This is a bit of a disturbing post, but it tells the truth about life on the farm some days. It's not always pretty.
This morning, my pygmy goat, Puffin, went into labor. I hoped, as always, that things would go smoothly, as they did with Lotus and Coffee a couple of weeks ago. Sadly, that was not to be. I could tell fairly early on that Puffin was having trouble. She was yelling and screaming a lot, which my other goats haven't done, and she was not making any progress.
I did an internal exam, and found feet, but the head was facing backwards, looking over the shoulder. I grabbed my book on how to deal with incorrect birth presentations, and it said this was the hardest one to correct. I tried, for about 15 minutes, with absolutely no success. I called the vet and he arrived in about 30 minutes. Puffin was standing there with the legs out, but nothing else. Dr. Nicholson spent a long time trying to reposition the kid with Puffin in numerous different positions. Unfortunately, the heartbeat on the kid went silent. I knew from her size that there was likely to be another kid, so Dr. Nicholson did what had to be done in this situation. He put a wire around the neck of the dead kid, and decapitated it. It was the only way to get the kid out, and the only way to potentially save any other kids waiting to be delivered. I watched this with a kind of detached horror. I don't get squeamish, but I was none the less stunned by the reality of what had to be done. Once the head was removed, the body and head could easily be taken out of Puffin. They lay on the straw in her pen, and it was as if I was watching a movie, rather than participating by holding Puffin while all this took place.
I can tell you that this is one of the harshest realities I've faced on the farm so far. Cutting the head off a baby so that the second baby and mother could be saved was a very difficult but necessary decision. Seeing it done was simply numbing. But there was not time to grieve then....because there was another baby.
Unfortunately, the second baby presented exactly the same way, head backwards. Because there was additional room in the uterus though, the vet was able to reposition her head and use a pulling device to get her out. The vet and I were really surprised to find that this second kid was alive. She had been in distress for so long that we thought the second kid would also be dead. I learned that Puffin has a very small pelvic opening, which makes it very difficult for her to give birth to kids in proper orientation, and also makes it difficult to reposition them.
I cannot even describe to you the sounds that poor Puffin was making during this ordeal. I wasn't sure she would survive. Dr. Nicholson administered some pain killers and antibiotic, and was on his way. The little doeling tried to nurse, but Puffin was exhausted and could not stand up - she just lay trembling and panting in a corner of the pen. I brought out the Udderly EZ hand milker and managed to get about 4 ounces of colostrum out of Puffin, which I quickly fed to the little doeling. She took it well and was ready to explore, but Puffin would not even look at her. She just turned her head and ignored her baby.
By this time, I'd already missed a meeting at work and my first class of the day. I took the baby inside and spent some time feeding her a little more and trying to get her comfortable. I kept going out to the barn to check on Puffin. Every time, I saw her straining, pushing, as if she wasn't finished. I finally decided I had to do another internal exam.
I determined that she had something inside her, but it didn't feel like another goat kid. It felt kind of rope-like and lumpy. I knew this wasn't normal, so I called the vet back again. We discussed by phone what I was feeling, and he said it sounded like he should come back. He did, and meanwhile, I missed my second and third classes of the day. The vet determined that Puffin had a tear in her birth canal such that her intestines were entering into it, and she was feeling that and trying to push them out. Dr. Nicholson had to sew her vagina closed so that she can urinate, but nothing else can come out, otherwise, she might have pushed her intestine outside of her body.
So, here I am this evening with a baby goat under my desk. I've named her "Lucky Nickel" in honor of Dr. Nicholson, without whom she would not be alive right now.
I hope that both she, and her mother Puffin, will recover and thrive. That said, nature reigns supreme here, and I never know what she's going to throw my way. I'm thankful that 2 of 3 lives are still here tonight, but I grieve for a third life that was never lived. Puffin will never be bred again - I cannot subject her to the risks, and I cannot subject any potential offspring to the potential fate of this morning's little life lost.