Barbara the rescue rabbit

Barbara deals with GI stasis

I’ve written about how we came to adopt Ned and Gingee, our first two bunnies, before. And Barbara, our rescue rabbit, has her own regular section on this blog! But I’ve never really talked about how she came to live with us, and her story.

The first thing about Barbara is that we don’t know too much about her history. We know that she is the softest of all three of our rabbits, that she loves apples more than anything, that after she’s had her claws clipped she needs to nibble your nails in return… but we don’t know how old she is. It’s strange to have a family member that we love so much and yet so know so little about her.

We first met Barbara in November 2016. Ned and Gingee had lived with us for over a year by that point. They fought all the time so lived separately – Ned upstairs and Gingee downstairs. We’d pretty much given up hope of bonding them.

Barbara was living at Pets at Home, with Support Adoption for Pets. I noticed her a few times when I went to buy hay or food. She had a sign up next to her cage saying something like:

Barbara the rescue rabbit

My name is Barbara.

I am a rabbit.

I have been in this store since March so the charity is trying to find me a loving home.

Who calls a bunny Barbara?! What kind of name is that for a rabbit? (It turns out it’s very good marketing! It got her noticed.)

She was this massive (compared to the boys), grumpy, sleepy floof. Easily noticeable.

But I absolutely did not want a third rabbit. We had Ned and Gingee and they needed a room each and were clearly never going to bond. We were at our limit.

So I kept on seeing her, hoping someone would adopt her, and going home again. I wanted her to have a home, but I didn’t really see that it needed to be our home.

I mentioned her to my husband, just in a passing text. “You’ll never guess the name of this rabbit that’s up for adoption!”

And, because he knows me probably better than I know myself, came back immediately. “Do we want her?”

… Um. I don’t know. I hadn’t really considered adopting her as a serious possibility until that very moment. Sitting in my office, I pushed my chair back from the desk and thought for a moment. “We’ll talk about her later,” I replied, eventually. “We’d need to find out more about her.”

So that evening, we sat down to talk about Barbara. What would we need to know? What should we take into consideration before making the decision whether to adopt her or not?

  • Could she live with other rabbits? Was she likely to bond with anyone else?
  • How old is she?
  • What was her health like? We already had one special needs bunny in Ned – in one way, that meant we knew what to do and support a frail rescue rabbit, but in another, it meant that we were already stretched fairly thin.
  • Why had she been there so long? Why did no one want this poor girl? Nearly nine months is a long time for a beautiful bunny to wait for a new home.

We decided that I’d go into the shop tomorrow and ask the questions. Find out a bit more about her, and then we’d make a decision.

I don’t know that I’ve ever been so nervous as when I went in to talk to someone about her. Some time in the last few days, my feelings about her had completely changed and I was suddenly petrified that she’d have been adopted. “That’s okay,” I tried to reassure myself. “I just want her to have a home. It doesn’t have to be with us.” I was lying to myself. Suddenly I wanted to get to know this big fluffy bunny much better.

I needn’t have worried. She was still there. Still big and fluffy and grumpy. And the staff were thrilled that we were asking about her.

Here’s what we knew:

  • They wanted her to have other rabbits for company. So far, she hadn’t got on well with any, but they thought that she’d do well with a boy who might be a bit compliant as she seemed rather bossy. (Maybe Ned, I suggested.) They’d tried to bond her with a few, but no luck.
  • They thought she was about three years old, maybe a bit more.
  • She was fairly healthy by then. However, when she’d come to them, she’d been neglected and abandoned. Her claws were long. She walked on her heels so had sore hocks. She was so thin you could see all her ribs. She’d never gone to the vet. Her teeth were bad and she had to have them filed down. She hadn’t been spayed so had cysts. She was in pain and was very aggressive. Her tear ducts leaked (like Ned!). The charity had paid for her vet treatment and she was now the picture of health.
  • She hadn’t been eligible for adoption the whole time as she’d been so sick. Now that she was, they wanted to make sure she went to a home where her new humans knew about caring for special rabbits.

Well, it wasn’t quite what we’d expected, but we certainly knew we could care for her. We were already taking care of Ned’s bad eyes, and wiping a few more bunny eyes would be easy enough.

My heart was breaking for this poor girl who had had such a rough time, when our boys had everything they wanted. How could we not pursue this further?

