Full moon of March

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Note: I started writing this post on Thursday the 5th and because I want to get it published so I can move forward in my writing and updates, I'll share as is. So it starts Thursday and finishes off yesterday evening. :)

Yesterday started innocently enough. And actually after not seeing any changes in any of my pregnant girls throughout the night or early morning I decided to just focus on cleaning, maybe do some cooking and prepare for the busy days ahead. I wasn't even going to go to the barn again at noon but just wait and check again later.

But then I did end up going to the barn, all because I thought I heard something that I never did. I thought I heard something that triggered me to trudge the 300 feet through the snow again to check on everyone. 

When I got there, everyone was fine. But I noticed Aurora's babies were moving around in her tummy, changing positions. Then as I stood there and just watched them eat some hay, Aurora had some contractions. Then she went full on nibbling her sides, squatting, pawing at the ground. All major signs of something happening. Her body had changed as the kids moved, and she was even looking at her tummy, nibbling it, and then making faces.

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So I stayed with her for quite a while. A couple of hours past and she had been lying in a nest she had dug chewing her cud, relaxing, so I decided to take advantage of the lull and go home to get some more water and a snack. 

I was so distracted by my thoughts, I was halfway home before I even realized Kevin had plowed for me so I wasn't walking through the deep, wet, melting snow anymore that was up past my knees. I hadn't even heard him do it while I was in the barn!

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I was at home for 3 minutes, I was super quick. As I approached the barn everyone was just milling around outside as usual, and my eyes roamed over them, I suddenly noticed Ruby, my ewe, lying up against the barn wall, flat out, pushing.

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I had thought she wasn't bred until just recently. I decided to double check and found out she had indeed bagged up, but even though I knew she was pregnant I didn't expect her to go this early. 

I did have it in my head that if anything was going to start happening, it would be now... I knew the full moon would stir things up. It always does

My first thought was that I would have to carry her into the barn, and I couldn't do that by myself. The guys were over at the Sugar Shack getting it opened up and the chimney secured because any day now we'll be tapping trees and then making maple syrup. Both Kevin and I have cell phones but the connection out here isn't great. But good enough if I call, he'll know I need something.

But amazingly Ruby got up and ran towards the back of the barn, to the door she uses to come in and when I got back there, she came right inside the barn and went straight into her pen. 

Then one  of the most stressful hours of my life began.

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I have delivered lambs before, and many kids. I have had good experiences, scary ones, terrible ones. But this one, this one was a huge challenge. The lamb was too big. And by too big I mean WAY to big. When it comes to birthing animals you need to call on your experiences, your knowledge (be it first hand or from books, Vets, etc) but you also need to use self control. You have to evaluate each situation to decide when and if to intervene because there is a fine line between, helping, saving a life, or causing trouble. A very fine line. Each situation is different. 

After I watched her for a bit, I called the guys at the sugar house and Jim drove the ATV over to the barn to come and hold Ruby for me so I could feel in there and see what was happening. The first thing I noticed was the lamb needed help with positioning, so I moved it. I also noticed how huge the lamb was. And by huge I mean I had no idea how I could get her out of there without injuring or killing the ewe.

I told Jim to leave, and I backed off a bit to give Ruby space so not to stress her more. She was not in any serious duress at this time, breathing steadily, not panicking. The sheep, unlike the goats, don't love being handled. Especially the ewes when they are lambing. So I didn't want to stress her more than she was.

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Horace says, he's glad he's a boy... and neutered.

Then panic set in. I was dangerously close to loosing both of them. The Vet would not be able to arrive for 40 minutes or so if called, way to long. 

As my emotions fell down on me like an anvil I decided I had to trust in the Gods, and do my best. I didn't call for help from Jim again, I called on help from a different, non physical source.

