Sunday, February 26, 2012

Special Delivery

Welcome to the latest multi-sensory lambing simulation. So far, it has to be all in your imagination, but someday.... However, even in its simplest form, this will be a special delivery.

You’re going to do this all by yourself. Well, actually, not all by yourself, Dave is here to lay across the ewe’s shoulders to keep her from running away. She’s been in labor for over two hours and it’s time to figure out what’s going on.

Okay, wash your hands, leaving them soapy. Kneel behind your patient. The smell of wool, manure and amniotic fluid fills your nose. Touch the fingertips of your right hand to the thumb tip forming a wedge and slide your hand through her vulva into her uterus. Now close your eyes to better ‘see’ what your fingers feel. You can hear the rustle of sheep settling into the fresh straw bedding, the small baas of lambs looking for their mothers and the loud, strident calls of the mothers.

Your hand squeezes through the hard ring of her pelvic bones into a warm space with hanging veils of what feels like wet silk or plastic wrap. There! Your fingers touch something smooth and solid. Explore it. Feel the division between two parts. Follow the division back a short way until the smoothness becomes rough. You’ve found a hoof.

You need to find either another hoof or a head next. Slowly move your fingers until they encounter something else hard. Explore. Does it feel the same as the hoof? Is there a dividing line through it?

The dividing line is longer and the surfaces it divides are rough and soft, not smooth and hard. Run your fingers along the line again. That line is the lamb’s mouth. Sometimes you can feel tiny teeth there. Slide your fingers back, deeper into the ewe’s uterus, while still touching the lamb’s head. Feel the slight indentation of the eye sockets. Find the domed back of the lamb’s head.

Now you have a head and a hoof, enough to deliver a lamb. Not so fast! Because your fingertips don’t have eyes, you have to be sure that the hoof and the head are part of the same lamb. Slide your fingers down the back of the head, over the soft folds of the ear. Keep moving; trace the anatomy of a shoulder to the long bone of the front leg, the ankle bones, two long toes bones and then to the smooth hoof. Yes! All one baby.

Grasp the hoof between two fingertips and your thumb. Pull gently, feel it slide toward you. Suddenly, the hoof pulls out of your grip. Good, a nice active lamb. Gently run your fingertips back up the leg, across the shoulder and up the neck. Cup your fingers over the back of the lamb’s head and gently pull toward the opening to the ewe’s vagina and the bog, cold, outside world.

The lamb moves toward you. Shift your fingers again to the hoof. Ease it through the vulva, out in the open. Feel around the pelvic opening with your other hand, second hoof. Face. Slide the fingers of your second hand over the back of the lamb’s head while pulling down and out on the first hoof. As the lamb’s shoulder clears its mother’s pelvic opening, a nose joins the leg.

You can open your eyes now. Your finger tips have done their sightless job. White nose follows white hoof as you continue pulling. This is a long lamb. Pull, pull, pull. The ewe grunts and moans as you pull. Finally, the lamb’s hind legs slide out of the space where it has lived and grown for the last five months.

Grab a towel, clean the head off first. Wipe the amniotic fluid away from the lamb so it can breathe air. Smooth the towel down its nose and then begin rubbing the curly white haired body. The lamb takes a shuddery breath and sneezes.

Now, you may take a shuddery breath, sit back on your heels, and relax.

Dave moves the lamb to it’s mothers head and her tongue comes out, licking the lamb clean and dry, encouraging it to breathe. Dave hands you the barn notebook. Date, time of delivery, sex of lamb, identity of the mother. You check the ewe’s ear tag. 20 orange.

20 orange. The ewe we were afraid had a uterine torsion. Such an easy delivery when we worried that it would be so hard. This was indeed a special delivery.

1 comment:

  1. Very cool - it was as though we were there!