Midwife to a Sheep
Behind the backdrop of the pandemic, I am living on my best friend’s farm, being a therapist three days a week, and learning how to be a farmer four days a week. That’s not exactly true, as I am doing a lot of supporting people’s emotional processes, as well as facilitating the weekly meeting. But this morning I got to be a midwife to a sheep.
I was on my way to the wetlands with my camera: a goose had met her demise out there, and I wanted to take a photo of her decaying body. I had not made it much past Kara’s cottage when she called out “a sheep is giving birth!” Well, that was worth making a detour for! Kara, her husband, her daughter (my goddess daughter) and I watched through a few contractions: she was definitely not making progress. We let ourselves inside of the electric fence. Kara’s husband herded the rest of the flock into their new grazing area and returned quickly to assist us. The three of us caught her, and he held the ewe’s head while Kara and I dropped to our knees behind the ewe and went to work. The lamb’s head was out, but was clearly distressed: its tongue was swollen and sticking out of its mouth in a way that almost made it look like a caricature; the tongue was so engorged that part of the skin of the tongue had a transparent look, like a blister. Kara pushed the membranes off the lamb’s head and pushed the vulva back just a little from the baby’s face. She held the lamb’s front legs and I gently followed the curve of the lamb’s right shoulder just inside the ewe, at the next contraction Kara pulled on the forelegs while I helped ease the right shoulder out of the ewe. Then everything paused while we waited for the next contraction. At the next contraction, Kara pulled again, with some strength, and I used my fingers to help the elbow slip past the constriction of the opening of the ewe’s vulva. At the next contraction the lamb slid out, not breathing. Kara and I rubbed his body and nose and he started to breathe and shake his body. After the birth, things settled down a little bit; the mother licked her baby and started the attachment process, my goddess daughter and I stayed with the pair while Kara and her husband moved the flock. Once the lamb and the mother were standing up, we moved them to the barn where Kara could keep a close eye on them.
In the evening, we met up with the pair in the barn, milked her a little and attempted to assess his latch on his mother. She greeted us with some interest (the grain we fed her out of our hands didn’t hurt) and allowed us to milk her (with Kara’s husband holding on to her). She licked all of us and made little nickering noises at us similar to how she conversed with her baby. In the back drop of death, in between the lines of so much isolation and despair, I helped a mother and her baby live today. I witnessed new life, and bonding behavior happen. I am blessed beyond my comprehension, and grateful to see how life can continue even in the face of all the uncertainty humanity is facing today.
I hope this letter finds you and yours as alive and well as a newborn lamb leaning into his first breath in the springtime grass.