I wanted to handle Ruby alone, because I wanted the least stress possible on her. Now, keeping in mind that I've been sick for so long and had two major surgeries on my body that I'm still trying to get over, somehow I summoned physical strength I didn't know was still in there. I somehow managed to hold on to Ruby, who didn't want to be a part of this but had no choice, and work on getting the lamb out. I was afraid of injuring her but at this point it was do or die. Obviously you can't just go in there and yank, but I needed to give it my all. I got one leg free and realized this time the other leg was stuck, so I moved it, and pulled it out. Ruby was not helping at all at this point.

Once I had both legs out, Ruby finally stopped trying to get away from me and started pushing but the head was stuck. The lambs head was HUGE and it was the problem. Even with the legs out. I just kept working it gently but firmly with my hand to get the head moved and finally, finally, I pulled both legs with all of the strength in my body with one hand while the other one guided the head so that Ruby would not get torn, the head not get twisted around...

The lamb slid out gently and onto the ground.

I opened her mouth, got her breathing quickly, and she took a giant gasp of air. Ruby got up and ran. 

I fell backwards catching myself on my hands. I was out of energy and emotionally exhausted. I let a scream of shock and alarm out of me that came from somewhere deep inside of me. The fact that both animals were alive scrambled my brain. I've had mothers come close to loosing their kids, or have still borns, or have them be positioned wrong and stuck, but none of those were anything compared to this. I have never come that close to loosing both the mother and baby so fast. It's hard to describe.

The lamb was up on it's feet within seconds, I couldn't believe it. And she started coming straight for me so I got up quickly and got out of the pen to let her mother tend to her. Ruby is a first time mom, and those are usually the toughest for birthing and also for deciding whether or not the doe or ewe will care for her young or not. Some of them have no mothering instinct and absolutely will abandon them especially if they suspect weakness or any defects. It's just nature. And I am one for respecting nature, giving it time to work, I've learned that lesson of acceptance slowly, over many years, but on my farm, my animals are here because of me, they are my responsibility, and at some point I need to make a decision. I won't just let nature take it's course and let an abandoned lamb or kid die, although I've been given that advice before... I've never taken it. I also don't run a big time operation here for meat or dairy, even then I'd always choose life, but especially on our farm, and in my world, there is no option of just leaving things. 

So I watched and I waited. The lamb went to Ruby but Ruby kicked her, and ran. I sighed because I had a feeling this would be trouble. I gave it more time and this kept up. If it was warmer outside I would have left them even longer than I did but it wasn't warm enough and I knew what was coming. So I tried to get Ruby to accept her, allow her to nurse, without annoying Ruby anymore than she already was. My efforts failed, and I knew it. I've been here enough to know when they have failed or when someone is being stubborn. I've forced does to nurse kids they have abandoned which works fine, but you also end up with a kid they usually will not allow near them when you are not forcing them to stand for the kid (I'm using the term kid here since mostly I have goats) so I decided in this case it was time to respond to the situation.

I called for help again. Jim came with the ATV, got me what I needed, and then held Ruby while I milked her to get colostrum. I didn't get very much, but some is better than none.

Then I ran the 300 feet home carrying the lamb in a blanket rather than riding the ATV because I was in a hurry. The lamb was soaking wet, had not been tended to at all, and was shaking now. I needed her dry, warm, fed, and calm. 

The next little while was just chaos. I had planned on cleaning that morning, cooking a big meal in the crockpot so that we'd have leftovers, getting all my bottles ready just in case (for goats) and etc. etc. Since none of that happened, I tore around trying to find what I needed, trying to dry off this baby and clear her eyes, mouth, and get the fire going in the wood stove because it was out.

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She took the bottle right away without even a seconds hesitation. I'm not sure I've had any bottle baby take the bottle as fast as her.

Oh yes, that's right. HER. Later, when things had calmed down we checked again because I thought it couldn't be true. Usually if I end up with a bottle baby it's a boy!

The dogs were beside themselves, they love babies, and they just wanted to clean her. After I got her fed and as dry as I could, I put her in about the fourth towel and Jim got me a big box and some hay for her and then went back to work with Kevin. 