They suggested bringing Ned and Gingee in for a date to see if everyone got on. So, that weekend, the boys hopped into their cases and we drove over to properly meet Barbara for the first time!

Barbara meets Ned!

I won’t say it was all plain sailing. We didn’t all bond instantly. It took until April before all three rabbits were living happily together in one room, and Barbara came home on 12th December.

We’ve had some health problems, too. At her first vet visit, they noticed her teeth needed filing again, and we learnt that she’s not good with anaesthetic. She takes a very long time to wake up.

She developed some arthritis in her elbow. With medication, all of the problems related to this have cleared up, but we worried for a while that she might need one leg amputating.

We think she may actually be older than three. Eight? Maybe younger? Her bone density is very low, which is either a sign of being an old lady or due to malnutrition in earlier life. We hope she’s younger than eight as we want to have a long time with her! Now that she enjoys life, we want her to have a long one.

Barbara moved in with us on the day that a dear friend of mine passed away, and I had a difficult time adjusting. She loved my husband from the start, I think, but she and I didn’t bond immediately. After how easy it had been for me to bond with the boys, I felt awful. She was so skittish and not as playful as the boys, and it was a strange transition for us all.

But from the time I found out I was pregnant, Barbara became incredibly affectionate towards me. We spent a lot of time cuddling on my bed, just me and her. She groomed me and I stroked her and we’d fall asleep together. My husband would take her back to her room once I’d dozed off. (Yay for first trimester exhaustion!)

And the more confident she got, the more she and I bonded. I can honestly say that we’re very close now. She’s one of my favourite people in the world! How can I help it? She’s grumpy, demanding, so intelligent, very sassy, and knows what she wants. She’s just fabulous!

Look at my beautiful girl. That confident face! She has come such a long way.

Barbara the rescue rabbit

The health visitor – what to expect?

health visitor

I know that health visitor systems vary by area. But in the run up to our first visit, I was eagerly looking for information on what might happen, so I thought I’d share this.

We’re at 37 weeks pregnant right now. Baby is head down and 3/5 engaged – yes, that means I’m waddling delightfully.

37 weeks, in our area, is also where you get your first health visitor meeting. The midwife lets the health visitor know that you’re expecting (she did ask my permission for this – I’m not sure if I could have declined) and then the wheels are in motion.

In some areas, I know that you don’t meet your health visitor until you’re discharged from the midwife. That’s usually when baby is a couple of weeks old. That’s when we officially switch to being under their care too, but they like to meet with mums (and dads!) to be before the baby is born. That way, it’s not a stranger coming round to peer at your newborn and ask loads of questions.

Ann, our health visitor, wrote to us at about 35 weeks, and we had our first meeting with her on Tuesday. I was 37 weeks on the dot – what good timekeeping!

How did we prepare for the health visitor?

Before she came round, I admit I was a bit nervous. You hear some horror stories, don’t you? People peering into your fridge and noticing that you’ve got some out-of-date grapes, asking all kinds of questions about your relationship and your childhood, judging your housekeeping…

I was particularly worried about the rabbits, to be honest. Although I’ve had nothing but positive responses from the midwife about having house rabbits, I know that some people still think they’re an oddity. I was worried that she was going to want to see them or judge us based on having them. And I always worry that the house might smell of rabbits – I had some nice autumnal candles burning just in case!

My husband and I did a lot of cleaning in the days before she came round! We literally even pulled the oven out to clean behind it. I think I’m finally being hit by the “nesting” bug right now. It was really good, actually, to have that slight apprehension, as it meant that we had a bit of a “deadline”. We told ourselves that the kitchen/bedroom/study/etc. had to be immaculate by the 17th. And we made it!

I also made sure we had milk, tea and coffee and some nice biscuits. What can I say, food is very important to this preggo!

So the house looked amazing(ish), the fridge was stocked and we were ready.

What happened at the first visit?

It wasn’t a house inspection at all! She didn’t even look behind my oven! Actually, she didn’t even go into the kitchen. She came in, we went into the living room (she didn’t want a drink) and had a nice little chat. That was it!

She asked us a few questions, mostly to check that she had all our details down correctly. What was our phone number, how did we spell our names, what were our dates of birth, that sort of thing. She also asked what we both did for a living, how much maternity leave I’m planning to take, whether we own our house and who lives with us.

