I've always learned better, in general, with a hands-on method. Getting my hands dirty, so to speak. And that is just the way my foray into Caprine Midwifery began.
I tried to stagger the breeding this year so that not everybody would lamb/kid at once. It worked out well, and with Angora goats being a bit more susceptible to Pneumonia, I was grateful that their deliveries were to come in warmer weather. Honestly, I hadn't meant to time it such that anyone would arrive on Mother's Day, but I think there is something lovely and symbolic about the idea that they possibly could.
As it turned out, nobody did arrive on Mother's day, but rather the day after. And It was quite the experience for both myself and the mama goat. Her water bag appeared around 9:00pm, and I called for my mother to come over, if she wanted to watch. But, around 10:30 we began to wonder if everything was okay. Her contractions had stopped, and she was laying down, with no pushing. Juno, the mother, had been very uncomfortable for most of her pregnancy, being a Pygora bred (not intentionally!) to a full sized Angora buck, so I had suspected it may be a difficult birth for her. For the last month, her vaginal walls had been residing outside her vulva in plain sight. As the vet said, "when they run out of room, something's gotta give, and that's the first to go." Ouch.
I lubed up and gently felt just inside the opening, where I was met with the nose of the first kid. So we waited a little longer, and decided around 11:00pm that it was time to call the vet. She was amazing, and asked me if I was comfortable reaching in and adjusting the kid, as she suspected that some body part or another was not in its proper position. I said I did, and she proceeded to talk me through the entire procedure.
The poor little one had tried to come out with its legs back, instead of forward, like a dive, next to its nose. So, after getting my arm in through the cervix, which was still not very dilated, I managed to hook my finger first underneath the right leg, then the left. In order to do this, I had to push the head back in. Once I had everything positioned correctly, the vet instructed me to just pull it out, as the baby had been in the birth canal for some time. This was not easy, as the poor mother was in agony, and there had to be room for my hand to come out at the same time as the head and legs.
He slid out, and we rubbed him vigorously to get him breathing and moving around. Once he was able to breath, we stuck him in front of his mama, and reached in for the next one. At this point, the vet wanted me to just go in and get any remaining kids out as quickly as possible. The water bag was still intact on the next one, and so I had to pop it in order to be able to feel which body parts were which. I thought what I felt was a hind end, and so I grabbed the legs and pulled. When he finally came out, my mother, husband and I all thought it had no head. Seriously. It lay there with two sets of legs, and what looked like two butts. Then it moved.
It did, actually, have a head. And it had come out front end first, with its head to the side, under its body. But he was alive. (For the first two days after his birth, he walked around on his front knees because I had pulled ligaments in his legs with the strain of getting him out! This went away and he is just fine now.)
Then, the shocker was that there was a third, right behind the second, already coming through the birth canal. She slid right out without any problem, and for that I was grateful. After going in one more time to make sure there were no more, we continued to rub down the triplets and care for the mother. All three babies are identical in size, weight and color.
After it all was over, and the vet hung up, I finally realized that my heart was racing and I had hardly breathed. I was covered with bodily fluids of all types, and was grinning from ear to ear. How often do we get the opportunity to save a life? Or two? Or three? In one go? It is likely that had she gone into labor during the night, we would have lost the lives of at least one of the babies, if not all, and possibly the mother too.
The instinct to mother doesn't just go away when we stop having children. In fact, I think living through motherhood merely strengthens our understanding of the birth process, its pain, the struggles and the joy, across any species.