Updated: Feb 16
It has been ages since I have written a post about one of my bottle babies. There have been close to a hundred since my last entry. Sometimes it takes everything I have just to get through a busy day without collapsing at times. I love each and every baby that I swaddle in the palm of my hands and feed. But there are those that steal my heart. ClaraBelle was one of them.
On September 30th, 2020, I received a call that a young baby kitten approximately 10-14 days old was dropped by its mother on the sidewalk in Sinclair, Pa. A human mother and her teenage daughter quickly grabbed the kitten and went into a panic. ClaraBelle's guardian kitten must have seen this coming and put Jen, a foster mom for Save the Strays at the same store the mother and daughter found the kitten. Seeing the pair in a panic she quickly assessed the situation and called me.
At the time I already had a full house with 7 bottle babies left and two kittens in their terrible two's phase. I had just relinquished 4 babies to SOAR rescue who had been weaned off of the bottle and were finally eating on their own and littered trained. I was tired and exhausted. Bottle babies are an around the clock responsibility, much like human babies who need constant feeding and potty changes. Before the phone call (which was the same night I had moved the 4 kittens on to the next stage in the fostering process) I sighed with relief. I went from 13 babies down to 9. The feeling didn't last for long. That's when the phone call came in.
I told Jen the arc was full but I could hear the desperation in her voice over the dilemma and I don't know who I was kidding, I already knew that I would take the baby on. Jen made the arrangements to have the woman bring the baby to me and I retraced my steps back upstairs to retrieve the incubator for the small kitten. Which by the way takes up a quarter of our kitchen table. I smiled solemnly to myself as I said goodbye to the cleared table and begun setting up all the necessary equipment I would need for the long nights to come. Goodbye five hours of sleep. I had finally gotten the other babies to sleep semi through the night but that was gone. I set up my bed on the couch and gave my husband a kiss goodnight.
On this note let me take a moment to say what a wonderful, loving and understanding man I have. When we first married and I did these rescues he would silently brood over my not coming to bed at night for weeks on end. Now a decade or more later, he helps me set up. He has watched me over the years succumb to the responsibilities. I never complain of my lack of sleep. I always keep the house clean, supper made and maintain my vigil over the babies. He has seen me in the triumphs of bringing babies back from near death and he has watched me mourn, sob and bury those whose little bodies just couldn't fight any longer. He has listened to me sing to them, cuddle them, clean them, hold them close to my heart and in his own words, "I watch her fall in love instantly with them". God couldn't have made a more perfect man for me. Now, I don't have to be alone in my grief when God takes them home. My husband quietly leaves only to return to tell me he picked out the perfect spot and it was ready. He gives me ample room to cry, as I wrap my little one in the folds of their favorite baby blanket. He walks with me to the little itty, bitty grave and waits patiently as I place them down, fighting myself internally to let go. Then with tears in his eyes he covers them in natures blanket and places a piece of flagstone on top of it marking yet another little grave. I fell in love all over again with him for that.
When ClaraBelle got here I instantly knew that something was off. First, they guessed her age to be around 7 to 10 days old. ClaraBelle had a full set of baby teeth which put her between 3 to 4 weeks (21 to 28 days) Her body was excessively long and she couldn't control her walking. That is what I call a red flag. She was hungry but couldn't seem to latch onto a nipple and when it came to eating from a small plate she couldn't control her head. Second red flag. I knew that I was dealing with a special needs kitten. More than likely ClaraBelle had Cerebellar Hypoplasia.
Cats with this disease can live long lives with proper care and love. ClaraBelle's mind was determined but her little body couldn't do it anymore. She tried to greet me at the cage door but she couldn't get up. She graced my life for two weeks. I held her in my hands up to my face and whispered in her ear that I would always be her Mem and she would always be my ClaraBelle. I told her what a big girl she was and that she showed more courage in her little life than I had ever done in my life. I kissed her little nose and rubbed her face against my cheek like I always did and told her I love her. She was my ClaraBelle and I was her Mem and that it was okay. And then my ClaraBelle left me. I wrapped her in her favorite girlie fleece blanket and laid her to rest in my flower garden with the other babies that took a piece of my heart to heaven.