Lots of talk about baby, obviously – how has pregnancy been so far, which hospital are we hoping to deliver at, was baby planned, etc. Do we have family or a support network locally, and do we have friends with children? Basically, is this the first time we’ve ever seen a baby and are we going to be completely on our own?

We talked about our hopes to breastfeed, and she told us about the breastfeeding support that’s on offer in our area – reassuring to know about!

It was just a really nice visit. I didn’t learn anything new, really, but it was good to meet her, discover I liked her, and know that we’re on the right track with everything. I didn’t feel judged at all.

What happens next?

Well, I get to go away and have a baby! Baby and I will stay under the midwife’s care for the first 11-15 days or so, and then we’ll be discharged to the health visitor. She’ll give us a call and arrange a time to come round that works for all of us.

Apparently the first post-baby meeting is quite a long one, with lots of paperwork and filling in baby’s red book.

From then on, we’ll see her for well baby clinics, weigh ins, etc. She’ll be a point of contact until baby is old enough to go to school. I can’t think that far ahead yet!

So that’s our happy experience so far. What have your health visitor experiences been like?

Barbara Rabbit’s ideal day #barbarablogs

Barbara Rabbit

Hello friends. As you know by now, I’m Barbara Rabbit and I blog here pretty regularly. (Every Wednesday, in fact.)

My life is pretty good right now. I have a lovely house, nice humans and two little adopted brothers. (Little in both senses. They’re mini lops so they’re small and they’re both younger than me too.) My human mum is on maternity leave right now too, so I’m getting more human time than I used to, and I enjoy that. Things are generally rather nice.

But, as always, they could be better! I don’t want my humans getting complacent.

I sleep and loaf for a good portion of each day. That gives me plenty of time to plot, daydream and plan. And one thing I like to dream about is what exactly I would do differently if I were more in charge around here. (We all know I’m a little bit in charge.)

Barbara Rabbit’s guide to the perfect rabbit day

Like all rabbits, I’m crepuscular, which means I’m most active around dawn and dusk. This is a problem in my house, as my humans are either up when it’s still dark (really?!) or they wait until it’s properly light. I feel at my most playful in between those times. I want to sleep when it’s night and sleep during the proper day as well. So in my ideal world, we’d all, including the humans, get up as the sun is starting to rise.

(And this means that no one would get up during the night and go to the bathroom or make noise in the kitchen. These things both wake me. However much I thump, they won’t stop doing it!)

As we all know, one of the most important aspects of life is good food. So I’d request a little snack, perhaps some apple, before I have my proper breakfast of pellets and hay. If I had my way, I’d have some apple with every meal. It’s my favourite thing.

So after enjoying a good breakfast (maybe even a breakfast without two brothers to try and steal my food, dare I dream?), I’d have a nice little run around and play with my humans and my brothers.

Then I’d choose to go back into my room – and I would be the one making that choice. I know that “Are you going in for a bit, Barbara?” sounds like the humans want me to make the choice myself, but I also know that it means I don’t have a choice. But because I’ll have been so good and gone in of my own accord, I think I’d deserve a fenugreek cookie.

Time for a lovely nap. I like it when it’s sunny outside and I get to sleep on either Gingee’s bed or the mat in the path of the sun. I also like it when one of the boys sleeps near me to protect me in the event of any intruders or other danger. That way I can flop properly and not have to worry about anything except intermittently waking up for some hay and water.

In my ideal world, I’d sleep most of the day then. That means that I wouldn’t get random interruptions from my mum when she thinks I might want to say hi. Word of advice: if I’m sleeping, I don’t want to say hi. Unless you’re planning to feed me, you don’t need to wake me. Come back in the late afternoon, please. (Unless Ned and Gingee are wakeful or loud and you’re willing to take them elsewhere for a bit. Do that!)

Time for another play, a bit of a run around – maybe I can go in the big bedroom and play under the bed for a bit. And then I’d have another meal. Pellets and apple again, I think. Or maybe some carrot sticks. Or both!

I like being groomed in the evenings. Either by one of my brothers or by the humans. So I’d have that, and then my brothers and I would sit together for a bit, and then maybe my parents would give me some individual fuss. I like it when they say “good girl”, and I like nose rubs and head scratches and being able to climb on top of them sometimes.

