Birth. It doesn’t matter how many YouTube videos you watch or how much reading you do in preparation. Birth is enough to scare the pants right off of you. (Ironically, in humans the pants coming off is also a precursor to birth.)
Saturday morning I wrestled a huge pail of water down to the barn in preparation for feeding, one of the daily joys of a barn with no running water. In the summer I use a long hose, but this time of the year it freezes. I try to alternate the carrying arm each day and convince myself that the workout somehow alleviates any need to get back to the gym. So far it’s not really working, but that’s another tale for another time.
I set the pail down on the crusty snow, blew a breath of warmth into my gloves and cracked open the double doors with a “Good morning, critters!”. Normally in response I’m bombarded by a Seuss-ian cacophony of llama honks, mehing goats and the clatter of hooves crashing off stall walls and feed buckets.On this particular morning, however, only one sound answered back. It reminded me of a windup toy stuck on squeal. I rushed to Endo’s stall to catch her licking a thick brown goo from the tiny head of a slick black lump. Baby goat!
The euphoria that comes with a first kidding experience lasted mere seconds and a controlled panic rolled on in to replace it. My head started spinning through the instructions… clear nose and mouth of goo, towel off goo, make sure baby gets colostrum, watch for more goo to emerge, tear off umbilical cord, dip stump in iodine, tie it off with dental floss. I only managed the first step before Endo’s back started arching uncomfortably and she pushed another fluid filled bubble out into plain site. The bubble sat there long enough for me to see a nose and two hooves – the baby appeared to be presenting correctly. Thanks be to jumpin jeebus on a pogo stick. When Endo stopped pushing and the bubble disappeared inside again, I ran for the first aid bin and dug out rubber gloves, paper towel, puppy pee pads. When the next push came I was ready. Endo groaned and pressed her side in hard against the boards of the stall. The bubble dropped towards the ground and hung, suspended, hind legs still inside. My heart clenched in a little moment of fear and then I remembered what I’d read about helping – I grabbed the forelegs through the cushion of surrounding slime and when Endo pushed again I assisted the kid out onto the straw. Endo and I immediately set about clearing the viscous coating from the baby’s airways and once breathing was unobstructed I allowed myself to have a faint heart attack while Endo finished the job.
Once I recovered, I picked up each kid gingerly and placed it on the puppy pee pad. I bought a package of the training pads when we got Milo, assuming they’d be good for the days when he was left unattended longer than he’d likely hold it. I only used two of the pads while training him, but soon recognized that they’d be ideal in the goat production process and I was right. The pads helped greatly to soak up blood and liquid and goo, and in minutes, both kids were somewhat drier and struggling to figure out their very wobbly legs. Before they got too far I cut their umbilical cords down to a respectable length, dipped them in iodine to prevent infection, and tied them off with dental floss. That process took a little more nerve than I’d anticipated.
After Endo delivered two more kid-less bubbles of goo – one afterbirth for each baby, I was able to stop and assess the horror scene before my eyes. Blood smeared on the concrete walls, a thick stream of red and pink mucous slowly extending from Endo’s tail base to the ground. Most of the straw in the stall was blurred by a stratus of jellyfish-like matter. In short, the stall looked a little like the crime scene of an alien murder.
I considered whether to clean up immediately or wait, and realized that getting the kids some food was probably a priority – they didn’t seem to be having much luck on their own. One at a time I coaxed them towards Endo’s udder and tried to place a teat in their mouths. They just didn’t get it. They sucked on her stomach, her elbows, her ears. The teats seemed to be last on their list of options. Finally, after I’d tried for about 20 minutes, I decided I should get something into their stomachs pronto. I milked a small amount of colostrum by hand and put it into a plastic pop bottle. Fortunately I had a screw-on nipple top that I had purchased some time ago as part of my “just in case” kit. The kids eagerly took the nipple and sucked up a few mouthfuls of the milk. I placed them back down next to the teats and this time, they figured it out!
At last, able to relax a little, I transferred my new little family to a clean stall and set about shoveling out the evidence. A wheelbarrow load of goopy, poopy straw later, I was done. I peeked in on mom and her little bucklings once more, everyone seemed settled and healthy. With my first birthing under my belt, I realized that I was starving despite spending the morning playing in slime, blood and guts. I tore myself away and went back to the house for lunch and a beer to celebrate a job well done.
Next up, Sprocket!