Roxy’s First Lamb; A Tale of Sheep Midwifery

The most powerful devotion in the world is that of a new mother toward her miracle, her closest allies are her midwives.

Roxy’s story starts as a beloved 4-H lamb, owned by a young boy in his Aunt’s 4-H club.  Since Roxy was a ewe (female), the young boy was able to convince his devoted, farmer Gramma that Roxy should be kept to have lambs for future 4-H projects.  What fun it would be to have lambs born on Gramma’s farm!

There was a catch. In order for all of this to happen, the boy and his Aunt (his partner in crime) must take care of Roxy and be there for the birth, even if it meant spending a night on the couch. The deal was made and Roxy became an expectant mother.  As the long anticipated day drew nearer Roxy was as cute and round as one would expect a pregnant sheep to be.  She also complained and grunted regularly about her condition (some of it was clearly for extra attention and treats).

 

img_6015

Roxy’ the expectant mother, expecting treats.

 

One day while making the usual rounds, the family noticed that Roxy was prolapsing. A prolapse is when an internal organ (such as the uterus, vagina or rectum) protrudes outside of the body.  This caused quite a bit of alarm because they had seen how bad a uterine prolapse can be. After some consulting and many pictures of the problem sent to other farmers (thank you iPhone!), it was determined that it was not a uterine, but a vaginal prolapse, which while scary was not as devastating.  The decision was made to build and put Roxy into a special pen that would keep her rear end elevated, thus relieving the pressure of the unborn lambs and reduce the prolapse.

 

img_5859

The family showing off Roxy’s new pen.  While her space is small, it elevates her rear end and reduces the pressure on the prolapse allowing her to recover.  Tess, the white sheep is there for company.

 

While the pen was being built and Roxy and her pen mate (for the company) were moved into the garage to make monitoring her easier, Gramma was busily baking three batches of cupcakes and a regular cake, provisions for to make it through the blessed event’s sleepover.  In the midst of getting places ready for her guest to stay, and wading through the extra barn clothes in the entryway, Gramma made sure to check in on Roxy every two hours.

Since Roxy’s pen was rather small in order to keep her correctly elevated, and her roomie Tess could be a little moody, the young boy would take Roxy for regular walks all the next day.  The prolapse was improving!  His Aunt was able to borrow a Siri-cam so Roxy could be monitored constantly without being disturbed.  This first night of the “slumber-party” was very exciting, but it was tainted with just a little fear that the prolapse would cause a problem.

Then another night passed into morning without a lamb being born.  Gramma’s puppy had an appointment with the veterinarian; they would ask the doctor what they should do if there were no lambs by then.

Morning and the veterinary appointment came and Roxy was still the same.  Armed with slightly graphic pictures of the expectant ewe’s rear end, the family asked the doctor what they should do.  While the veterinarian was confident Roxy could have her babies around the prolapsed, sooner was better than later.  The veterinarian gave the family a couple of injections for Roxy to induce labor.

With a shortage of larger animal veterinarians, farmers must often be very capable, and able to follow the directions and treatments a veterinarian prescribes.  The veterinarians must be adept at making decisions based on the description and trust the farmer to describe what is wrong correctly.

The family arrived back at Gramma’s farm and gave the injections, with the promise of lambs in the next 12-72 hours!  The boy made sure Roxy was comfortable and the family settled in for another fun night of cupcakes and slumber party.  However, 72 hours later, the fun was wearing thin because there was just no indication these lambs were coming.  Did they just imagine she was pregnant? What was wrong?

 

postinduce

Roxy about 30 hours post induction, no sign of labor.

