Fur flew, small tufts wafting away on the breeze, as she rapidly plucked it from her chest. I flew myself then, my 10 year old legs carrying me into the house, screen door banging behind. Concerned, I excitedly explained what I had just seen. A smile flickered across my mother’s face as I led her out to the cage. Potsy was nowhere in sight, having disappeared into the small wooden house. Peeking in, Mom nodded knowingly. “She’s making a nest. She’ll be having babies soon.” Babies!!
Potsy, my recently-acquired pet rabbit, had obviously bred before she came to us. This was before I knew that rabbits spend a good share of their short lives reproducing. I would learn this soon enough as my collection of rabbits - and their upkeep - multiplied way beyond what I had ever envisioned. But at that moment I was excited and could hardly wait for the big event. It would, after all, be the first time I had babies of my “own”.
Soon, Potsy had her litter and I had “my” babies, although I didn’t see much of them at first. She was very protective and hardly left her house, coming out only for food and water. Mom warned me not to bother the new family as sometimes mother animals get upset and may harm their young. We peeked in occasionally to see the blind, pink, thumb-sized creatures. Potsy made clear her opinion of this by leaping about the cage and stomping her large hind feet. As soon as she could she’d return to them, busily cleaning and feeding them.
In time, I won Potsy’s trust. I would gather up the whole litter, bring them into the house and place them on a towel on the kitchen table. How perfectly their tiny claws were formed; how flat their little ears lay against their bodies; how precisely their skin markings matched their fur. I was surprised at their reflexes - so quick, if not yet finely tuned. A litter of baby rabbits can resemble popcorn as their strong little legs jerk in preparation for real jumping.
I’ve raised fish, gerbils, puppies, ducklings, goslings and lambs. I’ve known many kinds of mothers, from a Sheltie who nursed and raised an orphaned kitten to a neurotic gerbil who chewed off all of her babies’ feet. There are striking similarities, but animal mothers and babies are not the same as human ones. Observing is not at all the same as being. I wanted to be a mother and it took me a long time. I was never to have a baby, but after 14 years of marriage, we adopted a wonderful little boy. I finally knew motherhood with all its ups and downs, joys and pains. It is everything and nothing like I thought it would be - truly the experience of a lifetime.
Beginning way back with Potsy, I learned that children are not our possessions - they are only loaned to us. You prepare for a child as best you can, devote time and energy to their protection and care, love them with everything that is in you. Eventually, you must let them go. For they are all adopted children and must be free to become Who’s they are.