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The Mother Instinct
June 29, 2012 - Jen Zbozny
In a previous blog I wrote about how the universe will sometimes present us with something marvelous. On Wednesday, the universe presented me with the opportunity to exercise my inner mother bird.
Do you know the P.D. Eastman story “Are You My Mother”? The baby bird hatches and his mother isn’t in the nest. He can’t fly yet so he goes “plop” out of the nest and sets off looking for his mother. Wednesday afternoon I headed out to hang my laundry on the line and “plop”. There behind me on the backyard path was a baby bird. I could feel him looking at me and thinking “are you my mother?”
Let’s be clear, I love all creatures and the outdoors but there’s a reason I don’t host Wild Kingdom. Okay, more than one reason but that’s another story. Knowing nothing about caring for baby birds, all I could think was: “keep bird from harm”, “keep bird warm”, and “find way to feed bird”. I thought it just like that too. It was as if using articles like “the” would clutter my instantly burgeoning Jane Goodall-like bird nurturing skills. I used a leaf to scoop the bird into a shoe box. Having taken him out of harm’s way, I began to ponder my next step.
Suddenly caring for a baby bird was just like caring for Eve was she was a newborn. I was once again an astonished, scared, new mother. I decided that I’d find a way to do whatever I needed to take care of this baby. That’s the first step isn’t it? Just like motherhood, you take a step. You realize your most basic instinct is to keep a tiny little one alive, safe, content.
At this point, a small miracle occurred. I thought I heard the bird’s mother. There are probably only 8 bazillion birds in my yard at any given time and they all make noise. Birdgirl of Hollidaysburg I am not, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that the bird’s mother was calling her baby. That’s what made me set the box down close to where he had fallen, open the top lid, and wait. Then I really did feel like the host of Wild Kingdom. I watched in awe as the baby bird hopped out and tried to follow the lady cardinal. I was right! It was the mother! She peeped and chirped and did what every mother in the world does to encourage her children. She opened her wings and made encouraging sounds. Didn’t that tiny little cardinal hop right past my foot to follow his mama? I can’t tell you how happy it made me to know that little bird had such a good mother. I can’t tell you how hard it was to keep myself and Eve quiet (did I mention she’s four?). I can only imagine how our clapping and cheering would have scared the bits out of those birds. Silently Eve squeezed my hand. Another miracle.
It gets better. I think often about how many wonderful moms I’ve had the chance to meet out here and how they have helped me learn and grow. I also think about how a room full of moms will naturally pitch in and help each other. Didn’t that poor little bird get stuck in some tangled vines in the garden while trying to follow his mother? And didn’t the mother cardinal come and peep at ME and fly toward a different section of my yard? I knew just what to do. By this time I had tucked an old wool sweater into a basket in case my little friend needed a warm bed for the night. I scooped that little baby up again and placed him, snugly into the basket. Then I set the basket down near where the lady cardinal had clearly shown me.
Astonishing. By evening, the mother bird had managed to corral her baby out of the basket but I knew he was safe. Thursday morning I saw the lady cardinal again and could hear her baby so I knew the little family was safe. I’m delighted they’re staying in my yard and I’m deeply grateful the universe has shown me how much I have in common with other mother birds. Thanks to all of you, feathered or not, for keeping us pointed in the right direction.
What about you? What lessons are you learning in your back yard these days?
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Our baby bird friend.