from-Swimming with Swans: vignettes of our three-year journey between homes
(Goat Suite Saga #1)
January 2011 (the desert outside Las Cruces, NM)
Mama Goat has always been Mama Goat to me.
From the time of her rescue with ten day old billy-kid Tater by her side around Christmas 2009, and now through my daily encounters with her during this part of our life journey.
Mama Goat has always been Mama Goat to me.
Living up here on the compound since October 2010, I have gotten into a routine of sorts involving all our rescue animals. In particular, feeding Mama and Tater, her now grown billy-goat son, treats. These treats consist of the nubs and tips of carrots, cabbage and old lettuce cores, lemon peels, apple bits and the occasional melon rind; all the fresh scraps of our everyday eating.
Each day I call out while on my rounds, “Hey, Mama! How ya doin’?” To which Mama Goat responds by sidling up to the gate, pushing against the fence in a gentle head butt and bleating out to say, “Hi back at ya.” Then, tilting her head sideways to get a better view of the treats in my hand, she waits patiently for me to pass them her way.
As the weeks from October to November flew by, we all noticed that Mama was getting a bit large. Fat and sassy Mama had probably gotten pregnant by Tater during their romps out on the range. Okay, gross about the “in-breeding” but that’s just a fact of life for most animals kept on the ranch, no matter how hard one tries to manage their love-lives. In fact, Mama got so big by the beginning of December, all the experienced ones here predicted her delivery date to be somewhere around mid December. It was quite the game, each declaring with authority just when Mama would deliver her baby-kid.
Once everyone’s birth-date guesses came and went, without the sound of teeny tiny goat hooves pounding about the pens, the experienced ones then decided she must be carrying twins. Since this is quite common for goats, that would certainly account for Mama’s great girth.
My day-to-day visits with Mama expanded to where I found myself saying soothing words like “It’s gonna be okay,” or pronouncing words of wisdom such as “It’s hard to be a mom, but worth every minute,” all the while rubbing her snout, ears and that special place between her horns. In return, her placid and gentle peacefulness continued and continues to minister to my own needs as she’s always there with an affectionate head-butt against my body. Getting to share these experiences with little two year old Libby whenever I took her out with me to feed the “aminals” treats turned into an extra blessing for me as well.
As Mama’s final prenatal days stretched into weeks, I learned a valuable lesson from her: It will happen when it will happen and no amount of angst will change the when and how of it! Such is life, eh?
By the time Christmas rolled around, we began keeping a detailed schedule with who’d be around when and where just in case Mama went into labor. Alert to her every change in eating habits, standing and sitting routines, and keeping an eye on the increasing size of her belly; we all kept vigil for several more weeks.
Finally, Mama’s pending delivery of her babies occurred when we least expected it. Friday, January 7, 2011, around 3pm, Mama Goat had her babies on my watch! Everyone else was off the compound. Karen and Billy were on their way home from a mini-jaunt to Tucson; Aunt Dell, Christina, Jeremy and Libby were in town out to the store; and Deb and Terry were in town at work.
In other words: all the experienced ones were gone.
As it was my first day off from work in the past three weeks, I was especially pleased to be there for the much anticipated big event.
I went to feed the horses and goats a bit early that afternoon. Upon entering the goat pens, my eyes saw but did not comprehend the scene before me. I heard extra bleating but figured that was due to eagerness to eat. Instead, it was the first baby goat arrival trying to stand up with yet another teeny baby goat curled up on the straw covered with fluid. Mama Goat continued her straining grunt-bleats in an effort to expel the afterbirth.
I was in awe of the moment; of being the only one out of all of us living here on the compound getting to witness this event. Me, the most inexperienced in these “ranch/farm” events. Wow!
Sitting down in the straw surrounded by Mama and her babies I took out my cell phone to call Karen and Billy. I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to do next.
“They’re here! They’re here! The babies have come!” I do remember announcing the goat babies birth over and over until I heard voices on the other end of the line reminding me to get the rags and towels we’d set aside for just this occasion. Running back to the house, I got the necessary items, then ran back to the pen and began wiping down the tiny second arrival baby goat. This soothing motion stimulated him to attempt a wobbly standing position. He was so small, about half the size of the first baby goat arrival, I secretly worried he’d not make it before anyone else got back home.
Enveloped by baby goats, Mama and hay, I basked in Baby Goat Bliss.
Thus began my interactions with Mama’s newborn kids.
Because I was there for the birthing, I was given the honor of naming the babies. The first arrival I named Terry in honor of my husband and the second arrival I named little Larry.
That first night was spent with Karen hand feeding little Larry inside the house and Billy checking up on Mama Goat and Terry outside in the pen. Mama hadn’t expelled her afterbirth and still felt firm, so that was a concern. Luckily for me personally, all the experienced ones were back home to take charge of the situation!
Early the next day, the vet was called out to attend to Mama as she just wasn’t herself. Upon examination, it turned out that there was indeed one more baby goat. The biggest of the three, a girl, got lodged in the birth canal and died because she couldn’t be delivered without help before or after Terry or Larry were dropped. It was extremely sobering to observe the vet pull out that robust girl-kid, Mary.
With little Larry’s survival being questionable; losing Mary; and with Terry being in jeopardy when it looked like Mama could die, life on the ranch grew more bittersweet with each passing moment. Nature’s way may be tried and true but that doesn’t make it any easier to cope with the unfolding of life and death realities.
The first week of life for our new goat family was spent bringing in little Larry for the night after his day outside in the pen with Mama and Terry and then hand feeding him. During Mama’s healing from delivery complications of Mary, she wasn’t as eager to let either Larry or Terry nurse, so that compounded the situation to where she developed clotting of her milk ducts. By the end of that first week, I was treated to a show of Terry (my husband, not the goat!), Jeremy and Christina holding Mama while Karen massaged the teats and tried to milk her.
In all of this, Mama Goat’s discomfort never got the best of her, ever remaining her sweet spirited self. Amazing and strange to say but, she could be held up as a good example for us all to follow.