The Girl Scouts was as close as this suburban girl ever got to learning any kind of traditional skills growing up. I quit it early on, considering ‘badge earning’ to be well beneath my expanding “cool kid” facade.
But if there’s a badge worth earning, midwifery would be up there with the loftiest of them. I’m humbled and proud to say I got to experience it last night for the first time.
I bit of critical background: I’m squeamish. Considering we didn’t have children of our own and I didn’t have my own dog to take care of, let alone any pet previously to our dear Papi, at about age 42, it seems to me squeamishness pretty much comes with that territory.
It’s because I was well aware of this personal limitation that I NEVER imagined we’d have so many animals.
Chickens, for us and many other clueless homesteaders, are the Gateway Livestock. Then came ducks, turkeys, sheep, pigs, and more dogs. But we both swear we’ll never get cows or horses. (Ahem)
Considering my penchant for ‘Too Much Information’ I’ve now been acclimated to loads of poop, vomit, blood and morbid sounds of all sorts. It also got me scared, very scared, about all that can go wrong with pets and livestock. And how painful that is, and knowing this truth in advance is useless. It does not help the pain by expecting it. It does help though to be prepared. So far I give us a C+ on that when it comes to the critters.
My TMI penchant leads also to so much online and in books about serious diseases and awful complications and the myriad very dirty deeds endemic in the farm life. Talking to others more experienced will also always bring sad stories and sometimes tragic ones.
Maybe I don’t quite deserve my badge just yet, but I’m fairly certain I saved our ewe and her young lamb last night by being at the right place at the right time and doing my usual C-level work. 🙂
When our ewes have lambed in the past I was not there to witness the actual event, only woke up to find the lambs delivered, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. On one occasion I found one mutilated by our young puppy and I had to kill it. I cannot speak about this moment still today a year later without tears. It was the most confusing, stressful, tragic, sorrowful day of my life. Like most in the so-called advanced economies, we grew up very sheltered from death and from the act of killing. Hubby would’ve handled it far better had he been home. I was alone and a basket case.
I was alone again this time when Buttercup gave an unusual and very loud bark audible from inside the house that clued me in that something was going down. I went to the stalls and saw mama was in labor. I was determined to watch it all and learn.
I was hoping and intending to remain a bystander to nature’s miracle.
As it happened I could tell something was wrong right away. Then I doubted myself. Then I went back and forth a dozen times, yes, no, yes, no.
Then I concluded, no, something’s really wrong here, get help. Help? Like from who? I called two friends with more experience and they didn’t answer. I looked through our book on sheep, panicky by that time. I call Hubby. He calls his folks and searches online while I pace waiting for the bread in the oven to finish so I can go back to the stalls.
I muse, even in this stressed state: “Oh, we’re both waiting on buns in the oven.” Yes, that’s how I cope with stress, and most things really, goofy humor.
It doesn’t occur to me again that the fetus that the ewe cannot seem to push out is in fact dead until hours later. Yet, I felt it, even considered it immediately, instinctually at the very first moment I saw it. I just tried to over-ride that feeling with too much doubt and reasoning and wishful thinking.
On the phone with Hubby we decide there’s really nothing I can do alone in the dark with no experience and no equipment and no nearby vet. Then he calls back and has changed his mind. He urges me to go back out, put on some rubber gloves, and see if I can help her.
And he was right! As soon as I touched the fetus it was obviously dead and my foolishness at waiting hours to “realize” this washed over me. I strained, along with mama to get it out, knowing if not she would surely die as well.
At last it came free, followed by another smaller, but wonderfully alive little treasure!
I’m happy to report as of this writing about 16 hours later, mama and babe are doing well, eating and drinking and getting to know each other.
Yes, I was alone, but really, it was very much a team effort. Thanks y’all!