Monday, September 27, 2010

Two for one offer

SO did the 5:00am shift this morning and discovered Annaliese's prolapse occurring again so he walked her round and round the yard until all her bits settled back where they should be. It only took an hour and twenty minutes. The birds singing, the rooster crowing and the sun well up by this time meant he went back to bed, planning a sleep in to compensate. I tag-teamed him at 7:00 and did the morning feeding rounds before our very own dawn chorus of several species all yelling at once got too out of hand. All was normal.
Returning to the lamb yard at around 9:00, I found Dawn bleating softly and licking the ground. I also found lots of wet stuff but no lamb. Checked the perimeter fence. No sign of crushed grass or drag marks, no sign of blood. She surely could not have had her lamb and a fox taken it?
No, the lamb was yet to come and she was just getting in some last minute practice before the real birth, which turned out to be a bit tricky. Her twins, a ram and a ewe, got tangled up. Both wanted to be first to come out and jammed in the doorway cartoon-style. Also, courtesy of Wilberforce our new Merino ram, they have quite big heads. Coupled with the giraffe-like legs of their Border Leicester ancestry and Dawn being an absolute beginner at all this and it was an hour after her water bag hit the deck before one tiny foot appeared in the outside world. Upside down. This is Not Right but probably the reason it was taking too long. So much for SO's sleep in, the lamb shed was turned into Sheep ER, I gloved up with the box of first aid supplies out and he was roused to help.
Being midwife is very much seeing with your fingers like a blind person. What I could "see" was a head alongside an upside down foot. Clearly not both belonging to the same lamb, or if they did it was a contortionist. Everything got pushed gently back out of the birth canal into the uterus with a bit of hope. (I find the application of hope helps, if only helping me) Quite often, as everything slides away into the dark out of reach, a suddenly-freed lamb will kick or move and right itself for the next shot at presentation. However, sometimes it doesn't. What we had with the next contraction was a foot - this time the right side up - and a head. Now, most lambs have two front feet and therefore you want two showing up. I went in search of the other one which was folded back and (get your little head out of the way please, I can't feel your foot) eased it forward by a finger under it's knee.
OK, two feet, a head, the usual lamb combination. I remembered to breathe and eased the feet out in front of the nose in position. As another contraction crushed my wrist I suddenly remembered our Operational Procedure last year had been to call the vet first on such occasions, then do what we could until they got here, being rank amateurs ourselves. This would ensure help if we couldn't sort it out. That was a year ago, I had forgotten it and the phone was in the house a long way away. There is no mobile phone reception here so we didn't have one of those either, and at any rate SO was completely tied up holding Dawn whilst I was completely tied up untying completely tied up lambs so there was really no choice but to just get on with it.
Poor young Dawn had a time of getting the lamb's head free whilst applied traction to it's front legs but once it did it was born in a rush. The usual frenzied sweeping of the muzzle and vigorous rubbing of a limp lamb commenced, followed in this case by a complete lift, downward head tilt and bit of a swing as the lamb lay still, unresponsive, and I was hoping to clear it's airway more definitely. Another application of hope and the little ewe lamb lifted her head momentarily declaring she was alive but had been through a hell of a time, could we just give her a minute, please?
Meanwhile Dawn was licking her frantically, either delighted, relieved, concerned, trying to get the human smell off or all of the above. Nothing else. No other heaves, no second lamb. Both water sacs were long broken and every minute was a minute without air for the lamb left inside. With a sigh SO caught the poor ewe again and she just stood there resignedly whilst I fished the second twin out, one leg also folded back behind her pelvic opening and his head just as large. He was very distressed by now, and another desperate revival session was needed. Both took a long time to breath, both would have died stuck together in the womb possibly taking their mother with them and both were exhausted. To say nothing of Dawn. Or us.
Still, they're here. They're alive. We've seen both suckle and Dawn has an udder like a Jersey cow. The next 24 hours will tell whether any lasting damage was done, but they've made it through the first 12 and I'm very happy with that.