The lambie fell asleep in my arms so I just stood there for a long time, letting her sleep, snuggle, feel loved, calm, and safe. She'd been through a lot. 

The evening consisted of me using my emergency frozen pizzas. I buy a couple at maple syrup time because when I'm having babies in the barn and we are boiling sap for 12 hours a day, if I forgot to put the crock pot on, or didn't make dinner, we'd be mighty hungry. We have a ton of food in this house but it all needs to be cooked, I should have more freezer meals prepared but that hasn't been possible lately with my health.

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It's also not that easy to cook holding a lambie! But it can be done...

Afterwards, I milked Ruby again, and was pleased to see she was up, eating. Not bleeding any more than she should be. Bright eyed. 

By evening Aurora had not changed at all since her earlier antics. No change in her appearance and she seemed to forget that anything was happening. I honestly think part of the reason for her antics was to keep me in the barn. Had she not been acting strange, I would never have stayed up there. Ruby wasn't even on my radar for lambing. I truly believe that.

After the animals were all put to bed and fed, and the people, I showered and held the baby until finally she allowed me to put her in her bed to sleep (she'd fuss every time I tried) and I was asleep shortly after.

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And she let me sleep for a while, which was nice. Goat kids will go to bed, usually by 10 PM a bottle goat kid (young enough) will sleep and usually they sleep all through the night. But the only other lamb I ever raised which was Braveheart, had me up every hour. He was sick of course, but still, I didn't know what to expect.

At 6 AM the Kakarikis birds started Kaking. This woke me up, and then right after I heard baaing. I got up, looked at the temperature outside, 6 degrees F. I noticed the Wild Turkeys were sleeping in the driveway just past our garage, by the garden. 

I heated up some milk while the lamb, named Emerald since her mom is Ruby, hopped around the kitchen happily. She took her bottle right away and filled up. She was happy to greet the day. I was exhausted, but happy to see her so full of life and not weak, she was running around on our floors without even falling over already which is a big feat, especially when you are a new born on stilts. 

I put the coffee on, and went up to the barn to check for babies especially since it was chilly out. When I got there everyone was still sleeping and nothing interesting was happening. Ruby was up, bright eyed still. 

Back at home I had put Emerald in her bed and thought I would take a cup of coffee back to my own bed to lie there quietly and read for a while. I knew I wouldn't be able to go back to sleep. But as soon as I lied down, she started calling for me. I wanted to try and let Kevin sleep, so I got up, closed the door and went to the living room with her. She quickly fell asleep in my lap in the recliner without ANY fuss and she slept, and I drank 4 cups of coffee.

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I was able to get more colostrum out of Ruby Thursday morning and Emerald drank it all, which made me feel so relieved. The colostrum, first milk, is essential to life. I've been lucky enough to have both a goat kid and a lamb survive that never got it - but Braveheart was a struggle to save and he lost high eye sight, and Sammy, my heart goat, who came from a big dairy operation, had horrible joint deformities and problems because of it. Emeralds systems started working very quickly after her first feeding Wed night which surprised me, she peed which was fine, but she had her first poo almost right away and it was a healthy first one, which meant the colostrum she got worked, but I felt a lot of relief giving her even more the next morning. 

So Thursday and Friday were fine, tiring, busy, but fine.

Then Saturday morning Emerald was her usual self, and after breakfast she was lying on me sleeping with the dogs while I had coffee. She peed on me. I thought it was awfully strange since she had always told me previously she wanted up, and then she'd pee. But she was out like a light, clearly dreaming and I thought that was why she did it. And at first I didn't even get up, I sat there with my pants wet and let her sleep more. But then she did it again.

By then I had noticed her nose felt awfully hot too. I got her up and could see something drastic had changed in the past 1/2 hr.

