Saturday, August 29, 2015

Birth Plan

birth plan

All that barn cleaning paid off.  It seems that the “nesting” instinct applies to kidding out goats, too.  A doe named “Ritzy” went into labor yesterday morning and we all sprang into action – following our “birth plan.” 

Step 1: Pick up Katherine from school – this is her gig, not mine.  She can miss a little school to get some life experience.  The school secretary knows my voice without me even saying my name. (But first, I had to go to a work meeting, buy “birthday snack” at Safeway, and drop said snack off at Bobbie’s classroom.  All the while, I prayed that Ritzy would keep her legs crossed while I ran my errands.)
Step 2: Race home with Katherine.  Usually, I make her do all the driving to practice for her driver’s test.  But we needed to go FAST.  So, move over bacon.

Step 3: Finish last minute barn preparations.  Fill water bucket, put up new fly tape (ick), turn on fan (stifling hot out here), prep hand-washing bucket, and stock the barn with water bottles and snacks for Katherine.
Step 4:  Wait. And wait. And wait.
All that rushing and praying for nothing.  As usual.  But I have experienced situations where Katherine and/or I underestimated the situation.  One time we paid a short visit to a friend in the next county (to buy goats); by the time we got home, the doe who had showed absolutely no signs of labor had pushed out a kid and forgotten to clean the amniotic sac off the baby’s nose…bad outcome.  Less than 2 hours for god’s sake!  So, I now err on the side of caution.  
buttermilk fried chicken
We got home at 12:45 pm and Katherine threw on her barn clothes (aka pajamas) and prepped herself for the birthing. 
Yesterday was Robbie’s birthday, too, so I had a big family dinner of fried chicken, potato salad, corn on the cob, and Hawaiian dinner rolls all ready to go (his fav’).  Of course Katherine could’ve missed it, but that makes me (and maybe Robbie) sad.  So I hereby extend a heartfelt “thank you” to Ritzy for holding off on kidding so Katherine could have dinner and dessert with us (in her barn clothes). 
By that time, Ritzy had been in labor at least nine hours.  I’d have been screaming for an epidural myself, but she was stoic.  Good ‘ole Ritz-bits.

("Darth Kidder" is the name 
of our barn camera)
Ritzy in labor
She’s a squirrely goat, and doesn’t like an audience. Katherine could see on the camera (named “Darth Kidder”) that Ritzy was lying down and pushing, but every time Katherine would walk into the barn to see for herself, Ritzy would pop right up and stare back as if to say, “Nope, nothing going on in here. Not a thing.”
Katherine's "nursing station"
Ritzy is also eerily quiet.  Some goats scream and carry on with every single contraction (big or little), which makes it hard to tell when something is really happening.  Others, like Ritzy, are stone cold silent, which also makes it hard to tell when something is happening. 
So Katherine had to set up her "nursing station" OUTSIDE the barn.  I sat with her for a little while with my book, and every time we heard Ritzy paw at the straw and plop herself down to push with the contractions, Katherine and I stealthily peeked around the corner to see if she needed our ”help.”
Let’s take a moment here to define “help.” My own experience with childbirth (7 times, mind you) is that the anesthesiologist sets you up with an epidural (God bless each and every anesthesiologist), and then the nurses flutter about while your husband/partner/friend/whatever stares anxiously at you from their uncomfortable chair, maybe while holding your hand.  The nurses bring you cups of ice, read monitors, scribble notes, and assess your pain level (“on a scale of 1 to 10…”).  The doctor comes in occasionally and “checks your cervix,” which I will not describe here.
Goat birthing is virtually the same, with two exceptions.  First, no anesthesiologist.  Sorry goats.  I really am.  I always feel so bad for the does because I keenly remember the pain.  Second, the partner is nowhere to be seen.  Love ‘em and leave ‘em.
labor and delivery
nurse (cute video on YouTube)
But the rest is about the same.  Katherine plays the part of both nurse and doctor, giving the goats water (no ice, sorry), checking their cervix (“looob”), and scribbling notes on the white board. She'd ask their pain level if they could answer...
Sometimes I scratch the goat’s head or side, but somehow it’s just not the same.  I guess that wouldn't have made me feel better, either.  Oh, well.
But most of the time last night, Katherine sat outside of the barn, on her tool box, reading her book by the light of her head lamp, and visiting with the other goats in the pen.
(note the glowing eyes of the livestock dog and another
goat in the background -- spooky!!)
Suddenly it was action time.  Just like with people, there was a flurry of activity, some moaning, some goo, then a baby.  (That’s the highly abbreviated version of this process… more on that another time!)  
Fortunately, the baby was not "stuck" in the birth canal, so Ritzy pushed her right out (not always the case...)
Katherine went to work clearing the baby’s airways first with a towel, then with a variety of “snot suckers,” then with a piece of straw.  Sneeze sneeze.  Next the rubbing down part with a rag to wipe off the big wads of yuck.  Finally, Katherine put the tiny baby in front of Ritzy who took over the cleaning process, aggressively licking the baby to clean off the goo, stimulate breathing and initiate bonding.  Ritzy rolled the baby over a couple times in her rigorous “mothering.” Silly goat.

My job in all of this commotion is to hand over rags, snot suckers, and, eventually, the meds (and take pictures!).  As I’ve said before, this is her gig.  I can read the label on the bottle, and that’s about all.

She weighed the baby and drew up a variety of vitamins, steroids (it was a little weak), and antibiotics (for the mama).  It didn’t occur to me until I was editing the pictures just how scary it is to see your 16-year-old daughter draw and give shots.  How in the world did she learn that?? (The answer: YouTube)

I sat in awe.  I’ve witnessed this process a hundred times, and I hold my breath every time that baby squirts out and takes its first breath (or not).  I’ve watched Katherine’s confidence grow exponentially with each kidding.  I’ve seen her reposition babies in utero more times than I can count.  
I’ve watched her resuscitate mostly-dead kids.  I’ve watched her put new babies in front of their mama and instinctively take a step back to give them room to bond (you don’t learn that on YouTube. Hah!)
Watching the scene play out reinforced what I’ve been reading in How to Raise an Adult (Julie Lythcott-Haims). Specifically, Lythcott-Haims discusses the theory of “self-efficacy,” which “is the belief in your abilities to complete a task, reach a goal, and manage a situation.” The basic idea is that as parents we need to give our kids enough latitude and time to plan, execute and manage a task from start to finish to build their confidence in their own ability to manage the myriad of (absurd) situations that adult life will throw their way. 
It’s all basic life skills: confidence, taking chances, responsibility, independence, thinking-on-your-feet, and, most importantly, resilience.  
Who knew goat birthing could provide such critical life skills??  And Katherine has done it all without me.  I could not be more proud.
"On We Go" hiding under her mama, "Remarkably Ritzy"