Monday, March 31, 2014


Peace met me at the door of the barn both figuratively and literally. The ewes were sleeping with their babies. The chickens were muttering in their coop. The bottle lambs slept piled on top of each other in the warm glow of a heat lamp. 

When I shut the door, the bottle lambs woke. Peace, number 7 yellow, an older ewe walked right up to me. She stayed beside me as I fed the two most insistent lambs. She followed me as I walked through the sleeping flock, looking for new babies. 

Peace was an experienced mother. She obviously needed me for something. I crowded her into a corner, knelt beside her, grabbed the two feet on the far side of her body, and pulled her over onto her side.  I had to force my fingers into her vagina; the cervical opening was barely dilated. When I withdrew my hand, a sack of golden amniotic fluid followed. So she was ready to lamb, but her cervix hadn’t opened. I knew that I could solve that problem, but it would be easier if Dave was holding Peace down. 

He was just waking when I returned to the house and was easily persuaded to come out to the barn. Peace waited for us just inside the barn door.  Dave pulled her down and then lay on top of her. I washed and lubricated my hand and, fingertips together, I slid it into her vagina again. This time I pushed until my hand was through the cervical opening. Clouds of amnion wrapped themselves around my fingers as I searched blindly for a lamb. 

There!  Two feet, facing up instead of down. These were hind feet. No wonder her cervix wasn’t dilating well. There was no head or shoulders to force it open. I gathered the two hooves between my fingers and began to pull steadily. There are several  problems with breach presentations beyond that of narrow cervical openings. One is the danger that the lamb could take a breath before we get it out into the open air as its chest moves through the birth canal. The second is that we might not be able to get the chest beyond the cervical opening. The head and shoulders act like a wedge in a normal birth. In a breach birth, the rib cage just runs into the cervix with no wedge to go before. 

This lamb was slender enough to pass through the cervix once I began exerting pull on his legs. Chest followed hind legs, shoulders and head followed chest and the front legs came last. I swung the lamb into place in front of Peace and began scrubbing the amnion and amniotic fluid from its face. Dave grabbed a towel and also began rubbing.

By the time Peace’s first lamb had her head up and was beginning to struggle to her feet, Peace was in hard labor with her second lamb. This one delivered with no help from me. When the lamb slithered to the barn floor, I swiped the amnion off her face and passed her up to her mother’s nose. Peace began licking and the lamb began breathing all on her own.

When Peace and her babies left their jug two days later, she was completely uninterested in me. Her entire attention was focused on keeping her lambs in sight. She will probably never approach me again, but the fact that she did, that she knew I would help, changed me. Now I know that I have a relationship, more than just the bringer of hay with the sheep. The knowledge brings  me a kind of peace.


  1. Whoa! Yet another Joanie story where I have to remind myself to start breathing again at the end of it.

  2. That is truly beautiful. So happy everyone survived and is doing well. It's amazing that animals know who to trust and will seek help when they are in distress. I have a cat who was feral that I used to feed outside. He disappeared for a while and came back with his face all swollen. I guess it was an abscess, because the next day he looked normal, except for the gaping hole in his neck. Must have been in a fight and the wound got infected. He let us take him in, wash out the wound and put antibiotic ointment on it. All without much fuss. He's an indoor cat now :D