Saturday, January 11, 2014

Labor: Unassisted and In A Barn

You thought that title was about referring to me, huh? Nope! Lula Mae had her babies yesterday!!

(Actually, this happened several months ago, but I was nearing my own birth and never managed to publish the post.)

Watching my strong, stubborn goat transformed by the power of labor was beautiful. We took comfort in the facts that animal birth is, for all intents and purposes, a natural, organic process and that Lula Mae was an "experienced" mama. Sure, we read (all the books ever written) on goat labor and birth, had our birth kit nearby and kept the number of a local vet handy, but mostly we hoped she'd do it all herself. Which she did.

Even though she had all the mechanics of birth covered, she begged for us to stick around. As early labor turned into active labor she panted with her head pressed against my shoulder, leaning into the comfort of our touch and presence. We've heard some kinds of goats can actually delay their births by up to two weeks, and I am confident Lula Mae waited till she had both of us home on holiday.

Lula Mae waiting for the next contraction

I've been nearby but never attended a birth before--human or otherwise. I was in awe. Lula knew just what to do, putting her front legs up high on the hay feeder as she pushed, pacing on her breaks, moaning through the pain and occasionally biting the thick wood of the barn to cope.

Soon, her effort paid off and we saw the first signs of life poking into this world--only instead of a tiny nose, we saw a tiny tail. Her baby was breach! After two hours went by with only a tail birthed, we knew the kid was in danger and that assistance would be required.

A tail--not a nose--was our first sign of life
Just as I pulled on my long plastic glove, Lula Mae gave a deep grunt and pushed out the baby's hips.

Relieved, I returned to my role of goat doula as Mr. Bee assumed the role of stand-by midwife. Another few pushes and the baby plopped on the group, a slimy beautiful mess. Lula immediately began to bite away at the sac and lick it's face--all the while still pushing.

A tail poked out and we knew another baby was on its way! This one slid out more easily but didn't stir once it hit the ground. When kids are born breach, they don't have the same pressure on the way out of the birth canal, and it is easy for them to come out having mucous in their lungs. Mr. Bee picked up the second kid and swung it by its ankles. I watched as mucous spewed out and the tiny body began to cough and breath.

A family was born.

Lula Mae licked her babies continually and made the most wonderful cooing noises at them. They struggled to suckle but eventually got the hang of things. Within 5 minutes the wobbly legged babies were wandering around. One of them even went outside!

Desi and December, 1 hour old
Each year, a different letter is used in the goat breeding world for record keeping, and it is common to name the babies using that letter as the first letter to their names. This year the letter is "D".

We felt so privileged to witness Lula's birth experience and to greet her little ones moments after they arrived. We were so caught up in the moment that we forgot we had our own birthing class to attend!! We showed up covered in afterbirth and hay, but our instructors said it was the best and most unusual reason for being late she'd ever heard.


I thought when we found a place, began forcing roots into the ground, determined to settle ourselves, that we had arrived.

I thought we'd found ourselves in a new relationship to one another, in a new community, in new hobbies and fresh starts.

I thought my life was full of beauty and joy and richness that I never could have imagined.

I thought we'd come home.

Now, as I curl my arm around my feisty bundle of life and pull him closer to my chest, the past looks different. Everything I thought before was true, but I can barely remember the days before Baby Bee, similar to how I can barely remember life before getting married. It's like our souls have all always been intertwined.

Baby Bee's arrival feels like coming home. Instead of coming home for the first time, it's like returning home after a long absence. It is warm and familiar. Soothing and still exciting. Very different from the place you just were, but precisely the place you know you need to be.

**Thank you for your patience with my 8 month silence. We're back now. Just as we should be.**