I Wished For a Baby, But Instead a Bunny Showed Up At My Door

After trying to conceive for over three years, the lost bunny we adopted was a welcome distraction from our struggles with infertility.

The Guest Arrives

By the spring of 2017, my husband, Spencer, and I had been trying to conceive for over three years. Diagnosed with a condition infuriatingly called “unexplained infertility,” we had hovered hopefully over dozens of pregnancy tests only to see them come back negative. I was near-constantly consumed by the painful disappointment of not having a baby—that is, until Easter weekend of 2017, when a rabbit showed up on our front lawn.

My neighbour spotted the impossibly fluffy creature first, finding him nestled in the grass while she was walking down our street in Toronto’s west end. She scooped the bunny up, wrapped him in a worn bath towel and, along with a comically large chunk of carrot, placed him in a clear plastic bin. She then carried him up my steps and knocked on my door.

“Is this your rabbit?” she asked.

I had to laugh. He was not my rabbit. However, covered with pristine white fur freckled with pale grey spots and marred with only a small nick on one of his ears—probably from a prowling outdoor cat—he was very likely someone’s rabbit.

My neighbour was going away that weekend, and since the bunny decided to take up residence on my lawn, I felt a genuine sense of responsibility for him. With three rescued animals—a dog and two cats—already calling my house home, it was predictable I’d volunteer to take care of this particular stranger, at least for a few days.

We Called Him Easter

During that first weekend the bunny stayed with us, we tried our best to spread the word that we’d found him. Given how adorable he was, surely a family was out there missing him, a family who would see our “FOUND RABBIT” tweets or come across the posters we affixed to lampposts throughout the neighbourhood.

In the meantime, we named the rabbit Easter and gave him his own bedroom. We moved our dog’s old crate from the basement into our spare room—the one I’d planned to turn into a nursery—and filled the crate with soft blankets and a specialty hay I found at the local pet store. I sat the bunny on my lap and fed him lettuce, spinach and kale. I peeled bananas and watched him nibble away at them. Sometimes I would let him bounce around on my bed while I read books or watched TV. Other times I would cradle him like a baby and stroke his tiny head while his tiny pink nose twitched.

At the time the bunny showed up, I was in my late 30s and I knew my chances of conceiving were decreasing. I had already seen multiple specialists and had been subject to invasive medical questions, tests and procedures. I also knew that the process, and the despair of not being able to have a baby, was taking its toll on my mental health.

I often tell people that the experience of infertility is like a grief over something you’ve lost but had never known—a grief that won’t end until you finally give up the hope of ever knowing it. It’s a kind of mourning that people simply can’t understand unless they’ve experienced it. And while friends and family did their best to comfort us, as the years passed, it became easier to carry those feelings alone than to continually attempt to explain them.

How many times—and how many months—can you miss a hypothetical child, a child that you cannot have, before that longing destroys you? How long before you have to move on, if you even can?

A New Home

A few weeks after we’d taken Easter in, no one had responded to our postings, but lots of people had come to visit, each wanting an opportunity to hold the rabbit in their arms and scratch him between his ears. Several people even offered to adopt him, but each had to back out at the last moment—a partner with an allergy, an impending trip, a fear of too much responsibility.

I learned a lot about rabbits during the time our visitor stayed with us. I learned that this bunny was indeed domestic—a Rex, to be specific; a plush, velvety breed that originated in France in 1919. I learned that it’s very common for rabbits to be abandoned, especially around Easter, when they’re procured for amusement and then simply “let go.”

And, lastly, I learned that rabbits live in groups, and that the instinctual thumping they do with their back legs is a way to warn the rest of the warren of danger. I discovered this first-hand because, despite how safe and comforting I tried to make this rabbit’s world, how badly I wanted him to stay, the three other pets in my household terrified him.

After delaying his departure as long as we could, we finally contacted a nearby animal rescue about finding Easter a forever home.

A few days later, on a Saturday morning in May, after his month with us, we passed our bunny to a pair of women who would arrange an adoption. We struggled as we said goodbye and scratched between those upright ears a final time.

It’s funny how you develop a quick affection for things that were never really yours, how you fall in love with ideas and lives you may have lived. As much as I wanted to keep the rabbit, as much as it hurt to fold up the crate and sweep the hay from the bedroom, it also felt good to have taken Easter in, to have given him a safe home until a better one came along. If anything, our surprise house guest had given me a break from the thoughts that I couldn’t shake, a reprieve from yearning, a place to put my attention and care.

And within a week of letting him go and saying goodbye, I was pregnant.

Holding Onto Hope

My daughter turned three this year and sleeps in the same room in which the rabbit lived during the spring she was conceived. Sometimes when she wakes up in the middle of the night I lift her from her bed and hold her body tight to mine, still feeling that ache I had for all those years without her. It’s as if the grief I carried with me for so long still lingers, like I am still healing that open wound that left me so vulnerable, still missing her even though she’s right here in my arms.

Though the grief of infertility remains, so does the hope I refused to let go of through all of those disappointing, painful months without her. It turns out that my unending faith did not cause my grief but instead helped me endure it. It’s what kept me looking to the future, believing that things could and would get better—no matter what that future ended up looking like.

I’m not sure I believe in magic, omens or even good-luck charms, but when I hold my daughter close to me in the middle of the night, I think of the rabbit we took in that spring, and I know I still believe in hope.

Next, read about a puppy who helped one family through the pandemic.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada