Birthing the Lambs

Diggery Do (aka Sweet 16) would not leave me alone. Erika calls her the great mother.

I walked into the pen to watch the lambs being born to Velvet, and Sweet 16 came right up to me, dug her nose into my crotch to smell me, and then stood sideways tight against me. I hadn’t really petted a sheep before, so I wasn’t sure what they liked.

I dug my fingers into the thick wool of her head, and pushed my hands down her spine, thinking that any pregnant female enjoys a backrub. She stood still, and I felt her loving it.

She is huge with pregnancy, it must surely be at least two lambs, for she is as wide as she is tall. I tried to do Reiki on the sides of her belly, and that made her breathe heavily, as though she were in labor. But she stuck by me. Whenever I moved away, she followed and pushed up against me, as though to say, “Don’t you dare leave my side!” So I kept massaging her and talking to her, feeling the pressure of her as an insistence of my own animal nature.

Meanwhile Velvet lowed and lowed, kept turning her head to see if the lamb was there yet, while Avón and I urged her to push. Finally she expelled the sac, and then she crouched to push.

When she stood again, Avón decided Velvet needed some help, so she reached her hand into Velvet and felt for the lamb’s legs, which weren’t in position. The best position for delivery is front feet first, straight out, with the head between them; this lamb was turned, so Avón straightened it and pulled the legs out, then the body halfway.

He just plopped right out then, and began to breathe right away. Velvet began cleaning off his legs, so Avón took a rag and wiped the mucus from the lamb’s nose and mouth.

Within minutes he was struggling to stand, got his back legs under him first but then couldn’t seem to unfold the front legs or coordinate them with the back. He sniffed around and suckled at her ears.

As Velvet finished cleaning him, she began to push again, and Avón hurried to assist again. This time the lamb’s front feet were first, but were folded back at the knee, making him too wide to come out with the head between. Avón stretched his legs out and he delivered easily.

Velvet cleaned his head first, with Avón’s help. In the meantime Lamb 1 had gotten to his feet and was desperately searching for a nipple. Lamb 2 got to his feet almost immediately; it was clear he is the bigger and stronger of the two. When I left, my feet getting cold, Avón was helping them both to find their way to the nipples to nurse.

The smell of the hay and the sheep’s wool was all so pleasant and easy, the feel of the thick wool under my fingers, the lambs gamboling about with their soft wool and gangly legs and cat-like bodies. The air was thick and earthy, and quiet, muffled by straw. There was a great, vast ring around the moon this night, a white perfect circle like wool, marking the earth’s dance and worship of the moon.

I was so excited when Avón summoned me to see the birth of the lambs. But it was a strangely flat event for me, in many ways. Was it the intervention of humans, the setting, my emotional jetlag in general, that kept me from crying?

Then I decided that the truth of it is simply that it is an ordinary event. Birth happens every day, every moment, not just animals but people.

I felt somewhat disappointed that I did not feel a rush of emotion, to see this new life begin, but the event is very commonplace: a sheep gives birth to a lamb, the lamb begins to breathe, the mother cleans it, the lamb struggles to its feet and finds the nipple and begins to nurse. Such things happen all the time.

But this ordinariness itself is the cause to celebrate. The fact that life begins anew over and over is comforting, the antidote to its partner of death, which also happens all the time, over and over.