You’d think I was having the babies myself for all the anticipation and anxiety I spent in the week leading up to the birthings. For several days, I camped out near the barn with a baby monitor to alert me if a goat started into labor in the middle of the night. After three years of this routine, I no longer went running to the barn at the slightest sound, only to find that a ruminating goat, her munching amplified by a little speaker, was not panting, but rather just doing what goats do at all hours of the day and night…eating.
So two does were due last week—Star and Itsy. Star, a first-timer, went into labor about 11:30 a.m. on Monday—one day after her due date—and delivered triplets after about four hours of contractions. Chuck and I were there to assist, but she didn’t really need us. All three babies came normally, with their heads resting on both front hooves. Plop, plop, plop. She knew it was her job to lick her babies clean, and she knew it was her job to feed them. She was tired, of course, but she got right to work. Whew!
The following day we were keeping close watch on Itsy, since she was two days past due. Around 10:00 a.m., she had not gone into labor, but was pawing straw into a nest and her udder was quite full and ready for customers. We were out of grain, so Chuck decided to make a quick trip to Tractor Supply. Plenty of time: Star, after all, had taken four hours. Twenty minutes later, Itsy went into hard labor, and there I was with her by myself. I called neighbors to come, in case I needed help, and called Chuck, who was at the check-out with the grain. Meanwhile, Itsy was grunting and pushing. I was confident I could manage alone…until I noticed that the first baby was in the wrong position. I tried to push him back in to pull his left leg forward. His head was all the way out, though. I put on surgical gloves and “went in” to move the leg. Chuck had done this last year, and it was no big deal.
I couldn’t do it. About that time, my neighbors, Jerry and Jane, arrived. Jerry put on the gloves and gave it a try as Itsy contracted. When Chuck arrived, observing our incompetent midwifery, he slipped on gloves and took his turn. Nothing. Itsy was exhausted, and just lay there. No contractions, no pushing. I gave her a dose of Nutri-drench, a goopy energy drink for goats, and she responded with a good strong contraction that released a wet little creature into earth-living. We were still cleaning him up when she went into labor again. Out popped another head and another missing hoof. Again, there was no getting it in position; she would have to push the baby out on her own. But she stopped having contractions and just walked around the stall with the baby’s head hanging out of her for about 10 minutes. I called another goat farmer, and he said we had to get her out soon or Itsy would die. Jane had smaller hands, so she donned the last pair of gloves and reached in. Itsy responded to this invasion with a strong contraction, which freed her of both Jane’s hands and another buck.
Itsy showed no interest in cleaning or feeding her babies. We called another goat friend, who said to tie her up and make her stand for them. We tried that for about three hours, before we called a third goat friend, who said the babies had to eat. So we milked her and bottle fed the babies. Later we tried again, but Itsy only butted and bit the boys if they came near her. Then they quit trying. That’s when I milked Itsy, bottled up the milk for the kids, and went from being midwife to being mommy.
All the kids are fine (and adorable, of course). I am still recovering. You’d think I was the one who had those babies, for all the energy that it drained from my body.
Margaret Guenther compares spiritual direction to being a midwife—The spiritual director is one who assists with a natural event, who sees what another may not see, including the need to get through pain. There is a long period of waiting and uncertainty, then the onset of labor (no going back), then labor (hard work!). Then there is transition, with discomfort and lack of power or control. In this process, you are aware of the connection with the web of creation, and yourself as part of it. Finally, after all that hard work, you celebrate the miracle. I read Margaret’s book on spiritual direction as part of my training at the Haden Institute. But I think I just got my real training in a barn. www.sarahyork.com/sarah