I never thought I would own let alone love a cat, but parting with Ellesime (ELLE-eh-seem) caused many tears. Our niece found Ellesime in July of 2016 in Pennsylvania hanging around on the property we were renting for a family reunion. She was tiny, adorable, and clearly homeless. We inquired in the neighborhood and on the neighborhood listserv and no one claimed her, so chances seemed high that if we did not adopt her that she would die as the weather turned cold that year. I bent to my husband’s wish to take her back with us to South Bend and give caring for her a try.

When I was younger I wanted to have four golden retrievers, and no cats. (Perhaps growing up without pets creates dramatic desires of this sort!) I had also resolved that if I felt called to be married (and met the right guy!) that I would wait to get pets until my husband and I, God willing, had a child. I felt strongly on this point, probably due to my father’s rants against people who treated their pets like children—and sometimes never had any of the latter. When we found Ellesime, I was about five months pregnant with our first child.

Bringing Elle home the 7.5 hours in the car was an adventure. She loved sitting with our niece in the back seat and slept most of the ride. Once home, I had only a short day or so with my husband teaching me the needs of a cat before he went away for a week. That week was quite an introduction. I bought baby gates to try to contain her, which she leapt over in seconds. I shut her outside when she got too annoying, only to find her perched on the railing of the exterior back stairs of our third-floor apartment, hanging on by her nails so as not to fall down the 20 feet to the ground. She drove me crazy, and I cursed my decision in Pennsylvania.

Over time she mellowed. We learned to cut her front nails and developed a system for cat-free sleeping at night. She would nap against my growing baby bump and was adorably intrigued by the changes we were making around the apartment in preparation for our new baby. I loved seeing the world through her inquisitive eyes—and understood why “curiosity killed the cat” is a saying. I wondered how my baby would eventually lead me to see the world with fresh eyes.

Although a first-time mom, I was (and am) the second oldest of ten kids. With this upbringing I was not perhaps as worried as some first time moms, but also knew that my baby would bring many new needs and induce many new emotions that as a sister I had no sense of. As I transitioned more and more to wearing maternity clothes (and bigger ones!), experiencing lower back pain, baby jabs and pokes in the night, and more, I bonded with Ellesime more closely. We napped together, we sat outside together, and she kept me company during my preparatory nesting.

When we brought Anastasia home from the hospital in early December, Elle was scared of her crying at first. Fairly quickly, though, fear left her, and she loved taking naps nearby as Anastasia slept in her crib. We have some great pictures of Ellesime looking inquisitively at Anastasia in her vibrating chair at a few weeks old and of her in a sentinel pose self-importantly standing guard near Anastasia as she rocked in her swing at three months old.

Circumstances demanded that we rehome our dear Ellesime this fall. We were very grateful to our then-neighbor, who eventually found a loving family to adopt Elle.

I will always look back fondly on my first pregnancy. A small but dear part of this big first in my life was caring for Elle and growing to love her. I will treasure that time of tending to and loving two little creatures of different species. In the end, it was best for both of our little creatures that we parted ways with one of them, but Ellesime will always hold a special place in my heart.

St. Francis, pray for us and the animals of this earth.

Madeline Bradley can be reached at mgillen@nd.edu. If you see a woman strolling a blue-eyed baby with large amounts of dark hair, it may just be us. Introduce yourself, as Anastasia loves meeting new people.