Coping without Gingee Bunny

Gingee

Dear Gingee,

It’s now been a few weeks since you left us. It’s still hard to believe.

We’re doing okay, though. Thanks for asking. There’s been a few sessions of crying in the shower (me), standing outside at the grave (Daddy), searching all over the house (Ned), refusing to believe it (Barbara) and just being a bit confused (the baby).

The day after you died, it snowed. It took everything I had not to go out there and start digging. I couldn’t bear the thought of you being out there, all alone and cold. You, my boy who used to cuddle up with me under a blanket when Daddy was out in the evenings.

We had a cushion printed with your picture on it, and we’ve put it by the TV, where you always used to try and climb. It’s nice to see you in the living room all the time, because that’s where I spend most of my time with the baby.

Your baby sister is getting so active lately. You’d love her, Gingee. She rolls all over the place now – she reminds me of you, so much, when you wanted to get somewhere that we’d blocked off. You were so determined and so is she.

More than the other two, you really connected with her when she was tiny, and I’m so sorry you won’t be there to play with her now she’s more interactive.

You’ve loved her since the start – I remember when you used to sit on my lap and lift your ear against my belly. Did you know she was in there? Could you hear her?

Did you know you wouldn’t be here to see her grow up?

Ned is doing really well. His eye is healthy – I think Barbara is taking care of it for you. He binkies a bit now again. I think he wants to show me that he’s alright. Barbara’s eye needs some work, and Daddy has had to start doing a lot more for her. I didn’t realise how much you did, Gingee. You were their vet as well as their brother, weren’t you?

I make sure that I spend lots of time with them and talk about you to them.

I promise that I’ll spend lots of time outside in the garden with you this spring and summer. Daddy’s already been doing that, do you know?

It’s Easter today, and we’ve told the baby that you’re the Easter Bunny now. I think you’d like that – although I know in reality you’d just want to eat all the chocolate yourself! Remember how you ate some of my Easter egg last year when I was feeling ill?

I also remember the Easter before, when you and Ned had a little truce. It felt like an Easter miracle (a more minor one, obviously!).

I have lots of questions about what happened to you. Why did you suddenly choke like that? Why couldn’t you eat after that?

Did you have some sort of tumour or growth in your throat that we didn’t know about? Were you as sick as your brother all along? Is there anything we could have done?

But honestly, my Gingee, if you had been sick, I’m glad we didn’t know. I’m glad we didn’t have to make any decisions about whether to do any invasive treatment that would have made you more frail, because I know you. You would have hated being weak and in pain.

Better one crowded hour, Gingee. You had such a crowded hour. You did so much and were so happy.

I miss you, Gingee.

Love,

Your human mummy.

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?

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

 

30th birthday thoughts and dreams

30th birthday thoughts

Friday was my 30th birthday.

It’s strange, I’ve never really been one to get too upset about birthdays, but I did feel rather wobbly on Thursday night and Friday morning. I could always put it down to pregnancy hormones, I suppose, but quite apart from that, I think there’s something about 30 that does make you think.

It’s the kind of age that you think about  and have ideas of where you’d like to be. I mean, obviously this varies from year to year. Last week, I was fairly sure I’d be in pretty much the position I was in on my 30th. But when I was younger, I had all these ideas of how life was going to work out.

Some of them have happened and some haven’t.

What I haven’t done by my 30th birthday

Let’s see, some of my dreams were:

