“Quick! Come here,” my husband yelled from the living room.
I dropped what I was doing and raced in – or as quickly as a large pregnant woman could race – to find him sitting next to Matilda’s cage, peering inside.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I think she has a lump,” he said, clearly worried.
Always a friendly hamster, we easily got her out, turned her over and indeed there was a big lump that hadn’t been there before. She was getting old for a hamster and we both looked at each other, fearing her time had come without actually saying it. After an anxious night I took her to the vet, braced for the fact that she probably wouldn’t be coming home again.
At this point you might be thinking ‘it’s sad, yes, but it’s just a hamster’ and once upon a time I thought the same but Matilda was different. You see, Matilda helped to mend my broken heart.
After I lost my first and second pregnancies I felt empty, both physically and mentally. My heart had fractured and it felt like too much of a risk to ever care about anything again.
And then I got Matilda.
Just a hamster, I thought. How attached can you really get? It’s not like a cat or a dog, which became so much a part of the family, it’s a hamster. It’s hard to explain but, although I didn’t realise it, the routine of caring for her; cleaning her out, feeding her, brushing her Farah Fawcett like mane, which she tolerated in the same good natured way she did everything, finding her little treats or toys to keep her entertained did something. Something entirely unexpected. Something good. Something wonderful.
Of course she wasn’t a replacement for a baby (nothing can ever replace lost babies and nor would we want it too), but she was part of my healing process – and for that I will be forever grateful.
But there I was, a few months from finally realising my dream of becoming a mum, and at the vets. Ready to say goodbye.
“Well,” he said, after examining her, and not in the downbeat way I was ready for. “I have some good news. Matilda is, in fact… Matthew.” Huh? My fuzzy pregnant brain was thinking, is that some sort of condition? A different species? All the time the vet was looking at me, expectantly, and then it finally twigged.
“She’s a boy!?! The lump is her…boy bits?” I managed, trailing off slightly at the end. I could tell he was thinking “and this person going to be a parent soon?”
“Yes, indeed,” he said.
And so Matilda (we never did manage to stop calling him that) lived on. He got to meet Freya, which was important to me – although every time she cried, which was all the time, he retreated to his deluxe wooden hamster house at speed.
This photo was my screen saver for such a long time and I still smile everytime I look at it.