When I was 25 years old, I spent an incredible year volunteering on a kibbutz in Israel. You can imagine that back then fertility was the furthest thing from my mind. Instead, I would wake up before dawn, drag myself out of bed and walk in the freezing cold across the kibbutz to the cafeteria, where the only people up at that ungodly hour of 5am were the others who were there to join me on the bumpy tractor ride out to the avocado fields. So after a quick piece of thickly sliced homemade bread and butter, we’d all hop on the flatbed of the tractor, and off we’d bounce for a 10-minute ride out to the fields.

The closest I got to the concept of fertility in those day was getting to plant tiny avocado tree saplings, nurturing them every day by wrapping their spindly trunks in foil to protect them from the elements. And while it wasn’t particularly challenging work, it was gratifying to watch the beautiful sunrises over the rolling hills. But the best part of the experience was the return to the cafeteria at 8am, where we were treated every day to a huge spread of delectable Israeli food for breakfast.

One of my favorite memories was the bond I developed with the sweet little kitty that would hang around the volunteers’ quarters. Being a complete pushover when it comes to any and all animals, she quickly became my nightly bed partner. But within a few months, instead of falling asleep to the soft mummer of her purrs, I woke up in the middle of the night to a distinct little squeak under the sheets, only to discover that we were now a family of three, with the birth of her tiny kitten that I had absolutely no idea she was even carrying.

So now, all these years later, that grainy old picture above reminds me of the shock I experienced when I first saw that precious kitten, and how I immediately asked myself “How did that happen?! When was she even in heat?” and “Did she even know she was pregnant?!” Of course, even today, my knowledge of feline fertility is such that I would probably be just as mystified as I was back then!