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Goat Births in Four Acts

Prologue: A dozen people had asked me to alert them when the goats were giving birth. Did they really want to see a birth? Just know when they could visit newborn kids? I should have asked.

First Act: Pumpkin looks like she might go into labor: pawing, mumbling, looking distracted, wanting to be comforted. I text the goat-watching group and spend the night in the barn. No kids appear.

Repeat for another night. Except this time people have taken me up on my offer to sleep in the barn. Still no kids in the night. Our friend Lindsey sleeps in the cold but has to leave around 9 in the morning--which turns out to be half an hour before Pumpkin delivers twins.

Heidi, who slept on the sofa the night before, makes a pot of midwife-strength coffee. It's a good day.

Second Act: I text the goat-watch group that Freya seems very casual on Saturday night, like she won't give birth until late in the day on Sunday.

I wake up at 5 on Sunday and go out to check on the barn. I see a squalling kid. Did Pumpkin's escape? No, Freya just gave birth to 4 kids. One is dead, drowned in birth fluids because I wasn't there to towel it off while Freya was attending to another. I half-heartedly try to resuscitate it but feel no spark of life. I can't bring myself to check if it's a male or female. I send a word-eating update to the goat-watchers. Freya rejects her two smallest kids and I seethe with frustration getting the little weaklings to take a drink of colostrum.

At least the dead kid was a male. The three survivors have become barn favorites. Our farm friend Greta took the pictures for this blog, including this one of the three "Bottle Bandits." Thank you, Greta! She and her sister, plus some other farm friends, camped out here several nights to maximize their chances of seeing a goat birth.

Third Act: Honey goes into labor late Friday afternoon, well before her Tuesday due date. I worry because she had trouble delivering last time. The vet agrees to come sooner rather than later. No more midnight trips to the emergency vet for me. Honey has been pushing for an hour, grinding her teeth and moaning in pain. "I like goat cheese," I tell the vet, "but I don't want to put Honey through this again." Dr. Hardy and her team reposition the kid who is trying to come out sideways. Then they direct the uterine traffic jam for the remaining two kids who are crowding the exit. Three live kids and Honey is okay! Thank you Dr. Hardy! "This is a good way to start the weekend," she says as she strips off her OB glove and gives Honey some ibuprofen. Lindsey shows up just after the kids are born. Two of the three kids are female. There is much rejoicing. I spend the night in the barn to keep owls away from the kids as they bond with Honey and get their essential colostrum.

Fourth Act: Figgy is due on Monday. Some Farm Skills students choose to stay here Sunday night to catch a birth. I send out a text alert to the goat watchers, though I don't recommend people believe anything I say about goat birth timing.

Figgy goes into labor around 9 p.m. We take turns spending time in the barn, then eventually all bundle into our sleeping bags and hang out under the stars. Figgy doesn't seem to like all of us watching her, so we try to arrange ourselves to give her room yet be close at hand. I text Lindsey that Figgy is pushing but we are asking her to hold it until Lindsey gets there.

Lindsey arrives but no more action from Figgy despite ropy slime and breaking water. After an hour I decide to check inside Figgy for what is holding things up. Turns out to be a baby trying to be born tail first. Good thing I watched the vet closely! I reposition the little breech kid to guide him out, back legs first, and two more kids slither out easily after their brother. ALL BOYS. I shake my head in wonder. Figgy has had 7 boys and 0 girls in her whole dairy goat career. What are the odds?

Lindsey is glad she was there for a birth. I was glad too--she's a kind, strong, barn-clothes-wearing massage therapist who isn't afraid to get slimy. Just the person to hold Mama while repositioning a breech kid.

I get to bed around 3 a.m. Nothing like a night of head lamps, nitrile gloves, and soaked-through barn clothes.

It all adds up to 11 baby goats, 7 male and 4 female. Baby-feeding routines are coming together, I'm recouping lost sleep, and I sure like midwife-strength coffee.

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