A Different Lens . . . Kidding on the Line
April 24, 2011
Among the countless eye-opening experiences I’ve had here at Rainbeau Ridge the Kidding Season certainly ranks among the most profound. You just don’t forget all those incredible late nights out in the paddocks and the miraculous series of births. The whole experience is permanently etched in my memory bank – flashlight in one hand, towel in the other, assisting Lisa in the freezing cold, 100% in the moment – it’s not possible to feel more alive. With each birth I could feel my heart racing; it never, ever got old and was anything but routine. But near the start of the season there was one night that truly set the tone of what was to come . . . so, naturally, I have to share it with you.
I had yet to witness a birth and it was my turn to be “on deck” to watch two of the expectant mothers do their thing. Lisa had gone to Harlem for dinner, Blair was out with Lisa’s son, who was in town from Honduras, and Lauren, the farm director, had gone home after a very long twelve hours assisting two other goats who had given birth that day. It was 7:30pm. I figured it was going to be a long evening, so I settled in and got ready for the adventure.
I sat on a bail of hay in the aisle overlooking the two stalls, eyes fixed on the mothers. I had no idea what the timeframe for any of this would be. So, while I was in “wait and see” mode, I decided it was a good time to catch up on some phone calls. I’m busy chatting up a storm with Wendye, and as we went about our global schmoozfest there was a cacophony of moans in the background from Judy, the dame who seemed closest to delivering her kid. Neither mothers could seem to get comfortable. Standing, lying, stretching, exaggerated expressions of pain, pawing at the hay, readying the beds for the arrival of their kids. Gwen’s breathing was getting deeper and faster as I saw that the contractions started coming every 15 minutes. I thought this was going to go on for hours, but I felt somewhat secure knowing I had Wendye on the line for whatever support I needed. But there’s nothing like the moment when you first see a kid emerge. I started to panic as Judy bellowed out her birthing screams. I had to scream, too. Holy s**t!
It was happening. I got off the phone and raced to call Lauren. She immediately asked, “Do you see two feet?” Honestly, I didn’t know what I was looking at. This was totally surreal. A part of the kid peeked out and immediately got sucked back into the canal after each contraction. Talk about a “wow” moment. Lauren said she would be right over; she lived 20 minutes away. I’m thinking to myself… “I’m alone, twenty minutes is a lifetime.” Now what?
After ten minutes, Judy’s screaming got louder. She had maneuvered herself into a lying down position, exhausted, the kid still sliding back every time she relaxed. I knew these were all natural birthing instincts, but it was difficult to watch and something didn’t seem right. So I did what any thinking woman would do in a circumstance like this, I called my Dad, who just happens to be a veterinarian. I needed guidance. I needed support. I needed my Dad to help guide this solo flight, at least until Lauren got here.
After a couple of deep breaths I described the situation to my father. Judy was in trouble; she needed help and quickly. He said “to scrub up and grab a towel.” I assisted my dad during the summers while in high school, so I went right into action. By the time I came back, I saw the kid’s nose surfacing and as the mother pushed, the head came out further and further. As she relaxed it slipped back in. I put my Dad on speaker phone and had him get on our BarnCam so he could see exactly what was going on. In the calmest of voices he told me that the next time I saw the head, I had to grab it with the towel and pull with an out and downward motion. The calm ended as Judy’s screams got louder. My father and I were both shouting.
He yelled, “Grab the towel! The baby’s going to be slippery!” I worried I was going to break the baby’s neck. But he said I wouldn’t and told me to “just pull!” It may have been 20 degrees outside, but I was sweating like a pig. I threw my jacket off and just did what I had to do. As she pushed, I pulled… and after three tries, the baby finally slid out. It was HUGE! It was the largest baby birthed so far this year. No wonder she was having such problems. I brought the kid to her mother immediately so she could start cleaning her. I continued rubbing the kid to ensure she was breathing and made sure her throat was clear.
After being so focused, my adrenalin was surging. And that’s when I could hear screaming from the other stall. So I jumped from one to the other (literally, there is no door in between) to find Gwen had just delivered. She was lying down and both mother and kid were lying still in opposite directions. For a brief moment I thought the worst had happened. I yelled to my dad, who was still on speaker phone two stalls away. “They’re just lying there!” I described the condition of both mother and child. Dad said to start rubbing the baby rapidly on the sides of her chest to get her breathing, and again, to make sure her throat was clear. The baby finally started to cry (it seemed like time stood still) and I quickly brought her to her mother who was still lying down, absolutely exhausted. I was concerned because mother Gwen seemed like she barely had the energy she needed to start cleaning her kid and making that mother/child bond. Within a few seconds however, she had a surge of energy that brought her to her feet. She was good to go. She started cleaning her crying kid and all you could hear was a sonic humming that was truly music to my ears, the afterglow of a joyous birth.
Both of my parents were now on the line and we were elated. Of course, what seemed like an eternity was a just a mere 10 minutes. Lauren came in and could see my rather stunned expression. She knew I had just been part of a miracle, one that happens here every year . . . one that there is no iPhone App for . . . one that you just have to be here to experience firsthand (with a little help from my Dad, of course).