Then I know my parents need to go and have their own tea. That’s okay. They can go and do that while I take care of my brothers, and then come back and play with us again, and give us our supper. Again, I’d like a treat. Maybe this time I could have something less healthy – I had a chocolate biscuit once and I’d really like another one, please.

By about 11pm, I’m usually quite sleepy, so I don’t mind going back in to my room then. I don’t want to have to be the first one to go in though – make sure the boys are in first, please. Put them in their cages so I get some peace overnight. And then turn the light off and close the curtains so I can sleep soundly.

Doesn’t it sound like a lovely day? What would be your ideal?

Until next time, keep on eating plenty of hay and being healthy!

Love,

Barbara Rabbit

Packing the hospital bag

packing the hospital bag

So I’m 36 weeks pregnant (37 tomorrow!), and according to pretty much every book, I should have packed my hospital bag by now.

Well, good news! I mostly have. I’ve got three, actually. One for me, one for my husband and one for the baby.

Here’s what I’ve got, based on a mixture of my own common sense (such that it is!), advice from other ladies in my Mumsnet due date group, advice from my own mum, and various online articles:

Hospital bag for mummy

I’m using a suitcase for myself. Not a huge one, but I think something wheelable will be useful, especially as we have two other bags involved. We can loop the handles of at least one of the other bags around the handle of this one and transport at least two bags in one go.

Already packed:

  • Nursing bra x 2 (I’m using the soft crop top kind from M&S)
  • Button down nightie (a size bigger than normal)
  • Pyjamas – with button top (not maternity, but a couple of sizes bigger than normal)
  • Dressing gown (I say dressing gown, but it’s really a very big hoodie from Gap that I can then use as a cardigan as well)
  • Black maternity yoga pants
  • Black vests x 2
  • Socks x 4 pairs (I’m told that labouring women often have very cold feet)
  • Old slippers (doesn’t matter if I bleed on them!)
  • Black knickers x 4 (two sizes bigger than normal, and the big kind in case there’s an incision to worry about)
  • Disposable pants x 5 (just a pack from Tesco, just in case)
  • Disposable maternity pads x 20 (I have another pack of 20 waiting in the bathroom at home, and I also have all of my cloth pads ready and waiting)
  • Breast pads x 6 (three pairs, that is – another three pairs waiting at home)
  • Black towel x 2 (the cheapest ones I could find are from Tesco and also have these lovely blingy diamantes on. I’m going to be so glam!)
  • Nipple cream
  • Travel size toiletries (shower gel, shampoo, toothpaste, etc)
  • Toothbrush
  • Lip balm
  • Water spray
  • Hair bobbles x 5
  • Deodorant
  • Fun size snacks (I’m taking advantage of Hallowe’en and have got some packs of small Twixes and Maltesers)
  • Carrier bags for any washing

Still to come:

  • Phone and long charger cable (a friend in a different NHS Trust said she wasn’t allowed to charge her phone, so I need to talk to the midwife about that and see what the rules are – if I can’t use my own electronics, then I’ll pack a portable charger as well)
  • iPad (we’re going to load our hypnobirthing tracks onto this, and also maybe use it for Scrabble if we have any waiting around time!)
  • Ear plugs (our hospital’s maternity ward has 24 beds. Enough said!)
  • A bottle of blackcurrant squash (I can’t drink water lately!)
  • Moisturiser and face wash (I need to decant these from my usual bigger bottles)
  • Plain cheese sandwiches (my mum had me at 8.44am and missed both breakfast and lunch – she’s suggested freezing some sandwiches in advance and popping them in the bag as we leave)
  • Cereal bars
  • Brush and comb
  • Camera (I need to charge this first as well!)
  • Sports water bottles (I’m informed that these are useful to squirt at yourself as you pee afterwards)

Hospital bag for baby

I’m using baby’s changing bag for this. Unfortunately I filled it slightly too much and I’ve torn the zip, but I did get it on ebay for about £10, so it’s not the end of the world!

All of the clothes I’ve packed in two different sizes – the under 9lb ones and regular newborn.

Already packed:

  • Babygrows x 3
  • Vests x 3
  • Cardigans/little fleecy jackets x 2
  • Hat
  • Blankets x 2
  • Muslins x 5
  • Nappies x 1 pack (we’re hoping to use cloth soon, but for the early days we’ve stocked up on the Aldi kind)
  • Water Wipes x 1 pack (again, cloth wipes in the future, but don’t want to take too much washing home!)
  • Swaddle wrap
  • Bag for any soiled clothes

Still to come:

  • Snowsuit or other weather appropriate coming home outfit
  • Car seat needs to be put in the car

Hospital bag for daddy

Our hospital lets partners stay in overnight after the baby has been born which is great. It does mean we need to prepare for him as well though!

