Two lambs in two days. When Suzy gave birth on Friday, it was like a Disney birth (for us anyway). We came home and there was this healthy white lamb being cleaned my his mother. They bonded easily and within moments were all snuggly in the warm barn.
It was a different story for Socks and her lamb (who we named Pumpkin). In the morning I saw that Socks kept wandering away from the flock. I don’t really know what exactly to look for, so I just pay attention to anything that looks different. Seeing Socks wandering around alone made me think she might be looking for a safe place to give birth. When Jon and I checked on her about an hour later, she was laying in the pole barn panting and pushing. I could just see the smallest hoof coming out of her. She was pushing and each time she pushed more of the hoof was visible, but then would quickly disappear inside of her again. This went on for some time before a tiny nose started to appear. Socks was clearly struggling and I kept wanting to try and help her, even thought I didn’t know how. Jon and I watched for progress and each time I asked Jon if we should do something he said not yet.
I now know that making the decision of when to step in and help is part experience and part intuition. At some point, Jon just went into the barn and put on a pair of long plastic gloves. So calm he was, so confident as he started to gently pull the head of the lamb out of Socks. Once his head was free, the rest of him slid out easily.
The lamb spasmed as if shaking itself alive as Jon placed him on the ground next to Socks. But Socks was exhausted and just laid there not paying attention to the lamb. He got on his feet and shook some more. We gave Socks a few moments to begin licking off the membrane, an important part of the bonding that takes place between the mother and lamb but she wasn’t getting up and still wasn’t cleaning him off. Jon gently pulled the membrane back from the lambs mouth and nose, so it could breath.
Then we tried to get Socks up, but she just wasn’t moving. Jon called a couple of friends thinking we would need help getting her into the barn, but before they got to us, Socks got herself up and started cleaning her lamb.
They were both pretty weak, but we got them into the barn where they could bond and rest. The lamb seemed to have a hard time finding Socks’ teat, so we gave him an extra dose of vitamins.
Today both sheep and lamb are doing really well. I could feel the difference in Pumpkins weight and bulk as I picked him up this morning. We put him and Socks in a bigger stall and Pumpkin was walking around and finding Socks’ teat with no problem.
It was my first time seeing a live birth. It was inspiring to watch Jon just take over the situation and see how it all turned out so well. I also found it incredibly emotional. I’ve witnesses many animal deaths, and know how I feel about them. But I’m still not sure what I feel about witnessing a birth. A feeling of awesome responsibility is the first thing that comes to mind. But also that it’s all consuming. Leaving little space for anything else. I think the reality of it was really shocking to me, to see the suffering and struggle and pain. I think it will take some more time for me to know exactly how I feel about it all.