Saturday, April 7, 2012

Full Moon Lambs

Sitting under the stars and over the woodpile a group of friends share space on a deck off the barn. Laughter comes easy as we share stories, jokes and dreams for the future. All the while, we are listening to the soft "baaaahhing" in the sheep pen below. Straining to hear every sound and wondering if the very pregnant ewe is progressing, wondering if the lambs that we have been preparing for are ready to join the earth.

The imaginary lines between the stars of Orion and the other constellations in the night sky feel real and unbreakable, reaching out, connecting everything around us. The full moon is bright and full and shines down upon us filling us with it's magical light. Suddenly thoughts of morning and farm chores began to creep in and we notice how the temperature has dropped. It's time for bed.

I go down to the sheep pen one more time not really expecting anything, but one last peak won't hurt. My ears notice an unfamiliar soft "baaahhhh" but my brain doesn't register what is happening and I still can't make any sense of it when my eyes catch a glimpse of the little white lump that was making those sweet sounds.I stare in disbelief. Finally mind catches up to ears and eyes and I call up quietly to Thomas. "There's a lamb, come down"

We hunker down in the sheep pen, shaking with cold but not caring, staring in amazement as Mama cleans off the newest member of the flock. The night is still and strange, our whispered "Ohhhhs" and "Ahhhhhs" become part of the scene. Time stands still. The little lamb begins to move around and starts crawling awkwardly on long legs that seem to have been placed on the wrong body. 

Then Mama stops for a moment and we can feel it. Something is happening. "Look the next one is coming" I whisper to the night. Then Thomas' replies "It's out". Another lamb has been born and I feel like the luckiest person on earth to witness such a moment. We watch for minutes, or hours, who knows. Then one lamb starts to shiver in the cold. It lays down, looking tired and weak. Thomas and I grab towels and help Mama finish cleaning off her babies, rubbing them to warm them up.  Now Lisa and Killian are sneaking into the pen.  Then I remember Teri, she wanted to see this. I run back upstairs and announce into the walkie-talkie "We have babies, two babies" She doesn't respond so I run over to her nesting place and knock on the door. She is already up and joins our silent party in the sheep pen.  

We are nervous, not really knowing what to do next.  Mama doesn't seem to want the lambs to nurse and we all know this needs to happen soon.  We feed Mama a big bucket of oats, a well deserved treat, and a distraction for her head, while babies try to latch behind. It's not working. The trio is looking well bonded, she clearly cares for these lambs but won't let them feed. The time has come to move them to the cozy lambing house I had spent the afternoon preparing.  

Its surreal. Lisa holds one lamb, I hold the other. The full moon over head feels huge and lights our way. Mama follows as we head up the hill, into the garden fence and finally into their new private quarters. The lambs are getting weak and we know they need nourishment now.  Lisa holds Mama and I give her teets a good squeeze. The wax plug pops out and shoots into my eye, milk sprays everywhere. I hold the first born and put the nipple into it's mouth. It latches! We all sigh with relief. Lisa snuggles the youngest who is fading fast. I try the same technique with this one but its no use. He's too weak to take in any milk. Knowing just what to do after years of nursing my own human babies I draw some milk out, directly into the little ones mouth. It drinks and perks up a little, but not for long. I start expressing milk into a bottle, knowing that we are stepping out onto a path we don' really want to travel but feeling like time is running out and this is what needs to happen. The lamb drinks from the bottle, just enough to try latching again. Its no use, the lamb won't nurse. Tension fills the air and I finally speak what everyone is thinking. We don't want to raise a bottle fed lamb. We don't want to raise sheep who will always be small and ill, who will never flourish. Lisa gives the littlest lamb one last snuggle and a few sips of molasses water, a little sugar for energy but no, nothing changes. 

We decide it's time to let Mother Nature take control. We trust that what is meant to be will be and head inside to warmth, tea and nervous chatter. It's 2am and we all need some sleep. Reluctantly we retreat to our beds and wait for morning.

As soon as I wake I pull my dirty jeans back on, wrap myself in my favorite wool blanket and run to the sheep. Afraid of what might be waiting there, but feeling hopeful, as the warm sun shines.  I meet Teri on my way over, she has already been in to see the lambs and she doesn't look sad. I sigh as I enter the pen, one big Mama and two sweet little lambs greet me. "They made it, they both made it!" We take a moment to look everyone over. They look great! Happy, healthy and probably the cutest babies I have ever laid eyes on. 

As the rest of the farm family wakes up we watch their faces as they learn the happy news. Both babies make it though. We did it! Flicker did it! She gave birth to two sweet little ram lambs and I just feel incredibly blessed to have been a part of it all. The miracle of life in, right before my eyes.

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