Before I gave birth to my son, my dogs were my children. I proudly recounted stories to friends and family members about the adorable things my dogs would do. We regularly visited specialty pet stores for treats. I went home at lunch every day to give them a walk and extra cuddles and devoted all of my free time to their care. I even made special arrangements to include my dogs in my wedding photos!
When I found out I was pregnant, I vowed that nothing would change and that my dogs would remain a top priority. I wasn’t like other people, I would still make time for my dogs because they’ve been a part of my life for so long.
I remember being very concerned about my dog’s wellbeing when I went to the hospital to give birth. Would they wonder where we were? Would they get enough exercise while we were gone? How would they react to their new sibling? I read an article on how to introduce your pet to your baby and thought, “I have to remember to let them smell the baby’s blanket to promote bonding!”
My dogs were my children, until they weren’t.
My relationship with my dogs changed soon after I gave birth. I was navigating the challenges associated with becoming a new mom. Learning how to breastfeed was incredibly difficult for me, and I was dealing with postpartum depression and sleep deprivation. Ultimately, I felt like I had nothing left to give at the end of each day. This feeling was completely unexpected. I thought I would find solace in my furry companions, but all I felt was burdened.
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Their long walks spent sniffing everything imaginable made me irritable. I cringed when I would hear their paws shuffling through our condo, making noise, while I was trying to put my new baby to sleep. I felt like they took up so much physical and mental space when I was trying to unwind, and at one point, I considered rehoming my dogs to my parents because it all felt like too much.
Fortunately, my husband took on 100% of all of the dog care because I wasn’t able to. I think postpartum depression exacerbated a lot of these feelings. It was difficult at the time to ensure that everyone who needed me got the attention they deserved. Despite my initial feelings that my dogs were my children, my primary focus was on my new baby and healing.
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They went from center of attention to loving protectors.
It’s been over a year since my son was born, and my priorities have undoubtedly shifted. My dogs have handled the many transitions they’ve faced in the last year with ease. I’m hopeful for this next stage in dog ownership. The one where I am able to recalibrate and find some sort of balance.
In the last year, we were finally able to give them a backyard, something I’ve been dreaming about for years. It warms my heart to see my dogs play with my son. All three of them are amused by the concept of balls and fetch, despite my son’s short throws and questionable accuracy. My dogs follow my son around everywhere, keeping a watchful eye on him, but also anticipating the occasional snack he tosses their way.
Things are different, but they’re improving. I like to think that my dogs prepared me for parenthood and understand their role in our family now. My dogs taught me empathy and responsibility. I hope they know that despite the changes in the last year, they’re still loved and cherished members of our family.
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