The Birth of Cricket
If thirty years ago somebody told me that in the autumn of my life I'd be hunkered in a barn with two fingers up a goat's vagina I would have said they were mad. But that’s what was happening, and I was a nervous wreck.
It was midmorning, a pleasant spring day. Art noticed white mucus dripping from Angel's vulva while he was walking the dogs back from the pond. He hollered for me to come outside. Sure enough, our older nanny goat was displaying the signs of imminent labor. We reckoned a second kid would soon be making its world debut. (Incredibly, the woman who sold us these dainty Nigerian dwarf goats neglected to mention that they had both been impregnated by a much larger Boer goat. At the time, my partner and I were livestock innocents.)
A month earlier, Bushrod had practically leaped from Sister’s birth canal with little assistance from either of us. Cord tied off, snip snip, disinfectant, here’s the nipple, welcome to Planet Earth. I prayed that this next delivery would be as uncomplicated as that one. My prayers went unanswered.
We lured Angel into the barn with the promise of raisins. I could see the baby was presenting with one front hoof and the nose poking out … but the second leg was twisted back awkwardly. Some hasty online research indicated that delivering in this position would be difficult. (A straightforward "diving" position is best, I’d learned.) We phoned the vet. Dr. Lucy was dealing with a cow’s prolapsed uterus - I shudder to think what that entailed - and couldn’t possibly make it here fast enough to help.
Inside the barn was pure chaos. Raisins and Q-Tips flying, birthing diagrams and printed instructions fluttering in the air, spools of twine, iodine, urine, goat berries rolling across the floor like marbles, running with scissors. Angel was in pure agony. She screamed for much longer than Sister did during her labor, loud heartrending sobs. I stroked her tenderly and told her she was being very brave. I tried to cheer her by singing “Popular” from the Broadway musical Wicked.
At one point, Angel appeared to give up the struggle entirely. Her breathing became ragged. Her eyes rolled back in her head. I was terrified that she was dying on me.
Impulsively, I shouted to Art and the dogs: "Everybody stand back! I’m going in!" I washed my hands with Germ-X and then reached inside her - just like Diagram 3B explained - but no matter how hard I tried I couldn't get hold of the second leg to pull it forward - and I have slender fingers. Angel started screaming again. The other goats had long since cleared out of the barn but Little Brother and Chance were standing nearby, whimpering, the way dogs do when they want to be of assistance but don’t know how. Art was frozen motionless, which at least meant the beam from our Jurassic Park flashlight was held steady.
The baby's head and one leg were already out, I had cleared the airways with a Q-Tip and the little thing was mewling piteously. After what seemed an eternity, Angel perked up and gave another great push that released the other limb. With her final contraction I administered a gentle tug and the hind legs slithered out. I tied off the umbilical cord and cut it.
There was so much afterbirth this time around! Gobs and gobs and gobs of it, gushing from that cavity of woe. Really, I almost passed out in the barn.
Mother and kid survived the ordeal, although the experience probably shaved a few years off my own life. I spent a lot of time that day pressing Baby Wipes to Angel's sore behind. (Another activity I never thought I’d engage in.) There was a steady stream of blood, and the coolness of the wipes seemed to soothe her.
I promised her she would never have to go through the experience again. I made myself that same promise. Bushrod and Cricket were neutered. Promptly.
Of possible medical interest: Before that exhaustive labor, Angel’s fur was totally white. Follwoing the delivery, patches of reddish-tan began to apppear on her neck and shoulders. It reminded me of people whose hair suddenly goes gray due to cataclysmic trauma.