Sunday, September 13, 2015

PSA: I Worked While I Was Pregnant and This Is What Happened

Something happened that I need to warn all you lady zookeepers about, especially those of you who want kids.  

Maybe you'll want to reconsider and just get another dog.

It took me a while to realize the extent to which this occurred, and even longer to put two-and-two together. But my daughter was irrevocably altered largely due to the fact that I worked through the vast majority of my pregnancy.  

I'm sorry it's taken me so long to post this, because I feel it's critical that every female who incubates their own children know just what they're doing when they continue to work at a zoo or aquarium while pregnant.  But the delay had a lot to do with the Infant Red Zone (or herein referred to has IRZ).  You know what I'm talking about.  It's that period of time when your baby explodes into your life and is all like, "HELLO, I'D LIKE TO PLAY A GAME" in which you spend weeks on end discerning which cries mean hunger or that your kid has just messed his/her pants.  The IRZ is physical proof that time is relative, which makes me wonder why Einstein got so popular because um, it's pretty obviously that human babies are actual Time Lords.

I weep, for it's true.

Anyways, the IRZ means it's virtually impossible to do anything other than baby husbandry.  It's also tough to see your little guy's personality shine through in this moment, because cognitively they are about in line with a tomato plant.

But as my daughter's consciousness started to evolve, so did the revelation I'm about to share with all of you.

My kid absorbed in-utero traits from the animals with whom I work.  Like some kind of personality zoonosis.

Read that again.  Because it's important.  While you, a glowing* pregnant animal trainer woman, painstakingly choose food, exercise-levels, and environments to nurture your growing progeny, you don't realize you're exposing your unborn child to an entire slough of factors that will shape the person your kid becomes.

Let the record show that I do realize my genes had a lot to do with this.

I'm sure it's different for everyone.  I'm going to show you what traits my daughter absorbed so you don't think I'm crazy.


Beware; your baby COULD become a dolphin

My kid spent a lot of time around dolphins, and now this is how she acts like one:

*    She makes ultrasonic whistle-like noises.  They follow a similar sound pattern as a dolphin whistle, with a pleasant lilting quality.  This might sound really cute to you, but it's not.  Like, does she speak dolphin?  Will she teach me, so that I'll know WTF they're saying?  Or is this going to turn into a situation where everybody's speaking Dolphin but me, and I'm just awkwardly standing there hoping someone isn't talking about how bad my hair looks.

 But really, if they talk about my hair I'll just remind them that they don't have any.

*    She has absolutely zero problem with getting water in her face.  I discovered this on countless occasions during bathtime, in which my motor skills degrade to a level unexplained by current medical science.  Aiming water at the hairline becomes as complicated to me as operating state-of-the-art bombers in the Air Force.  Maybe it was nerves, maybe it was the awkward way in which I was kneeling, or maybe I just suck at bathing human pups.  Regardless, it meant that my poor infant got a lot of water in her face (this also includes wide-open eyes).  But all she does is smile, like it's fun, like it's totally fine that her horrible mother just Made Another Parental Mistake.  Shouldn't this baby be crying, to punish me for this transgression?  No, no.  Because she's absorbed a dolphin's ability to keep their eyes open all the time in water, obviously.

Fact: to "hurr durr" is synonymous with "when Cat bathes infants"

Sea Lions

Yes, Tina, you go ahead and smile at your influence on my kid.

*   She sleeps all. the. time.  And anywhere.  Okay I realize human babies sleep a lot in general.  But this kid is sleeping 10 hours at night right now.  Right now, she's "supposed" to have 3-4 naps a day. But she has twice that amount.  She sleeps and sleeps and sleeps, sometimes in very weird positions. And she can doze off in basically any environment.  My parrots scream, I run into something and say a Very Bad Word, bombs are dropped a few miles from my house (yes,  I'm serious) and she can just sleep through it.

I guess I owe you guys a lot of thanks, sea lions.

At first I thought I was very lucky.  So much time is devoted to getting a human baby to sleep because of the whole IRZ thing.  I thought, "Wow, I have a really easy baby."  But then, as I watched her contort her body into bizarre positions to sleep, as I logged the hours she snoozed, it reminded me of something I've seen countless times before.  It reminded me of watching a sea lion doing what they do best.  Like the fairies in Sleeping Beauty, they gave mini-Cat a gift: sleep.


