I was born once, but other than that, I've never been part of something's entrance into the world. Same goes for Peter. Understandably, we were petrified at the prospect of Rogue, Pixie, and Button giving birth in the stall we built a few months ago after approximately ten minutes of experience with goats. The farmers we talked to (and all of the research Peter did) said goats generally have an easy time with birth - not much human intervention is needed and most times things go alright. This was not our experience.
Of the 6 kids born at Couple of Quacks this year, 4 were still-born. It was hard on the mothers and hard for Peter and I. The death toll would have been a lot higher without lots of help from our sheep farmer friends Louise and Red, and Terry, Peter's mom, who's a surgeon (not a goat surgeon, but those don't really exist anyway).
On February 1st, Rogue gave birth. It was six degrees, but it was "easy" in that Peter and I did nothing except blow-dry Babeclown a bit after Rogue licked him off. A few minutes later she began pushing again but when no progress was made after twenty minutes, we called our sheep farmer friends. Both of them went in (is that what you call it when your hand is in a goat's birth canal?) and discovered the baby was backwards, breach, and with a folded leg. After a lot of reorienting and pulling, Louise and Red got him out but he wasn't alive. They told us later that it was worst presentation they'd ever seen, really bad luck. We thought Yikes, well at least it'll never be as bad as that!
And when Pixie kidded, it wasn't. Basically she pushed a few times and out came Clooney (easy for me to say). I guess he's kind of cute.
This past Friday Button went into active labor. Though her ligaments had loosened two days before, nothing seemed to be progressing so that evening we called the vet, who didn't think anything was wrong - we needed to be patient. Peter ended up going in to see if he could feel anything and we think this stimulated contractions because soon after Button pushed more regularly and the birth sack began to emerge. It was really relieving until we saw blood, which wasn't discharge-like blood; it was coming out in more of a concentrated rush. We had a gut feeling that things weren't right, so we called Louise and Red. They tried going in after Peter, but their hands were too big to really do anything (Button has a much smaller birth canal then Rogue). Luckily Terry came home and went in with her surgeon hands. After a lot of pushing and pulling with me and Peter holding Button, and Louise and Red helping Terry, Terry was able to pull all three dead babies out, saving Button's life.
It was around midnight and I was crying and Peter had just seen a baby goat's leg get pulled off coming out of the birth canal and it was just really awful; traumatic, sad, and exhausting. He looked at me afterwards and was like "I don't know if we can be dairy farmers." "Yeah," I said. "I never want to do that again." We'd been anticipating babies for months and seeing Button in so much pain, plus being up the whole night before, using our phones to "Facetime" with her -- it felt too much.
The next day was painful and exhausting - having to tell our CSA friends the bad news, watching Button recover slowly and with confusion, making quiet bleats here and there like we'd heard Rogue and Pixie make to their babies. It was sadness on sadness on sadness, but farm life had to go on. We went to tractor supply for some Pencillin (Peter gave his first intra-muscular shot! Thanks for the med-lesson, Terry!), and we milked Button, which was heartbreaking. I just wanted there to be babies to do that for her. Though we don't know exactly what went wrong, we think the first baby died sometime after Button's ligaments loosened, which stalled contractions and delayed the process, making it really difficult to deliver the other two. We don't know if there's anything more we could have done. Until our next does kid in July, we want to get as much experience kidding as we can, hopefully by shadowing other Nigerian Dwarf goat farmers.
While it'd be great to never have to deliver a dead baby goat again, that's pretty unlikely given that we are dairy farmers (and despite how demoralized we were the other night, we remain dairy farmers). Farm life, all of life, involves a lot of dying, and it's sad but it's real. Unlike the pain and disconnect we felt in school or at the corporate job I lasted three months at, this pain is necessary and unavoidable. We bring things in and out of this world, while caring for the creatures that sustain us in between our own birth and death. What else is there?