Farm life has its fair share of unique experiences and New Year’s Day was certainly no exception. Bryan and I had just returned to his mother’s house, where we’d left our children, to go hunting at his dad’s cabin. I’ve mentioned before that Mema (Bryan’s mom) and Danny have a farm of their own in Alabama. They have horses, cows, chickens and goats (mostly Pygmy, but also Boer and Nigerian).
When we arrived to an empty house, we walked up to the barn to find everyone huddled at and peering in one of the stalls. Jill, one of the first pair of Pygmies Mema got (along with Jack), was in labor. Jill is, I believe, about 6 years old and she’s had quite a few kiddings already. She’s never had any problems before and almost always kids at least 3, though once she gave birth to 4. After she’d been pushing pretty intensely for over an hour and had only pushed out a “bubble” of bloody goo, Danny said we needed to assist. And seeing as how I have the smallest hands (of the adults! – Girl refused to stick her hand in a goat), I got to do it!
No matter how much you’ve read about a subject, obviously nothing compares to hands-on experience! When I first pushed my hand into Jill, I could feel something almost immediately but I couldn’t tell what part of the kid I was feeling. Both Mema and I had read that you never pull unless you know what you’re pulling and I clearly didn’t. All I could explain was that it felt like a curved spine. I tried to push gently in hopes of encouraging the kid to change to a better position. I ended up pulling my hand out empty out of pure fear of hurting Jill. Within seconds of my exit, she began pushing vigorously. Once Danny saw a foot and nose, he got in position to pull. She was having such a difficult time pushing the kid out, that Danny ended up pulling the kid the rest of the way out. A buck, white with black around his eyes, lay squirming in front of his mom.
Jill laid down to rest while she cleaned up the first kid. We were certain she had more in her but knew the kid needed cleaning by mom and that Jill needed a breather. We were also hoping that perhaps the first kid was in the wrong position but being out now would allow any remaining to be better positioned for unassisted kidding. However, we were wrong. We waited for a couple of hours for Jill to kid on her own again, during that time, though she’d push once or twice and then stop, she didn’t seem to be in any distress. Finally, though, it seemed as though she was getting really tired and we were worried about her weakening, so we decided to assist again. We feared the worst, that any remaining kids inside Jill were dead, and were thinking we needed to simply get the labor over with to same Jill. This time when I pushed my hand into Jill, I could feel the curved spine of the kid and one leg. As I pushed gently, the kid kicked back. Alive! But Danny said to go ahead and help get the kid out. The head was turned so much that when I pulled the kid out, I was quite certain I’d killed it. Needless to say, I had a bit of a freak-out moment as Danny took her from me. As she wriggled in Danny’s hands though and he confirmed she was okay. A doe, gray and white with a black stripe down her spine and black “socks,” met her tired momma hours after her brother.
Danny was certain there was at least one more kid in Jill, but we decided to wait again while she cleaned the second one. Finally, after some time had gone by and Jill had done some fruitless pushing, I went in for the next one. This time, I was even more familiar with what I was feeling. I touched the curve of the spine, following it to the left to no end then coming back and going to the right until I felt a face. I gently pushed to turn until I had the head in my hand and pulled the kid straight out. This one was more covered with goo than the first two and it took a little help from us to get her clean. Another doe, white with very little black patches but one over an eye. All three, a buck and two does, alive and kicking! And momma Jill tired but seeming to do well. By the time we left her for the night, all three babies had fed from her and she had passed the afterbirth. I’ll admit, I was a little anxious to check on them the following morning, but when we arrived at the barn, Jill and her kids were up and looking quite well. At which point, I explained to Mema that should any of these four “wear out their welcome” at her place, they had to come live with me!