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Birth and Brigid's Babies

b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_6746.jpgThis past week was a whopper, primarily because we in the northeast got walloped with an all-consuming blizzard. About 3 days before the blizzard, my son Gabriel and I were outside at his rabbit hutches getting them ready for foul weather, and we noticed that one of his female rabbits, Soot, was carrying straw and building a nest. We decided to move her from her shared hutch with 3 other females to a private hutch where she could give birth in private. We moved her and waited, but days went by and she didn’t birth any bunnies. I even noticed that she didn’t look pregnant anymore—she was much skinnier.

In the meantime, the Blizzard of 2015 struck. I found myself caring for my son’s rabbits far more than I probably should have. I felt a certain calling to tend to them frequently: replacing frozen water bottles, shoving more hay into their hutches, sweeping 6 inches, then 1 foot, then 2 feet of snow off the tops of their hutches and shoveling it away from the fronts so we could access them. I donned every bit of warm clothing I have and spent an inordinate amount of time tending to the rabbits, giving them extra feed, and cutting cardboard boxes and pressing the cardboard into the fencing of their hutches to create windbreaks. In all this time, Soot didn’t give birth.

It wasn’t until the peak of the blizzard, with winds whipping my face and ears and my feet sinking up to my knees in fresh drifts of snow, that I discovered she had already given birth—before we had even moved her to the new hutch. There, tucked away in the old hutch, was a surprise nest full of tiny, hairless, squirming bunnies. I freaked out. I yelled to my husband to come help me because we needed to move the bunnies into the more protected hutch where we had unwittingly moved their mother. My husband reached in and pulled out the small box where she had built the nest and birthed the bunnies, but he immediately started cussing. “Holly,” he shouted into the fierce snowy wind, “come here!” I beat my way through the snow to him to discover a dozen hairless baby bunnies littering the snow under him. He hadn’t known it, but there was no bottom to the box, so all the bunnies had fallen out. We frantically scooped up all the bunnies we could see and hurriedly put them into the hutch with Soot. But she ignored them, and over the course of the day we realized she was not interested in them at all.

A dilemma. Was she really the mother, or was it one of the other females? As night fell (and the roaring winds didn’t stop a bit), we decided to move the babies back to their original spot in the first hutch, and also to move Soot, the single female, back too. And it worked—as soon as Soot was back she sat right on that nest she had built and nursed her babies.

It was a lesson straight from Mother Nature: Mother knows best! Over the course of the two days of the blizzard, we actually ended up with four litters of bunnies being born, and unfortunately some of the babies didn’t survive. This inability to control and protect was another lesson for both myself and my son Gabriel: life is precious, and it’s not guaranteed. I don’t have any sheep, so I don’t know about ewes’ milk, but I do have nursing rabbits so I understand a bit of the concept of “Imbolc”: new life is come, but it’s fragile. Yes, the light of Spring Equinox is overtaking the dark of Winter Solstice…but it’s not very bright yet. The dark dawns and early evenings of February 1 and 2 are sacred precisely because life is still precarious, dreams are still fantasy, and regeneration is still just an idea waiting for spring.

Brigit, with her fiery forge and gifts of literature and poetry, can help us germinate the seeds of desire and creativity, but it’s not time to plant those seeds yet. It’s still time to work through the darkness a little bit more, to fight tooth-and-nail for survival because there’s still so much at risk. Life-threatening danger is every bit a fiery passion for Brigid as is joyful celebration. But I think that because there is so much at stake—for the animals in our care, for our children, for our families and our communities—there is much—so very much—to be thankful for.

I’ll light a candle to Brigid for that! And I’ll focus on the positive and I’ll wait and watch as new, strong, determined LIFE takes hold.






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Award-winning herbalist and author Holly Bellebuono directs Vineyard Herbs Teas & Apothecary on Martha’s Vineyard, as well as The Bellebuono School of Herbal Medicine, a creative and welcoming program for those interested in pursuing the study of herbal formulary. Holly lectures internationally about natural health and women’s empowerment and has published three books: The Essential Herbal for Natural Health, The Authentic Herbal Healer, and Women Healers of the World: The Traditions, History & Geography of Herbal Medicine (foreword by Rosemary Gladstar). Holly lives on the island of Martha’s Vineyard with her family on their mini-homestead raising chickens, rabbits, firing up the blacksmith forge, and hiking wild island trails in search of magic.


  • ajahz
    ajahz Thursday, 05 February 2015

    Just new here need help

  • ajahz
    ajahz Thursday, 05 February 2015

    Just new here need help

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