  • I’d have had children by now. I’m working on this one, obviously. And technically I do have a child, just not a born one yet. I’m not exactly upset about this, because I know why we didn’t try for a baby earlier. And if any earlier baby wouldn’t have been this one. And I love this particular baby.
  • I’d have a more successful career – or be independently wealthy and not need to work. Okay, so the “independently wealthy” idea was always a long shot. I’m not too sure how I pictured it happening. Maybe a lottery win? Or perhaps I was going to write an amazing novel and be a fabulously published author by now. Either way, it didn’t happen. I have a job I quite enjoy, colleagues I get on with, we have enough money to get by, and while I do have some career hopes and dreams for the future, I suppose I’m averagely content with where I am on this one. It would be nice to have a bit more spare cash, but maybe that’ll come in the future.
  • I’d be calmer. Small things still irritate me. Bad drivers. Birds singing and waking me up. Whistling. That sort of thing. I really hoped I’d be over this by now, because it certainly doesn’t make me happy! I also thought I’d be over a lot of my fears – instead, I seem to be picking up new ones. Developing a fear of needles during pregnancy is a great idea, brain.
  • I’d have more friends. At school I had a fairly large crowd of friends and we thought we’d be there forever. (Spoiler alert: doesn’t always happen.) I found some more amazing friends at uni, and to be fair, we do keep in touch very well, considering we live all across the country. But I don’t have many local friends that I can just call up for a chat, or anyone who’ll pop in for a visit. I mainly have my husband and my parents. Also, my husband is some sort of friend-making genius, which does make me feel worse about it.
  • I’d be more generally “together”. It’s hard to put exactly what I mean into words. I thought I’d be able to do things like easily keep on top of the laundry, fold a fitted sheet, have a clean house all the time, not feel stressed when parking the car, that sort of thing. But I’ve come to realise that maybe all of the adults who looked like they had it together when I was younger were all pretending. We’re all just putting on an act, aren’t we?

But in general, it’s best to focus on the good. And there is a lot of good in my life.

What I have done by my 30th birthday

  • Married my best friend. Yes, he drives me crazy from time to time, but he’s generally a rather nice chap. Living with anyone would have been an adjustment, let alone starting a family and dealing with all of the general crap that goes on in daily life, but there’s no one I’d rather have tackled it with than him. We are about to embark on a new adventure and I’m nervous but excited. We can do this.
  • Bought a house. We chose to live in an area with a very low cost of living and low house prices. It might not be the most glamorous of towns but we like it. We paid our deposit through an inheritance and my living at home with my parents and saving like mad until I was 27. But we can see ourselves staying here for the forseeable future. We love our house.
  • I got two degrees. I studied English Language as an undergraduate and then did an MA in Journalism, and did well in both, although I didn’t enjoy the journalism course one bit. But it did lead on to the next one:
  • I have a job. I know this sort of falls under both categories. But I am employed and I do quite enjoy what I do. I’ve been there for over six years at this point so it can’t be too bad, I suppose!
  • Passed my driving test. Learning to drive scared me, but I did it. I’ve just passed the sixth anniversary of passing my test, and driving has given me a lot of freedom.
  • I have three beautiful rabbits. And we’ve nursed them through some serious illnesses, and quite honestly kept them alive when other people might not have persevered. Ned in particular. I look at them and feel proud.
  • My body has grown and carried a baby nearly to term. We’re nearly there – 35 weeks! I’m proud of how my body has done this.

How do I feel now?

So, a couple of days after my 30th birthday, and having experienced a few days of actually being the scary age, I feel okay about it.

On my actual birthday, my husband brought me breakfast in bed, and then we played a nice competitive game of Scrabble before getting on with the day.

I spent the day with my mum, where we developed an unhealthy addiction to watching Yummy Mummies on ITV – seriously, we went through three episodes in one afternoon!

Then my husband and I went to my favourite restaurant that evening to celebrate, and ate ourselves absolutely silly. Probably our last chance for a night out before baby! And we need to save the pennies now. But it was nice to celebrate and spend an evening together, even if it did end with us both feeling uncomfortably full!

And then I rounded off the day with rabbit cuddles and a long candlelit bath, just me and baby and a book. It was all very low-key and relaxing, which is what I need right now that I’m approximately 7536 weeks pregnant!

To be honest, it feels absolutely no different to being 29. I’m not sure what my wobble was about!

Have you felt like this over a milestone birthday? What happened?