This is our first year kidding Pansy, but it is Pansy’s 4th time to give birth. She had a single her first birth, then twins the next two and she never had any issues with kidding. So we were expecting a pretty easy straight-forward delivery of twins. I am starting to learn that with livestock we should never “expect” anything, because we are often wrong.
Pansy was due on April 27th, and the days dragged on and on without a kid. She looked dropped, but her ligaments were still hard and her udder was not bagging up. Finally, she started bagging up just a little on Monday (a week late), but ligaments still hard. Tuesday evening her ligaments softened and disappeared, though her udder did not change. I figured we must be getting pretty close though. By Wednesday afternoon her bag was suddenly quite full and she was standing off in the corner by herself. Here we go!
I stood watching her for awhile because I didn’t want to get Little Miss’ hopes up if it wasn’t the real thing. Little Miss had been so patiently waiting for her to give birth and was very anxious for it to happen since Pansy is her goat. She was now 9 days past her due date. As I watched, I saw her give 3 half-hearted pushes over a 20 minute period. Yup, she was definitely in labor, but I was not happy about the half-hearted pushes. We have had one sheep and one goat do half-hearted pushes before. The sheep was Daisy – and that was a very traumatic delivery with a very stuck lamb. The goat was Gretchen, several years ago, and her kid was breech and didn’t survive delivery and we almost lost Gretchen too. So half-hearted pushes was not looking very good to me.
We got her in the kidding stall and continued watching for another 30 minutes. She continued to give a half-hearted push every so often. I called her previous owner to ask if this was normal for her – nope. And the owner confirmed that whenever she had goats do half-hearted pushing it was mal-positioned babies. So we decided to check her. Sunshine is anxious to learn about helping deliver lambs and kids, so I let her take her first try of figuring out what was going on. Pansy was not dilating, even though she was pushing. I confirmed after Sunshine and we called the vet. There is something called ring-womb where an animal doesn’t dilate, and we were concerned that might be an issue. The vet agreed it could be ring-womb, but he said since it had only been 1.5 hours at that point, we should give it some more time and see if she would progress. He was at a call and couldn’t come to our place at that point anyway. So we sat back and watched and waited.
I need to tell a really cool side-story here. While I was talking to the vet I stepped outside the barn because all the animals were being pretty noisy and I wanted to hear clearly. Sunshine came with me. We were standing a couple feet off the corner of the barn. As I was on the phone, all of a sudden, a beautiful barn owl swooped down right at the corner of the barn roof. It was literally 5 feet from our heads (the barn roof slopes low there). We could see it SO clearly and up close. Then we saw why it was swooping down towards the barn roof corner – our barn cat was there on the roof! It came down at him with it’s talons going right for him – we saw his feathered legs and talons so clearly and closely – it was amazing – except for the fact that it was going for the cat. The cat turned and jumped up at it hissing and attacking. Neither of them actually touched each other, and the barn owl swooped down and away, again not 5 feet from us. It all happened so fast that we didn’t even realize what happened until it was over. I have no idea why a barn owl would consider taking on a cat – it seems to me to be too big for them. But it happened and both Sunshine and I were privileged enough to witness it up close and personal. The owl was so beautiful. It was awesome. ***Definitely would not have been so awesome if either of them had been injured in the process***
Back to the goat. Over the next hour Pansy’s contractions got close together and much more serious. She was having contractions every 30-60 seconds and still just giving half-hearted pushes. After an hour of that, with no progress and no feet showing, we knew there were issues. Sunshine went in and found the cervix was barely more dilated than before. She started working on stretching it manually while I was on the phone to the vet again. The answer for ring womb is a c-section if you can’t get it to stretch manually. Sunshine made some progress with it and then Pansy started really pushing, so we gave her a chance to work on it herself to see if it would dilate with her pushing hard. After 15 minutes of pushing hard every 30-60 seconds she still hadn’t made any progress and the cervix was barely dilated any bigger. So I took a turn stretching it, meanwhile, I was able to get far enough to feel that the baby had only one leg and a head coming. Because the cervix was so tight I couldn’t get in far enough to grab the leg and bring it around. Then, as I was stretching it, and Pansy was pushing with all her might, the cervix suddenly opened up quite a bit, enough for the leg and head to start coming. Pansy was pushing with all her might and I couldn’t get to that other leg, and then Pansy (who Mtn Man had been wrestling to try to keep still) suddenly broke free from him and moved away from me fast enough that I couldn’t stay with her.
She gave a few big pushes and we had one foot and the head out, but the other leg stuck back. The water broke and for some reason, even though it was not all the way out, the baby took it’s first breath of wet gunk. At this point I figured I couldn’t push it back in to get that leg because it was now trying to breathe by mouth. Mtn Man suctioned the baby’s mouth while I tried to work my hand back to get that leg, but I found the cervix still wasn’t dilated all the way and the baby was stuck because of that and I couldn’t get to the leg. Right then the vet called. Sunshine put him on speaker phone and I caught him up on what was going on. He told me that she could deliver with the leg back, we just needed to pull when she pushed. So I pulled and pulled. the one leg we had extended all the way out, but the cervix wouldn’t open enough to let the shoulders through with the other leg bent back. And the baby was starting to suffocate. The vet said he was done at the previous farm and was headed our way, but it would take an hour to get to us. He said just keep working her out as best we could.
It seems during every hard delivery there is a point where I just lose it and can’t stop from crying. As I pulled and pulled and made no progress and watched the baby gasping for breath and slowly getting weaker and breathing less, I broke down crying. Little Miss started crying too, and left the barn. Mtn Man and Sunshine kept encouraging me to try to get the baby out. I kept pulling and trying different angles. I kept trying to get my hand back to that leg, but the cervix was too tight. Finally, I got it stretched enough and made it to the leg. The knee was bent and wedged, but at that point everything was so tight I knew that it would have to come through bent like that, there was no way to fix it. So I hooked my finger behind the knee, had the other leg in my other hand, and I pulled while she pushed. It finally broke free and came out.
Mtn Man went right to work on resuscitating the baby and making sure she was alive and breathing OK. She starting breathing well surprisingly fast and Pansy went right to work on licking her all over and talking to her. The baby was tired and weak, but was breathing and alive! We really expected a twin, but nothing came and when the vet arrived he checked her and said she was done.
By the time he arrived baby was up and nursing well, and Pansy was mothering beautifully. So he gave her antibiotics and oxytocin and was on his way to a heifer with a stuck baby. Busy season for farmers. Busy season for vets.