Then the dog ate the placenta
I’m not giving away the entire plot of this particular story up there in the title although, frankly, if you’d like to skip right to the denouement then, that’s about it. Not entirely, but sort of. Wasn’t it a great story? Have a nice day!
For those of you sticking around for some of the details, here they are:
Jolene had her babies Saturday night. This is the infamous goat who had an emergency c-section last year – my first goat birth experience ending in a nearly worst case scenario (I am certain it was much worse for her). That was also the day that my phone died inexplicably, that my boss got angry I chose the goat’s life over a day in the office, that – it seemed – all my choices wobbled dangerously out of control. That goat. Jolene is also the girl who had a torrid, fleeting affair with a buck from the wrong side of the
tracks fence. Jolene is a dairy goat. He is a meat goat. Star-crossed lovers and all that. I was holding onto two hopes for Jolene: that we would not have a miserable, repeat performance of last year’s kidding and that, maybe, possibly, I was mistaken about her affair with the neighbor’s buck. Either way, this was gonna be a nail biter.
In a rare moment of organization and forward thinking, I prepared a kidding kit Saturday morning that includes one large basket filled with several towels, plastic and paper bags, paper towels and a bag of latex gloves. The other basket holds iodine, nutri-drench, molasses, syringes, b-12 complex, a small stainless pail (for milking colostrum), and a flask of bourbon. That last one’s for me, although there was a moment I was tempted to offer some to Jolene.
At 5:30 pm, after two hours of little progress, Jolene suddenly dropped to the ground and started pushing. I called for Jeremy who ran into the kid pen just as the water sack emerged with the front hooves and nose (proper presentation! ! !) of an enormous baby. By “enormous” I mean that he was larger then two of the three week old goats I adopted recently. ENORMOUS. I realized Jolene needed help at the same moment I noticed Jeremy intermittently snapping pictures and gagging behind me. “Oh GEEEZ,” he exclaimed between “click clicks” from the iPhone. There’s nothing quite like puncturing a water sack to test the steel of one’s stomach (please note: there were other, more descriptive words in this original sentence which I’ve edited out so that you’ll still be friends with me). I dry heaved internally while Jer cursed and backed away. With his legs free of the sack, I managed to grab the baby by his armpits. And pulled. He came out quickly. While I cleaned off his face (and hung him upside down to expel fluid in the lungs. Fun.), another baby slipped out in the breech position. The second one, a girl, plopped onto the feedbags I used to contain the mess. She looked up at me and, just as I opened my mouth wide to say “AWWW!!!” she shook her head furiously, flinging afterbirth across the pen, across my shirt, riiiight across, and into, my open mouth. Which leads me to understand the fundamental importance of having someone else assist the goat midwife: face mopper. There are many things I considered when we dove into this endeavor. Having Jer carefully wipe afterbirth from my face while both my hands cradled a brand new goat – that wasn’t one of ’em. Dreaming about idyllic goat milking? That is part of it.
But what’s also “part of it” is being able to push against the boundaries of comfort, measure the weight of your own guts, and have experiences so visceral it takes stout detergent to wash them away. These days, I find myself running straight into fear: head-up, eyes forward, arms open. Wading into the deep, I am always surprised once I look around and realize how far I’ve gone. The picture below is gory, so skip it if you don’t want to see the juicy bits of farm life. It might just be my favorite picture because of how it encapsulates the lifestyle we’ve chosen: drama, new life, relationships with the animals. And it makes me feel strong, strong, strong. But not nearly as strong as these goat gals, who are the heroes of every story.
To bring things full circle, I’ll end with this: Jolene passed the placenta while I slipped inside for a quick dinner. I placed it into a paper bag near her before gathering eggs and locking things up for the night. When I returned to the pen to retrieve the bag, I found shreds of paper strewn across the hay and saw the curly, fluffy tail of Gus who was crouched in the corner. He turned towards me quickly when I called his name, the last bits of placenta hanging from his mouth. I shrugged my shoulders, knowing the importance of picking my battles when it comes to such things, patted his head, kissed the new baby goats, hugged Jolene, went inside and slept well. I slept really damn well.