This story has been waiting in my notes for such a long time! After an arduous winter and lambing hardships, the arrival of spring has rejuvenated my spirit. In between lots of outdoor spring projects and work in general, I am making time to work on the blog again. Even though it’s a little late, I am relieved to finally write about my first lamb experience…
I had to tear myself away from those sweet newborn lambs to leave for the Good Friday service. To be honest, I felt like my joy was out of place while attending, but I didn’t think my premature Easter joy was disrespectful. God loves lambs.
This first lambing season didn’t go as expected. I was as prepared as I could be, but being prepared doesn’t matter when there are complications that cannot always be fixed. The first birth back in January (Mum’s) was very hard for me to experience, with her stillborn lamb. The next mama ewe was Dahlia, my favorite sheep. I couldn’t bear to write about her after it happened. She needed assistance during labor, but no one was able to get her twins out. Our regular vet was unreachable. After hours of other vets trying, not one person was able to help her. We lost Dahlia and her babies that night. People kept telling me that these things happen, and that it wasn’t my fault. As the shepherd to my flock though, I was determined to do the best I could and be ready when the final two gave birth. Penny was the next mama. In the middle of the night, she went into labor with a breech lamb that I helped deliver. The delivery went so smoothly! At first it seemed like all was well, but the lamb had a facial deformity that affected his breathing. Sadly, he would never be able to breathe enough to sustain his life outside of the womb, and passed before morning.
After those three mothers had lost their lambs, my hopes for Freya, the last pregnant ewe, were not too high. But I put the pressure on myself—I couldn’t let Freya’s birth go unnoticed. I had to be there to help and do as much as I could. So, I had alarms set every hour and a half throughout the night and checked on her just as frequently during the daytime.
I lived in a precarious state of limbo for three weeks.
Then on Good Friday, around noon, I was outside visiting the sheep. I saw Freya pawing at the ground and going into the small pen in the shelter where she never chose to spend time before. I grabbed a cinder block and sat down on it nearby to watch her. She started straining with what I hoped was a contraction.
Eventually, the water bag showed up. I ran through my mental lambing checklist: first comes the water bag, then about 30 minutes later I should see the hoofs, facing the proper way for a normal presentation… I hurried inside to get my box of lamb stuff that had been sitting prepared for weeks. One eye was on my watch, counting the minutes and knowing that I would have to make a decision pretty soon. She’s a first-time mother though, so would any of those time frames really be accurate for her?
Materials acquired, I returned to my cinder block. Right on time, two little hooves showed up. They were pointing down. Good. Then she pushed again. Seeing the joints confirmed that these were the front legs, and soon I could see the nose. The lamb was in proper presentation, like a little diver.
Within a few more minutes, Freya successfully delivered her baby, all on her own. After it dropped to the ground, she rushed away. I grabbed my towel and cleaned away the goop from the lamb’s nose and mouth. Freya was outside of the shelter, and my family who came outside to watch said she was starting to deliver another lamb (which wasn’t too surprising, she was HUGE). Since she was preoccupied, I worked on drying her first lamb.
It was a boy, a black and brown woolly body with cute white markings on his face. His twin, a girl, was born not too long after. We moved the little family into the shelter and closed the jug gate. With heat lamps lit and little coats on the lambs, we tried to make it as warm as possible in the below freezing weather. I sat in the hay next to them for probably two hours, watching them stand up all wobbly and trying to figure out how to nurse. Once I was satisfied they were all okay, I headed back inside to get ready to go to church. I wasn’t sure whether to heave a sigh of relief or whoop in triumph. A long period of Lenten sacrifice had ended in Easter joy.
Thus ends the long and unexpected journey of my first lambing season. In hindsight, I am glad to have experienced it all, but I still mourn the lives lost in the harsh realities of nature.
But now it is springtime, and everyone is doing wonderfully. You’ll get to meet the lambs soon, so don’t fret! I’ll have photos and their names coming up in a happy little post next. Until then, here’s a peek from the day they were born. Thanks for following along with this little flock in the Driftless region.