Seals are great, but they should not influence how human babies move.

*   Okay, I'll say it and deal with whatever flak I get for saying this, but my kid's current locomotive abilities are equivalent to a seal-on-land.  This is most concerning for me, because I feel that this child's exposure to galumphing has potentially messed up any future abilities to move normally.  Only time will tell, but currently, while many babies her age prop themselves up on their elbows and lift their heads, leaving their legs behind them, my kid does not use her front flippers for any meaningful movement.  She can lift her head alright, but her arms do not work.   She only uses her legs.

So there she lies, belly-down, her arms draped at her sides as she kicks furiously with her legs.  Just like a $@#^@ seal.  This isn't just limited to lying down, though.  As I write this, she's asleep in her swing and she's stuffed her arms completely under her body, like they were in the way and don't really matter.  And, as always, when she wakes up, she'll kick her legs incessantly, she'll try to grab things with her toes.  My kid is never going to walk.  She's going to bounce bounce bounce everywhere she goes.

*  The drool.  Oh god, the drool.  I know babies drool, but not like mine.  Not like a baby who has magically received a seal's drooling capabilities.  I don't think it would be responsible of me at this point to have a seal and my kid in the same enclosed space unless it had a drain and highly-effective plumbing.

I mean, is this a seal-kid or what?


It's only a matter of time before they teach her to pull tiles off of walls with her bare hands.

* All gastrointestinal goings-on have been completely downloaded from the Asian small-clawed otters to my baby.  Otters eat all the time, as does the child in question.  And I'll do you a solid by not going into detail about poop, but suffice it to say I was well-prepared for my daughter's leavings both in consistency and in frequency.  Let's also just say while I don't appreciate that she absorbed these qualities from the ASCOs, I do feel grateful that we can keep a diaper on her.



Choose your influence carefully, my little African friend.

* I've still yet to see what penguin qualities my progeny has, because she spends approximately 0% of her time walking.  This is where I expect to see some influence, what with the waddling and all.  But here's what I hope she DOESN'T get from penguins:

1. Biting until bleeding occurs
2. The tendency to swallow food the size of her head completely whole
3. Projectile poop
4. The ability to molt, because that would be weird (and very messy)

Chasing lights, bubbles, or snuggling are all penguin qualities I'd welcome.

So as you can clearly see, my decision to work as a marine mammal trainer while growing a little human had some serious repercussions. 

Sorry, Little C

But now that I think about it, maybe some of these qualities aren't so bad. In fact, many of them are awesome.   For example, it's pretty convenient that we have a baby who happens to sleep through the night (and that's not my doing, that's just how she's wired...we got really lucky).  Or doesn't mind getting a pint of water applied directly to her eyeballs.  These animal qualities she's integrated are clearly the answer to all parenting problems.  Instead of buying books and reading internet advice for hours on getting your kid to sleep through the night, consider working with sea lions for a few hours a day for a few months while pregnant.  Your baby will sleep like a sea lion in no time.

The other positive side of this situation is that all of the aforementioned traits (especially the not-so-pleasant ones) are familiar ones.  Getting pooped on by a baby isn't as gross as the time an otter toilet showered down upon me.   

Really, there's nothing to complain about.  There are lots of fantastic qualities our animals have that I think anyone would be better off having.  I've decided I'll continue to expose my daughter to the animals I care for both at home and at work, and see what else she learns from them (I'm really crossing my fingers for some echolocation).

What about you, fellow zookeepers?  Have you discovered animorphic tendencies in your own (or your coworkers') kids?

* Or is that sweat pouring down your face?


  1. I'm crossing my fingers for echolocation too

  2. Insights into the relative nature of time only matter when they are published by men. Duh.

  3. Haha penguins... i saw the pic and my first thought was projectile poo.... it will happen....

  4. Just wait until your baby is ready for clicker training - they react JUST like a sea lion. Not that I'm the kind of mom who would do that... (Hint: the fun noise of the clicker works as a PRIMARY reinforcer!)