My new year morning was greeted with these words: "Mom, Bobbie is in labor and one leg is sticking out."
I had my own babies at home. "Birth: as safe as life gets." Etc. In all the years we've kept goats, I've had my hands in exactly one uterus and that only because I knew she was dying and was just making sure it wasn't something I could do something about. We've also had kittens, puppies, and cows born on the farm. Zero intervention. Sometimes I've been allowed to watch, sometimes the mother preferred to birth alone. The old Belgian loved playing midwife, LOVED babies, it was so funny. Every female dog we've had always wants to mother everything too it seems. But the thought of birth intervention, well, I truly do know how rarely it is truly needed.
But when you hear "one leg sticking out" you know what that means. The likelihood of death is high.
It was a front leg, and after washing my hands several times and using the iodine I had leftover from the "just in case" stash I had when I had my own babies, I gently put my hands in her uterus and rather quickly found another front leg. But it didn't match the one that was out in that it was skinnier than the one that was out. I put it back in. I took some more time to feel around. I could feel that one other leg, a head, I could feel a heartbeat and rather assumed at that time that it was an umbilical cord so I knew at least someone was still alive. What I was afraid of with the "other" front leg was that it was somehow another baby goat and I'd end up getting two in the birth canal at once and get them really really stuck and everyone would die a slow awful death.
So I did the thing that has saved me and my animals on more than one occasion: I stopped time and listened. Essentially I ask the universe, "What can I do?" and then I know. Yeah, I know what that sounds like. But considering that I used to be *the world's worst* at picking good produce until I learned to form the question in my mind, "Which of these needs/wants to go home with me? Which do we need?" and then hear the response, well, yeah. So anyway.
My hands were just slightly into the birth canal, on the shoulder that was presenting. I waited for a contraction and when she had one, I provided the slightest amount of traction. And a baby came out. And the momma was entirely intact if a little dazed. And to my great and huge surprise, the baby was alive and trying to breathe. I cleaned out it's nose, dried it a little, stuck it in the dry corner with a little extra hay and left mom and baby alone while I went to . . . figure out what to do next and wait for the next thing to happen.
I was concerned about infection since I'd had my hands in her uterus, so I called a friend who'd raised high dollar meat goats to ask him about prophylactic antibiotics. We talked for awhile, his experiences, which antibiotic, blah blah. He'd said he'd done it on high dollar nannies but he'd also not done it, after intervening, and as long as they'd cleaned out (their uterus) fine, he hadn't had a problem. He also talked for awhile about getting the babies warm.
By the time I got off the phone, she'd had two more babies. I actually thought for a minute that she was having a forth but very thankfully it was the afterbirth. We helped the babies dry off. Mom was interested in them. All was good. Except it was a cold, drippy wet day and I knew the stuck baby would take awhile to heal up from that birth. How to manage? How to choreograph life so that everybody has a chance to live?
We have a couple of giant dog crates. I told the kids to bring one in, put it where I usually sit to eat, in front of the kitchen fire. There was some incredulity but no one wants baby goats to die and I just knew, this was our best shot to get all of them to live. I'd watch for infection but wouldn't give antibiotics unless there was a reason to. They'd be warm and well fed, which was what WE could do, and the rest would be up to them.
The stuck goat didn't die that first night, even though we all really expected that he would. He didn't stand so we held him to nurse several times a day. We let momma out during most of the day. We let the mobile baby goats out with her for a bit. At 48 hours, the stuck goat stood on his own. Walked. Nursed. Even competed to nurse, but it is competition for food and comfort that will kill things so we also made sure he had some time when his momma's udder was full to nurse, alone. As the days passed, he did increasingly well. But he was always lighter and slower than the other two. He'd also ask each and every chicken if she didn't have an udder. Each person. Each dog. Even the occasional tree. He seemed to not entirely know he was a goat.
Now one thing I am absolutely sure of is that if we'd taken him away from his momma and siblings, he would never have lived through that first night. When I was talking to my friend with the meat goats, he'd said, "The darn things don't have a will to live." I knew what he meant, but I've found that family, mommas of the same species, make all the difference. And there is no form of replacement milk or colostrum as good as your OWN momma's. When he couldn't stand, sometimes he'd get stepped on. He'd complain. Not to be too anthropomorphic here but I think that essentially gave him the motivation to get up. Maybe without that he wouldn't even have known he was supposed to.
On day six they took up residence outside full time, overnight included. Momma gathered them on the porch ready to come in, but we made her a hay bed in her corner and she was ok with that. During the day sometimes the stuck goat would get stuck again, when his sibs would clamber over a log that he couldn't figure out mostly. But he'd figure it out, or sometimes raise enough fuss that we'd go see what was wrong and reunite him with his family.
On day eight we woke up and he was dead. Peacefully in their corner.
That was that.
Now know, that is life on the farm. It IS sad. But I was surprised when he hit the ground and was trying to breathe; that he wasn't already dead then. I am grateful to have been able to get him out at all, so that his mother and his siblings could live, because very easily they could have all been dead. We have two live healthy bouncy capricious baby goats, and a sweet momma.
People still ask me how in the world we eat our goats, or our rabbits, or our chickens. We just do. Like I just put my hands in that goat. Like we pull a carrot out of the ground, or cut a cabbage off.
2013. I remember a very specific incident in 2006 when I said to a person that by 2012 the world would not be recognizable to her. I still think that is true. I said last year that the world HAD ended, just that people were too stupid and too entrenched in their need for the status quo to notice.
Do you remember being 13? I do. I've set some challenges for myself this year. Riding for Carol. Riding for Buck. I've got a lot to work out. Maybe I'll find my old confidence without ego. Maybe fear and hurt will be resolved. And then there is family, the eternal blessed creation dance of abundance. And the farm, the sustenance. I do not promise to blog a lot, but when I have something to say . . .