Twenty years ago this week, Mike and I welcomed our first child into the world.
We did all the things first-time parents do. We announced the upcoming birth to our family and friends. We read What to Expect When You’re Expecting. We attended birthing class.
Sure, there was discomfort along the way. Morning sickness, heartburn, and early morning labor pains. But that was all forgotten when I held him for the first time.
Signing up for this WWOOFing gig
In September we first spoke with Wayne and Julia, the owners of the farm. We agreed that our stay would begin the first week of November and would end TBD. Julia told us that December kicked off the kidding season. We decided that our stay would have to include that.
A couple weeks before any of the goats were due, Julia taught a Kidding Class.
We watched a few videos, discussing what we were seeing and the differing hands-off/hands-on approaches. Our farm uses more of a hands-on approach.
A few things we learned:
- Gestation period for a goat: 150 days, plus or minus 5 days. (Around 5 months)
- Signs of impending labor - the most obvious being discharge, an expanding udder, restlessness and pawing.
- The babies are each encased in their own fluid sac. A proper birthing position is front hooves and nose first.
- The babies’ hooves are very soft and should be handled carefully right after birth.
- Birthing generally happens at inconvenient times - middle of the night, inclement weather, or during chores elsewhere on the farm.
We next walked through the birthing stalls. Clean hay lined the stalls. In the corner of each stall hung a heat lamp. There were cameras with microphones pointing into each stall. This way any activity in the stall was monitored from the cabin.
Julia then pulled out the Kidding Box. It contained things that might be needed to aid the birthing process. Items like:
- paper towels
- Shoulder-length gloves - in case we needed to “go in” to help
- Lubricant - in case we needed to “go in”
- flashlight - for nighttime births
- trash bags - for soiled hay
- iodine - for the umbilical site
- molasses - added to hot water for mama to drink
- bottle and nipple - for kids having trouble getting milk from mom
- scale - to weigh the newborn kids
Next to the kidding box stood a tall stack of bath towels. These would dry the babies after they were born.
The “due dates” for the pregnant goats were listed on a board. Some goats had muliple due dates correlating to multiple breeding sessions.
The first due date on the list, December 7, was Phoebe’s. As the date approached Julia reminded us that the babies could be born +/- 5 days from the due date.
We started watching Phoebe for signs 5 days prior. When her due date arrived, we became more diligent in checking for signs. Nothing.
Plus 1 day.
Plus 2 days.
Plus 3 days.
Plus 4 days.
Welcoming them into the world
On December 11, in the afternoon, I received my first text. It said, “Phoebe has 2 so far.” What? We missed it?
I grabbed Mike and Miranda and we all made our way to the pen. The other WWOOFers were already there. Two of the gals were assisting Wayne by drying the two babies. Phoebe was extremely wide, so we waited to see if there would be more.
In the meanwhile, I noticed Raisin had walked into the next stall and was pawing at the hay. She left the stall for a short while. Then she returned to move the hay around again. I decided to keep an eye on her.
Sure enough. Raisin had all the classic signs of a laboring goat. I wanted Miranda to be a part of this birthing. Then I decided I wanted to be a part of this as well. So we both entered the pen, along with Wayne.
Raisin delivered three babies during that time. Miranda was handed the second baby to towel off and I was handed the third. Oh. My. Goodness. There’s nothing like snuggling with a new baby.
Love at first smell
With each birth, Raisin checked over each baby, noting their smell. When the second was born she sniffed up the new one and then went “looking” for the first one. After the third, she sniffed for the first and second.
When the babies were all born, Wayne assisted the kids in finding mama’s teats and latching on. The two doelings seemed to catch on quickly. The buckling, not so much. Wayne patiently worked with him until he finally figured it out.
After a while we left the three babies curled up together and sleeping under the heat lamp. Raisin had a bit of time to herself to munch on some peanut hay and recover.