I still have no idea what happened. She had none of the usual symptoms of any of the usual or expected things that would affect a newborn lamb, especially an orphan. She crashed fast, and HARD. Honestly I don't think I've ever had that fast of a decline and I've had a lot of bottle babies and sick ones, from other farms, or mine. I've also raised a goat kid and lamb that never got colostrum, Braveheart who got an infection in his blood and went blind, and Sammy who came from a big dairy farm and had some type of infection even the Vet's couldn't figure out. I saved both of them through a lot of effort - and many times they were on deaths door. But this was so shockingly fast and so not obvious as to the cause I wasn't sure how to respond.

So I spent the entire day covering all my bases. She got a shot of penicillin, Vitamin A &D, Selenium. She got oral Vitamins, electrolytes via syringe. She got something to settle her stomach. She got multiple temperature checks and also an enema (those things she especially did not appreciate.)

She couldn't lift her head, would not take food. She was accepting the electrolytes via syringe but not without a fuss.

Then finally at 7 PM, she was in her house sleeping because I had just finished dinner... and she woke up and asked me for milk, on her own. And she ate it.

Since Saturday, she has been eating very aggressively and very well. Her systems were not totally normal on Sunday, Monday I started getting a little movement of poop and more pee but lots of mucus, of course because of the upset. Today her poops are perfectly healthy. This is a big marker of how things are inside of her. She's also held her pee while sleeping on me until I let her up. She's still quite lethargic however. But we've made it this far which has been a huge achievement.

Yesterday I had a particularly hard morning on the farm, and lack of sleep and my already struggling body doesn't help. So I took a walk, and ended up sitting in a tree, with a cup of coffee. I walked to that tree through snow up to my waist, but it was worth it.

I sat there and I listened to the birds singing in the trees, the first sounds of spring, of the change that is in the air. Of new hope. New life.

I have learned a valuable lesson or at least I am learning it, finally. I have realized all of the losses I have had in the past and been through with any of my animals be it through rescue or on the farm, as difficult as they were, have given me not only a greater knowledge but also a higher intuition. As Kevin was preparing to deal with my likely heartbreak again on the weekend, which we've had enough of because when caring for animals it is inevitable. This stuff is not for the faint of heart... I realized even though I am fully invested as usual in this lamb, I have to accept only the things I can control, and release the things I cannot. That might sound ridiculous but it can be so hard to accept. I'm not saying I am there, but I am suddenly aware of it more.

If we cannot accept it, we cannot have peace. Every animal I have ever lost is in my heart, especially the toughest ones that I fought to save. I have always looked at that as only pain, but suddenly I realize in it's own way, it was also a gift.

I know I am doing all the right things, and I know Emerald has as strong a spirit as any newborn I've ever met. Together I hope we can get through this.

I'm ending this here for now, because she is asking for a bottle! 

Comments

wranglerkate said…
Wow! You are an amazing woman. Thanks for sharing your stories with us. They are inspiring!
Bobbi D. said…
Emerald. I love the name. What a sweetie too. YOU are her momma. :) Good job. I hope she continues to improve and you do too! xoxo
Wow, talk about from high to low in a small amount of time. What an incredible journey for you and Emerald (love the name). I am hoping each hour finds her stronger and that you have recovered from such a hard experience.
Lana said…
I have started realizing that about life's tough experiences. That though they seem only like pain at the time, that they teach us so much. So I have learned to be at peace with a lot of things that I used to let get to me.

I really enjoyed reading about Emerald. I am hoping that she continues to improve!
The JR said…
I hope she continues to ask for her bottles and is soon well, happy and a growing little lamb.

The hardships are the main reason I have never had any interest in breeding my horses.

You are an amazing woman Donna. It takes a strong lady to do what you do for God's creatures.
What a week you've had. I'm glad Emerald seems to be doing better. I hope she continues to improve and get stronger.
I'm glad you were able to cope with all this stress, too. May spring bring you better health, more strength and peace.
Lola Enchanted said…
Oh I just love your menagerie!!!

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