I could see the lamb was stuck, its left front foot and the first few inches of its muzzle outside the birth canal, right foot not yet visible. Noel panted and strained, but little progress was made. I didn’t grow up on a farm, but plenty of livestock books and Facebook groups and YouTube mentors have shown me the way, and I knew it was imperative that both of the lamb’s feet emerge from the birth canal first. I pulled on my arm-length OB exam gloves and slipped my hand inside Noel, feeling around for the stuck foot. I couldn’t find it at first, and I gently pushed the lamb back in so I would have more room to work. The pressure of Noel’s body and the force of life and birth squeezed my hand tightly.
I felt the small hoof tucked up toward Noel’s tail and I grasped it firmly and maneuvered it out of the birth canal. Noel was quite tired by this point, having pushed for nearly a half hour. Both of the lamb’s feet were out now, along with its muzzle, a small purple tongue hanging out of the mouth.
I prayed the lamb would live.
Noel pushed again, and I grasped the lamb’s legs together in my right hand as I slid my left back into the birth canal, cupping the top of the lamb’s head and gently pulling with Noel.
Come on, girl. We can do this. Come on, girl, almost there.
With a final push and pull, the lamb slid out onto the hay. He shook his head side to side, spitting and sputtering. I pulled what was left of the wet membranes from his nose and mouth and he inhaled for the first time. Life filled his lungs and his body.
Noel’s tongue lapped in and out at the air, but she was too fatigued to fully turn and reach her baby. I picked him up and placed him beside her and she immediately started the work of cleaning the yellow birth fluids from his white coat. She took care of all of the mess of birth, softly baa–ing to her son between licks.
My hands trembled as I crouched over them both, smiling and wiping tears of wonder and gratitude and humility on my own shoulder.
My own birth experiences were difficult, and they all resulted in c-sections despite my extreme efforts to have natural births. I’ve carried a pang of grief with me these past 13 years that I never had the opportunity to bear witness to birth – with three sons, the likelihood of being invited into anyone’s birthing suite seemed slim.
Yet here I was, crouching on the floor, the mess of birthing fluids at my feet and on my hands, the sweet smell of hay and new life in the air around me, and the sounds of a mama cooing softly to her son in my ears.
This morning is Mother’s Day and my own sons are still tucked into their beds where I sang them to sleep last night. They are somewhere between boy and man, but still they wait each night for their bedtime songs before closing their eyes on the day. I scrawl a quick note to leave on the coffee table.
Good morning, Loves. I’m in the barn.
Steam rises from my coffee cup on the ledge by the door as I pull on my rubber boots and click the door quietly shut behind me. The first dandelions are up in the yard. The air holds the scent of renewal – of river water and morning dew. The songbirds hop and sing in the maples. For a moment I swear their song is just for me.