Unsure of where to start, I am sitting on my blue gingham covered in pastel flowers rocker, listening to the hail fall outside, trying to find the beginning of my story. 15 minutes from now, I will make my way to the kitchen and prepare the baby’s formula. Her name is Frida and from the moment I held her in my hands, I changed. They say when you have a baby, everything is different, everything shifts, and everything becomes bigger than you. But they don’t tell you about all the shit. The literal shit.
This is not the beginning but it’s a start.
Sarah is an old goat. But I don’t really know about goats, I know she is old because that’s what I’m told. She is a cranky biddy, opinionated, and she is currently very pregnant. I’ve been watching her like a hawk for the last 3 days; this very stubborn and kind of mean goat is all of sudden docile. Quick Internet research tells me that she is in labor, this baby could happen at any point. A quick Vet exam tells us that there might be 3 babies in that big heavy belly that she can barely carry. She is one of 11 goats pregnant, 2 have already been born and 8 are waiting.
Last year, was my first exposure to baby goats. Most of them died. I had to bury at least 5 kids last year and it is as difficult as it sounds. Now a year later, I find myself almost dreading the births. I don’t know how many more little bodies I can lay to rest. Sarah’s labor is a difficult one and it’s haunting me.
At this point in her labor, I’m checking on her twice a day. It’s 11pm and I head down to the barn. I’m not really expecting to see any change and I was certainly not expecting to see a big swollen white head coming out of her vagina. Is she dead? Is the baby dead? What is happening to my heart. What do I do? Nothing in my 36 years of life has prepared me for this moment. So I do what any reasonable adult would do. I call my mommy.
She brings towels and strength. The baby is breathing, but Sarah is tired. She wants to push, but she’s out of juice. I lay the towels over the soiled pine shavings and sit myself down in between her legs. This is the moment that my life becomes something else. This is the moment that changes me. This is where I can never go back from. With every contraction, she pushes and I pull. Gently, I coax this baby out. Please don’t die, I pray. Please stay here with me. I am trying to save you. And then in the next breath, the baby goat slides out and right into my arms. I hold her and clean her nose and when I hear her first tiny cry, my heart breaks into a million pieces and in that same instant re-builds itself into something stronger.
She was the only one in there, my Vet says, she’s just huge. It’s past 1am at this point, I think. Time has ceased to matter. She’s a bit swollen, he explains, because she was being strangled in the womb. She could have died. They both could have died. But the woods were still dark. The baby wasn’t eating and Sarah had no milk to give. He leaves and I’m left.
It’s 4am. I remember because my town only has 10,000 people and everywhere is asleep. Everywhere, except Walmart. I do not shop at Walmart, I do not support their politics but they are the only place that can give me what I need. I need to make milk until we can go to the feed store and get formula. I need to make sure this baby makes it through the night.
The milk is whole and warm, but she won’t take it. Please, I whisper to her. Please just eat. I rub the nipple against her gums. This is what you need, I tell her. This is what we both need. Her eyes are still unsteady, adjusting to this new world and I think to myself…I’m adjusting too. I have never been here before, I tell her. I’m just doing the best I can. She doesn’t know what I’m saying, but the moment she starts suckling the bottle is one of the best moments of my life.
Welcome to the world, Frida. You have already taught me so much.