore, waiting, and we left. I cried all the way home..cried when we got home. Ranted and raved for hours really. I can’t recall the last time I was this upset.
Now, in retelling the story, most folks just thought the rule was silly as the dogs fertility should not matter with a cat. The rule was deemed “dumb” the SPCA, “jerks”, but oddly, I wasn’t upset about their mission statement and sticking to it. My feelings were in complete and total disconnect than the majority of folks.
I was just angry that they let me in there to begin with. I should never have gotten I to see that cats to begin with. In my head, there were enough opportunities that our application could have been red flagged as having issues before I was ever there.
- When Rye first filled it out, the receptionists there should be trained to glance over the form to make sure everything is filled out and spot any possible issues.
- During the time frame that the app was there, while Rye waited for the phone call, they could have noticed Lilly’s status.
- The criteria for households adopting should have been noticeable, posted, on the website, etc.
There were all these check points that I saw as stop points that could have prevented me from going into THAT room.
I am happy to say that my outburst and a later, very productive conversation between Rye and the manager on social media, has resulted in them improving the process.
But I was still quite hysterical.
At one point during my ranting, it was said ..guess what ” adoption sucks.. Even if it’s trying to get a kitten”
Is it REALLY the Kitten?
And so my brain started thinking…am I feeling what a prospective adoptive parent feels when denied a baby? Why was I so damn upset? And it occurred to me that in some way I was…as I felt this was MY cat, the cat I was supposed to have, but I dislike that kind of thinking and was disgusted that I could fall into it. Was it entitlement? Yuck, this didn’t jive with my overall attitudes towards cats. Logically, its spring time in the Hudson Valley..it’s kitten season and they are a dime a dozen..and I love all sorts of cats. Was it this cat..and why was I so attached after 40 minutes. Because I was stuck on this cat..or rather I was stuck on LEAVING this cat. I was Horribly distressed that I mentally told this cat that I was coming back and he was coming home with me and now….
You know, often people say to me “why do you focus so much on the negative of adoption?” As if I am doing something wrong. But this is a case where being aware of things is helpful, because if I was quick to write off adoption issues and say “not everything is related to adoption” then chances are I would still be an hysterical mess fixating on this one cat. Because it really wasn’t the cat, the SPCA lady, or the need for a kitten that made me lose my ever loving mind…it was adoption.
Nope, It Was a Major Triggering Adoption Episode!
I had no way of knowing it, but when I had to leave my “baby” cat behind and walk out that door without turning back..I hit that place that every relinquishing mother fears. The moment when we walk away. It really was an emotional land mind that exploded when I walked out that door. Almost 26 years later, and that hysterical grief was as strong as it was then. I wasn’t crying over the cat, it was over Max…two days old. It’s no one’s fault that this experience reenacted the worst trauma of my life, but it did. Just ripped that scab off with such a force, that it took me hours to find the place to stop the bleeding.
When I did, it all made sense and I could get a grip. My feelings didn’t make any sense when it was about the cat. I was feeling crazy, but the minute I was able to identify it as adoption grief and loss, I felt like I understood: Ah, yes, here you are. I know you. The intensity now make sense. I was traumatized by the SPCA experience, but it was relinquishment at it root.
Now, it is worth nothing, that it took me quite a few hours to make this connection. I can only imagine how many other birthmothers in the world find themselves in similar situations, insanely upset over something that defies logic, yet makes sense when adoption is applied, but they don’t know it go there. In this case, because I was trying to technically “adopt” a cat, it wasn’t a far road to travel to make the connection.
Putting the Adoption Trigger Pieces Together
And what really made it clear was being able to really look at and examine my feelings.
- What I was angry about: not the rules, but that I was put in that position.
- What I wanted to say to them: look what you did to me by letting me in that room.
- What I felt about the cat: it was not any kitten, it was THAT kitten.
- What I remembered: sitting there and telling that kitten that I would be back. Looking in his eyes, feeling that he would feel abandoned by me. I left him. I was horrified by that. I didn’t even say good bye.
I had symbolically created the relinquishment experience. When I bonded with the cat, my subconscious pulled up bonding with Max at the hospital. The sitting with the kitten and talking to him was very much like what I did with my baby, but I knew I was leaving my baby.. I had promised to take the cat. So not being able to fulfill that was just maddening. It was Boston on November 16th, 1987 all over again.
And the thing is.. It was.
Until I sat with my feelings on Thursday and compared the two, I had no memory of after the bassinet with Max in it rolled out of my hospital room. I didn’t remember leaving the hospital, the drive home, etc. Now, I do remember bursting into the same tears when I left the hospital. I remember the same kind of car ride home and then going to cry alone. I had no one to be angry at, expect myself, when I was 19, but I could be angry at the SPCA on Thursday. And so I was.
Chalk it up to Adoption Issues. How About You?
The point of sharing this is not to bitch about the story or rip apart the SPCA. I’m actually pretty ok with the whole thing and totally fine now after reviewing the conversation that Rye had with them. They really did handle it very well and they had no reason to expect that this would be a major triggering episode for me. Hell…I didn’t either and i am especially thankful that as we drove home even Rye knew to say to me “no Facebook for you this afternoon. You are raging!” Poor Rye, he had no clue that the supreme birthday plan would turn into a cry fest. In truth, there is no one to blame, just adoption and life.
Anyway, my point in sharing this is to say that it is worthwhile to examine our feelings and reactions. It does help to apply the adoption lens especially when we find our emotions getting out of control. It’s not always the obvious, it’s not just the cat, but something deeper, long buried, even though to be under wraps, understood.
I wonder how many more of us have similar stories where the trauma of relinquishment was relived, triggered, and the responsibility for an extreme reaction? How long until you recognized that for what it was? If ever? Can you think of a time when you freaking lost it and looking back, it was actually adoption grief at the root? If you have, please share, so more of us can be aware.
We can’t always avoid the emotional land minds in adoption, but we can help each other find the band aids to put ourselves back together.
I am still sad, but I know the tears that flow are not over a cat, even if he was cool, but my baby. yes, I am still looking for a kitten. And if anyone else is, and they have no fertile pets in their household, may I recommend a really cool young male who is over at the Ulster County SPCA.