Thursday, April 14, 2011

Minnesota Adventures

Fred and I left for OKC before 4 in the morning on Wednesday, he to pick up his truck and me to head to Minnesota. I had to drive since it was a rental car, but he listened well and I talked to stay awake. Bless his heart. He now knows more about the people in my life than he ever wanted to know.

Two easy hops and I was in Minnesota, where the rental car people told me the economy cars were all gone and I could have a minivan or an SUV. I fussed. Too much car for me. Just then someone came in dangling a set of keys. Ah ha! A real car after all. It was a Chrysler Sebring, red with black leather seats, which I would never have noticed on the street, but which drew respectful glances and comments from people like the grocery-store delivery guy.

It also drove very smoothly and quietly on the country roads, so much so that while I was heading away from the airport wanting to get to the hospital to see Dad as soon as possible, I passed a pickup truck and just like THAT saw flashing lights in my mirror. Oh. Great.

Here's my license, I told the polite young officer, but I don't know about insurance papers since it's a rental car. He wondered where I was headed. I told him, emphasizing the dad in the hospital and that I had just flown in to see him.

He let me off with a verbal warning. I was to watch my speed and not go 69 in a 55 zone again.

Whew. I'm sure it was the dad in the hospital that did it.

I picked up Mom and we went to the hospital, where Dad looked impossibly tiny* and frail under those hospital covers. But he was eager to go home, and later that evening the doctor released him.

*Dad: "I've held steady right at a hundred pounds for the last 20 years."

The next few days Dad gained strength by the hour, from lying down to sitting to standing to walking. And eating. And talking louder and louder. By Saturday he could holler his noontime prayer as loud as ever, and I knew we were on solid ground.

However, on Thursday, before he was really up and around, Marcus came in the house after he did the chores and told us he's pretty sure Dad's one nanny goat is in labor.
Dad: Huh?? She is?? Oh, but it's too early.
Marcus: Well, I'm sure she is.
I went to the barn with Marcus. There in the first pen was a big white nanny goat, and the signs were obvious. I thought, Oh great, like my life doesn't have enough drama.

I said I would check her every half hour.

First check: calm goat. Small amounts of fluid.

Second check: same.

I asked Dad how long a goat's labor is. He said, "Oh I can't really say. It can vary a lot."

Well, that was helpful. I wished really bad for Google.

Third check: I heard the goat bleating desperately before I ever got to the barn. I rushed in, turned on the light, and hurried to the pen. She was standing there hollering for help in that deep, helpless,frustrated way that only a woman who's been through a tough labor really knows, and I felt a rush of the most profound empathy and sisterhood that I've ever felt with a non-human animal.

There under her tail was a small, dark lump. I'm sure Paul or Dad would have said, "Just wait a little; let's give her some time," but with that constant bleating, and the way she looked at me, there was no waiting for me.

I opened the gate, hurried into the pen, and got to work. A little nose was out, and two little hooves. I broke the slimy sac around the hooves and started pulling, first one, then the other, then the rest of the head.

I waited a bit, and the baby didn't move. Thankfully an ear flicked, so I knew it was alive. I pulled a bit more. When a human baby's head and shoulders are out, the rest comes slipping out with no more trouble. Not with this baby.

I pulled it out further, about halfway, and waited for the nanny to push. She still couldn't move it. So I pulled the rest of it out and laid it on the straw, a big, beautiful, black and white mass of goat and slime and glop.

The nanny's relief was immediate, and I could empathize with that, too. She turned around and started licking. At the back.

"No, no, the face!" I told her. She didn't pay attention.

What would James Herriot do? I grabbed a handful of straw and began working on the nose and mouth, cleaning and scraping. Soon there was a series of snorts and shakes and sneezes as the baby came alive.

The mom just licked and licked, relieved and happy and full of love.

It was amazing. I stood there in the shadowy barn and tried to take in what had just happened. The pride, the joy, the wonder. No wonder James Herriot never got tired of the miracle of birth.

Then, as the curious barn cats came by and peered between the slats of the fence to see for themselves, I wiped my sticky hands on straw, pulled my phone from my pocket, sent exultant texts to my family and took dark blurry pictures.

I thought I really should go to the cafeteria and bring the nanny some tea and toast like the nurses used to do for me at the Dryden Hospital when I had a baby in the middle of the night. But the nanny had plenty of hay and water, so I left it at that.

The nanny showed no signs of having a second kid, so after watching for a while I went inside, where Dad seemed happy with the news but not as impressed with my feat as I thought he should.

But the next day he made his first trek out to the barn, and the sight of that cute little kidlet energized him more than all our care in the house.

I found out that when goats have only one baby, it tends to be pretty big, and to get stuck in transit.

And I was very happy that I could be there for that goat--and for Dad--when they needed me.


  1. I'm happy that you had this experience so you could write about it, and very happy that it had a happy ending!

  2. Oh, wow! What an experience. I wouldn't have had a clue what to do.

  3. What a neat experience! And I love the picture. Sure does call to mind James Herriot stories. :)

  4. The exhilaration of midwifery!!! Maybe you have a new career in the making?

  5. Lovely story. Happy sigh. Thanks for sharing. :-)

  6. I'm so glad you shared that...and that you were there to be the midwife.

  7. Both of the goats look so very happy (and relieved). Just had to say good job.

  8. I think you just wrote your next RG column. Great story, great ending, I hope we all can be there for our Dads.

  9. oh yes John! I agree that that would make a good column, especiallly if the picture goes in too!
    And thanks Dorcus, for reminding me: I'm not the only one.
    WE can be there for our dads.
    Our parents don't always think what we do is as great as we think it is.
    Our children either!

  10. So wonderful and SO very cute!! I am so glad that your father is doing better too--that is the best news of all!

  11. Finally, another mama who understands why I puddle up and cluck, "I'm so SORRY!!" to our animals when they're in labor!
    I love James Herriot! I've read a lot of his stories to the children. :) -PC in VA

  12. Great column in the RG today. Your post is really the same, minus the darling picture of the goats. Great column....very touching.