We’ve not packed any of this yet:

  • T-shirt x 2
  • Shorts (I hear hospitals are warm)
  • Jogging bottoms
  • Pants x 2
  • Loose change for vending machines etc
  • Phone and charger
  • Sketchbook and pencils (to keep him occupied during any bits of downtime – he’s a keen artist)
  • Hypnobirthing books

I’ll probably let him share my snacks!

We’re very lucky in that we live a five minute walk from the hospital, so if there is anything we find that we desperately need that we don’t have, my husband can always pop home and get it.

Whew. It’s a lot, though, isn’t it? I’m curious to know what we’ll end up needing and what will turn out to be a waste of time – I’m sure I’ll do an update post!

Is there anything really obvious or important that I’m missing? What did you really need and what was completely unnecessary?

 

 

Happy gotcha day, Ned and Gingee!

adopting rabbits - gotcha day

Today is two years exactly since Ned and Gingee’s “gotcha day”! In other words, it’s two years since we adopted them and they came home to live with us.

Dear Ned and Gingee,

It’s hard to believe, in a way, how fast these two years have gone. It feels like you’ve been part of our family forever. But it also feels like only yesterday that I felt so apprehensive as I waited for a response to find out if you’d be able to come and live with us. It’s funny how time works like that!

I can honestly say that you’ve changed our lives for the better. You made us a family, rather than just a couple.

Driving home with you in the car for the first time felt much how I imagine it will be when we bring your human sibling home in a few weeks. I knew everything had changed, but I had no comprehension of just how much. We didn’t know quite what we were doing at first, but the four (now five, soon to be six) of us have figured it out together.

Ned, you’ve caused us so much worry that it’s unbelievable. So many times we’ve thought we might lose you, but you keep on persevering, and now you’re so strong.

You are an inspiration to me, little man. How can you have gone through so much pain and discomfort and come out the other end still so happy and trusting? The last time you had your vaccinations, you were purring as the vet was putting the needle in you!

You’re an unusual little bunny. You love car rides, being brushed with a wet comb, all kinds of things that rabbits aren’t supposed to. Maybe you’re part kitten or puppy. You’ve still got an adorable little baby face, and I know that it causes problems for your health, but I think you are one of the most beautiful creatures I’ve ever seen.

You’re much tinier than you should be, but your intense personality more than makes up for it. We know you can’t hear us very well, but we also know that you know how much we love you.

I love how you climb up onto my lap when I’m feeling sad, and how you enjoy playing with our hands. You’re the tiniest, greediest little thing, and I know that’s probably my fault because I spoil you. I just love to see you so excited!

You are such a good brother to Barbara, and it’s so nice to see you take care of her.

I didn’t know it was possible to love anyone so much until you came into my life.

Gingee, you are the bravest and cleverest rabbit in the world. You know that you’re the best therapy bunny anyone could ever want, don’t you?

You keep us going when we’re feeling down, and I know you understand emotions far more than anyone could believe. It doesn’t even have to be us. I see your concern for TV characters dealing with depression. I’ve seen you try to get to them to help them. (And I think it’s a good thing we’ve cut back on your TV viewing a bit!)

You’re definitely the one in charge, despite what Barbara might think. You’re so good at trying to take care of her and Ned, and I’m so proud of you for persisting in grooming their eyes when they need it.

I can’t believe how clever you are. You’ve eaten more cables than I can count, broken out of so many cages, and understand so many words. You’ve even learnt to train Ned – although we really don’t mind if he goes on the stairs!

I know you love me, Gingee, even if your daddy is your favourite person in the whole world.

I’m so pleased that the two of you get on again. Seeing you interact is one of my favourite things in the world, because for so long I thought you’d hate each other forever. I know you didn’t enjoy us persevering and repeatedly trying to bond you, but I think you’re happy about it now, aren’t you? You love cuddling each other these days!

I can’t believe it’s been two years since your gotcha day, and I can’t wait to have many more years of adventures with you both.

Love from your human mum xxx