Its a week after our Mama rabbit gave us our first litter. How excited I was to see that first litter arrive, I felt like I had given birth to those little kits! My heart swelled with excitement at the newborn life, and the miracle of it all. (And the expediency...rabbits are only pregnant for about 31 days!) And TEN babies! Oh how my chest ached just at the thought of it, of nursing ten babies until they were ready to wean (which, again with the expediency, is a mere 6 weeks later.)
But our Mama rabbit never nursed those babies. Her mothering instinct never kicked in. We've learned that this is very common for first time mother rabbits. But that doesn't make it any easier.
We were down to two little fighting babies for a while there. Oh how I tried to keep those two little fighters alive. Went so far as to snuggle them down my shirt (kangaroo care...for bunnies) and feed them kitten formula.
One week those little guys fought to hang on. And I fought with them, for them. On Tuesday night, I went out to find our lone bunny Vincent (his brother died earlier that day) out of his nest box, and cold on the wire. I brought him inside, cold and limp, with blood on his paws and back from where he got stuck on the wire. I brought him in to cry over his little body, shaken in my defeat, feeling like I and not the Mama rabbit had failed at her job. But then slowly, as I held him in my hands, he started to occasionally twitch. And then a little more. I dropped everything I had planned for that night and sat in my rocking chair, with a heating pad and a syringe full of kitten milk replacement, with a baby rabbit down my shirt, doing everything that I could to keep him alive and give him a shot at a decent life.
Of course, as some pointed out, it's ironic to work so hard to save something that I am eventually going to kill. But the point is, that in the mean time, this little bunny - a living creature - deserved the best life that he can possibly have. We are all going to die in the end; me, you, our kids, our pets, the deer in the bushes, the cows in the field. We all have a right to the best possible life we can live in that time frame between our first breath and our last. As humans, it is us that have the choice of how we achieve that best possible life. As for these animals, we've taken on the responsibility for them. We actually give a shit about their quality of life, despite the fact that some day, they will be food.
A friend wrote this to me, it made me feel really, really good about our efforts. She said "I'm
so sad. Lovely to see your caring and effort - challenging the myth
that people don't care about the animals they eat. Obviously you cared."
And I did. Likely even too much. It sure would have been hard if that bunny had lived, to some day put him on the table after all that effort. So, lesson learned. Nature is in charge here, not me.
What a lovely lesson to take away from all this - that nature and the universe is in charge. That we need to have trust. That we need to let go of fear. And I love that feeling that we get when we drop everything that we were going to do, because something more important came along - it always amazes me how our priorities can shift in the face of trouble or crisis. How the seemingly huge things that you were sweating over hours ago seem suddenly meaningless and insignificant. It also proves to me what great things we can accomplish if we (ok, I) focus and make something a priority (even those this time around the end result wasn't in my favour. I sure did learn though, so much.)
Yes, they were just a litter of 10 tiny bunnies, that lived only a short time. But for me they were so much more than that. They were a humbling lesson in the power of the universe, the importance of focus and dedication, and the enormous responsibility we've taken on to give a small heard of creatures a decent life.
Better luck next time, Mama Rabbit.