Last week, a woman I’ve known for almost ten years finally decided it was safe to ask me a question about infertility.
“I wondered…” she began. “My grandmother always used to say that when there are cats in the house, women don’t have babies. I didn’t believe it and thought it was just an old wives’ tale, but recently I’ve noticed that many of the women I know who don’t have children have cats. Do you know anything about this?”
I told her I hadn’t heard of this, that it was most likely just superstition, but that I’d look into it and let her know.
But even as the logical part of my brain was writing the idea off as a misguided belief, and even as I was surfing the internet looking for any shred of scientific evidence to support it, I found myself looking sideways at Felicity, my poor unsuspecting cat, and wondering if she could be the cause of my otherwise unexplained infertility.
It’s been a while since I’ve caught myself playing the Blame Game—taking some irrational idea and trying to twist it into an explanation of why I can’t have children. I did it a lot in the early days, racking my brains for something in my past that I could pin my infertility on. Everything from Chernobyl fallout and birth control to too much computer time and too much wine was put under the microscope as a possible culprit. I refused to believe that it could have been “just one of those things.”
The scientist in me won’t allow fate, God’s will, or bad luck to factor into my infertility. There is a biological reason that my body’s reproductive system got old before the rest of me, and why my ovaries don’t function like they’re supposed to. But like so many other things in life, pinning blame on something or someone doesn’t change the outcome. So, I’m choosing not to expend my energy on finding the culprit, but instead I’m putting my efforts into making the best of the hand I’ve been dealt.
Call me fatalistic, but playing the Blame Game feels like a waste of my valuable time—time that could be spent living my life instead.
Mrs. Foster says
I commend you for your response. I am not sure if I would have handle that question with so much grace.
Interesting post. We have three cats, so I dont know what affect that has had in our house, but it sounds quite final. One for me, one for the wife, and one for luck. It is of course complete tosh though. Our friend has two cats and seemingly no amount of protection guards against her getting pregnant. I agree with your final sentiment – to spend your days pointing fingers, truly is time wasted. There are much better things to do!
I totally agree. Trying to figure out why with infertility is so emotionally draining. I spent too many of the past years doing the “blame game” as well. I am now at the point of accepting my fate and moving on with my life. We have cats and we would still have them with kids as well. I personally I have never heard of that belief/myth and I know many people who have cats with kids as well. I just can’t understand why people are always trying to “put an answer” to the question of why we can’t/don’t have children. I guess it is just human nature.
You were very kind and must have great self-control to be able to not tell your friend what a stupid thing that was to say to you. My mother loves cats and had them as pets throughout her childhood and also had 6 children so there goes that theory. When I was officially diagnosed as infertile at 36, no doctor could tell me why my eggs were so poor. Truthfully, I don’t think they cared to figure out why, all they cared about was how they could try and force my body to deliver a baby in an unnatural way. I spent a lot of time blaming myself for a lot of stuff that would have nothing to do with it. Then I started thinking about a few aunts I have that never had children and figured there must be something hereditary in my family. Just recently, I started thinking about a few birthcontrol mishaps in my 20s that would have resulted in a pregnancy with anyone else and I think that’s a clue that my eggs were poor even then. The reason I never used a donor egg is because I accept that everything in my life is exactly as it should be — and I just need to be patient to wait for what it has to offer us in the future. I personally think it is a mistake to try and change fate because whenever I’ve tried to force an outcome to happen because it is what I want, I’ve ended up miserable and unhappy. I’m lucky to have my husband and I remind myself to appreciate that every day.
I am godmother to an old friend’s three children – she rears cats and since leaving university has had upwards of 7 cats at any one time…
I think your response was graceful and kind, I know I wouldn’t have been in that situation!
people just don’t understand the difference between correlation versus cause and effect. There are probably a lot of cats in childless women’s houses, yes, but because they have no kids, not the other way round. sheesh….
great post, i believe everyone of us has known this problem of looking desperately for some reason why we don’t have kids. In my case, i shouldn’t have smoked, I should have started earlier, I should have treated my partner better, I shouldn’t have overweight, he should have had his testicles operated on at a younger age, he shouldn’t have smoked, he should left me earlier at least if he didn’t actually want to have a family with me…. the problem is it never stops, some of the causes might be more valid than others (smoking vs cats :-)) but because there are so many possible causes we can’t tell right from left in the end … it would be good to just give this up but it comes back unasked.
Heather H says
You handled the question better than I would have. I would have taken it personally since I have 2 cats. Our first cat my husband got when we were dating 12 years ago. The second one showed up in our lives the same week our 1 and only IVF attempt came back as a BFN. I remember thinking that I didn’t want this stray helpless kitten during that emotional week. I had my hopes on a pregnancy and not on getting another cat. But now I am happy he came into our lives. He has been a good companion for us.
I guess the point I am trying to get at is that pets help to fill your life, no matter what your circumstance maybe. I grew up in a family of 6 kids, and we always had numerous cats at our house. Having cats did not make my Mother infertile as it has nothing to do with my infertility.
Jane G says
We have four cats in our house. Guess that’s us snookered then….!
Thank you for this. This is a good reminder to hug my husband and our beloved cat (!) a little closer and choose to live my life instead of wondering “why me?”.