Baby Bunnies and vulnerability
It was early on a warm, summer morning when the phone ringing woke me. I thought who could be calling at this time? When I picked up the phone, my mom, my children’s grandmother, excitedly told me I had to come right away, as there were baby bunnies all over her back yard. One had succumbed to the pool already and the mother had been struck and killed by a car during the night.
Unsure of what I was expected to do, I loaded up the kids and we headed over to her house for the baby bunny round up. The little bunny burrow was well concealed in the backyard. But as morning dawned, and the mother didn’t return, the bunnies had become restless and started moving out of the burrow.
Too little to make it on their own, they must have been in search of her. But what waited outside the safety of the burrow was imminent danger. There were dogs, a pool, a hawk, neighborhood cats and cars – all significant threats to the remaining litter mates.
The first bunny we saw we spotted was about to fall in the pool; so we quickly scooped him up and wrapped him in a warm towel. He was so tiny. His little nose wiggled up and down as he began taking in the new smells. His little feet started to kick and I thought, “Well, maybe that’s a good sign.”
Next, we found one crouched with another behind a big flower pot. The kids thought it was awesome! It was a scavenger hunt with potential pets as a reward! With each one found they would yell, “Number two, number three!” Then they would gently place each baby on top of the towels in a big bucket that we made the makeshift holding place.
“Poor things I thought. They have no chance. They are so very tiny and scared.” Next we found one on the porch under the lounge chair. The fifth and final one was near the burrow. We looked all over for any remaining bunnies. Indeed we seemed to have the whole litter, or at least all the ones that had survived the night.
“Can we keep them mom? Pleeeze?” the kids asked. I explained that they were wild animals and we would help them the best we could, but they could not be our pets.
I called our veterinarian and explained the situation. He instructed me to put them back in the burrow. When I explained that the mother had been killed, he recommended a pet sanctuary (which was filled up and couldn’t take anymore bunnies).
It was going to be our responsibility to help them. Our veterinarian told us we could try getting a medicine dropper and feeding them goats milk. He told us to buy special hay, called Timothy Hay and line a box with it so they could burrow under it. But he cautioned, “The survival rate is very low. Chances are they will not make it through the night.”
“Great” I thought. “This is going to be so upsetting to the kids if they don’t make it.”
When we got home, my youngest got a big, wood box he made and he and his brother put wire over it and lined it with the hay. My daughter and I warmed the milk and put it into the droppers. We tried opening the bunnies’ tiny, little mouths gently with the droppers to give them the warm milk they needed. They would just let it drip out and spill down the front of them.
I didn’t know what to do because I had never rehabbed a wild animal. My daughter, however, immediately prayed.
She asked God to help them eat and grow. Then she called me quietly into the bathroom where we had them and said, “Look, mom they are eating! I had to force the dropper just a bit but they are eating!”
God had answered her prayers. I prayed that they would make it through the night! The next morning we got up early to check on them and they were all still alive.
Weeks passed and as we would come in to feed them they would sit up. Their little mouths would open right away as they drank down their milk.
As they grew, they graduated from milk to water and to dandelions and veggies. Before we knew it, the time came to release them. We saw them grow teeth, and little eyelashes. We saw their feet grow and we experienced them getting stronger. We each had our favorites and to say that letting them go was easy, would be a lie. We had grown to care for them and love them.
But, the best thing for them was to be out in a field where they could run and burrow. They wouldn’t experience life or nature cooped up in a box in a bathroom. They wouldn’t get to run through the dandelions or even see the sky. Would there be risks for the bunnies? Yes there would be risks. But they were ready!
I think letting go of our children can feel very much like it did to release those bunnies. It can feel scary or even sad.
James 1:17 (NIV) says, Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
Often times, I know I want to hold on to my children a bit longer. I don’t want to see them go. But if I were to keep them with me through guilt or manipulation or even because I just want more time with them, then they would not be fulfilling their purpose.
The Bible tells us in Proverbs that it is our job to care for them and start them off on the right path.
Proverbs 22:6 tells us, Start children off on the way they should go,
and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
When the Bible says, we are to start them off on the right path – it means grounded in God’s word. We are to teach them about Christ. Something about the way that is worded draws a visual picture for me of them walking down a path away from me a little bit more each year. When we ground our children in love and in a relationship with Christ, then when they leave home, we know they do not leave alone. They take the Holy Spirit with them. And even if and when they wander off or get derailed, they have God living inside them redirecting their path.
The day we took the bunnies to be released was so hard. We felt empty and quiet and sad because we missed them. But knowing we were doing the right thing made it so much easier. Knowing they would play and run and be free made it bittersweet. I think letting go of our children is just like that. We miss them. It’s quiet at times and we feel sad. But wow, when get to see them doing what God designed them to do, it is amazing!