My mom, who has still read approximately 0% of this blog, sent me a letter from her vacation a few weeks ago, wondering about the etymology of the word “blog,” wondering how she’ll feel once she finally does get around to reading the innermost thoughts and deepest feelings of her only daughter, and wondering whether I’d posted about “things from the past times such as your corresponding ‘prelude’ of trying to save a bunny’s life.”
I hadn’t, and I don’t really see the parallel between that story and my miscarriage (except for timing), but for lack of anything else to write about tonight – and for lack of a good mood since Doug ate my leftover macaroni & cheese, not knowing that I actually wanted it, and now I have no cheesy snack – I might as well tell that story now. Before Mom gets here and asks about its absence.
The day before we found out I was pregnant, Doug and I drove down to Portland to adopt a rabbit we’d seen on petfinder. Chomper, as Doug named him, was beautiful, all white with black eyeliner, black ears, and a few black spots – and velvety soft Rex breed fur.
He was also sick from the time we got him. The “shelter” we’d adopted him from consisted of about 40 rabbits in cages in this woman’s garage. As we talked to her, she kept saying things like, “You’ll want to feed him timothy pellets, but I can’t afford to give them that here;” “You’ll want to give him fresh vegetables, but I can’t afford that luxury;” “You’ll want to make sure he has a lot of space and gets plenty of exercise, but…” You get the idea. The woman also commented on his “nice, big poops,” which, as soon as we’d gotten him home, we realized were abnormal – too large and too soft – compared to those of our other rabbit and all the other pet rabbits I’ve had in my life.
When he started losing weight rapidly, I took him to the vet one morning in a panic, and missed work for it – which, remember, I never did for myself during that time. This was sometime early in my pregnancy waiting game, because I remember talking about my potentially non-viable pregnancy with the receptionist, who had just had a baby herself. The vet found that Chomper’s liver didn’t seem to be working right and that his white blood cell count was through the roof. We treated him for hepatitis and sent him to surgery to do a biopsy, looking for cancer. Finding nothing, the vet declared him pre-cancerous and put him on a couple of medications that “we don’t know why or how they work, we just know that they do.”
And for a while, the medications did work. We took Chomper in for re-checks, preparing for the worst, and found that, although his white count was still high, he was gaining weight, was more active, and seemed healthier overall. By this time, I was at least six weeks post-miscarriage, and had spent nearly $2000 of my dad’s money on this rabbit. We began calling him our “miracle bunny,” telling the whole story to family, friends, coworkers and customers alike, and bragging about how well it seemed to have ended.
Then one night just before Thanksgiving, we found Chomper huddled in a ball in the corner of his litter box, shaking. We called the vet’s emergency line, and the vet on call said to watch him overnight, call back if he seemed to get any worse, and then bring him in in the morning. Doug sat vigil all night, and drove him down to the vet as soon as they opened the next day.
We got a call from the vet an hour or two later, saying that Chomper wasn’t getting enough oxygen; under his white fur, his skin was blue. She had hooked him up to a machine to help him breathe and keep him comfortable, and said if we wanted to, we could come say goodbye, but that there was really nothing more she could do for him. We opted not to make the trip, preferring instead to say goodbye at home, while drinking wine and looking at pictures of Chomper, comforting each other and our other rabbit, who had been his friend.
The vet offered to do an autopsy for free, since she and her partner had been as stumped as we were by what was wrong with Chomper. She found that he’d most likely been in the later stages of GI Stasis, which is often caused by a poor diet, and that his body had reacted to the food stuck in his intestines as though it were a foreign object, and so had begun to attack… everything. Which is why his organs were shutting down one by one. It was slightly comforting to know that by the time we got him, there was really nothing we could have done for him – rabbits can’t handle the stress that intestinal surgery puts on their bodies – and that therefore, by improving the quality of his life for the last few months of it – by giving him better food and a quiet home and a friend – we really had done everything we could.
My mom, as I’ve mentioned, saw some sort of parallel between my miscarriage and Chomper’s short life and death. Most other people, when I mention the two stories together, will make a tasteless joke about pregnancy and dead rabbits. (One early pregnancy tests involved injecting the woman’s blood into a rabbit – if the rabbit died, the test was positive. I read somewhere that some sort of rabbit enzyme or antibody is still used to trigger modern HPTs.)
Outside the context of those jokes – which, I assure you, are never appreciated – I really don’t see what the connection is between my failed pregnancy and Chomper. As far as I’m concerned, one did not prepare me for the other; if anything, they compounded on each other, expanding my list of tragedies and perceived personal failures. For my mother to say that my miscarriage prepared me for the loss of a pet, or even that it prepared me to love and care for a dying animal, is like her saying that I had to suffer a miscarriage in order to be there for Monica; it just doesn’t make sense.
Doug and I did with our rabbit tragedy what we forbade ourselves from doing with our baby tragedy: we immediately went out and got another one. (And then we were given another one, and well, now we have four, but that’s a different story.) And the truth is, I don’t think much about Chomper anymore, although when I do come across pictures of him, it still makes me really sad. What a strange and horrible time in our lives. If this is God’s idea of a plan for me, I’d like a smarter God. Or at least one who’s willing to step up and explain Himself.