 

This is when Gramma got brave and decided to check Roxy for dilation like the veterinarian had explained to her.   Slowly and carefully, feeling like a child sneaking out of her parents’ house, Gramma, checked Roxy and felt nothing.  With her head and heart pumping with adrenaline, she slowly removed her arm and felt relief that she hadn’t hurt Roxy, but disappointed there was still no sign of these lambs being born.  Another night passed and the next day, more confidently Gramma, the sheep midwife, check her patients’ cervix once again.  Still no dilation—but she could she manually dilate her? Even just a little? Yes! Three to four centimeters! And just behind that some tiny little lamb feet and a nose!  Perfect position for a lamb to be born in, surely this would get things started.  The sporadic contractions would become regular and end the emotional, physical and mental anguish.

Gramma had been so worried about her patient that she hadn’t dared to leave the house all this time.  They passed another evening by watching YouTube videos of lambs being born to prepare and educate the young boy, he wanted to be able to help Roxy if she and her babies needed it.

In the morning Gramma finally had to leave the house, after so many nights of the boy and his Aunt and Uncle sleeping on an air mattress in her house she was running low on supplies for the unending sleep over.

 

provisions

Gramma making sure the hardworking sheep team had enough to eat.

 

Faithful to the social media following, they reported Roxy’s uneventful status yet again and followers continued to cheer on Roxy and the family, waiting encouragingly and impatiently to see graphic birthing pictures followed by adorable lambs.  Everyone wanted to see the young boy holding up a brand new life in triumph.

But after so long of being practically paralyzed by worry for Roxy, time made Gramma and the family have to resume some of life’s daily activities.  With the lamb-cam rolling and burning up the Wi-Fi, they went out to eat.  Gramma and Aunt and Uncle continued to take shifts during the night to check on Roxy via lamb-cam every two hours.  They would count contractions and pray for a safe delivery.

Finally, the amniotic sac appeared one morning, a sure sign that labor was imminent and the lambs would be here soon!  Emotions and spirits soared again, but with so much disappointment over the last several days, there was a lot of silence amongst the family. The young boy waited anxiously.

The day passed and Roxy did not go into labor, so they called the veterinarian again, and took Roxy in. On the phone the doctor had not sounded hopeful for the babies, so as the drove the family started to prepare themselves for a C-section, something sheep do not recover well from.

Filled with grief, and disappointment, they journeyed the long one hour drive,  Gramma’s car being the emergency vehicle. The young boy and his Aunt helped Roxy in the back and braced her throughout the ride. Being positive was difficult, so a lot of the time it was silent.  They were grasping on to anything that could still give them hope: “I felt them move” the Aunt said to the young boy, “I think she will be OK”.

The boy would say encouraging words to Roxy and Gramma was thinking silently to herself, “what am I going to do if this little boy gets brokenhearted?” If we can save Roxy, she will not have babies to feed, can I find an abandoned baby that needs a Momma?, I shall ask the Vet!” That’s it, I have a plan, I will be ready and we will forge thru….I am ready to handle what is about to happen. Gaul, I can’t believe this is really happening… where did we go wrong? We have one sheep to give birth and it is going like this? Should we have left Roxy out in the barn, and not care or try? At the first sign of her prolapsing, should we have looked away and let nature take its course?

 

They shared that anger that comes from grief, born of the sacrifice the entire household has endured only to come home with no babies. Where was the baby reward that they were looking forward to? Then the guilty feeling and blaming themselves for getting so wrapped up into this, it is only a farm animal.

 

But farmers, like Gramma, immediately come to their own defense, reassuring themselves they are not just farmers. We LOVE our animals, and they will always get the best care we can give!  Just because a production farm maybe rich and can provide more expensive care doesn’t mean they love their animals more than the poor hobby farmer.   And just because the hobby farmer only has a few animals to love, doesn’t mean the farmer with dozens cares any less.

 

Shortly after arriving, the veterinarian also found that Roxy was not dilated, but was able to spread her cervix that three to four centimeters like Gramma had.  Feeling the lambs the doctor declares that the lambs to not seem to be alive any longer.  This is now an emergency.  The veterinarian suggests an ultrasound, to try to help make the decision if a C-section would be worthwhile,  if they could have live lambs, it might be worth the risk.  The ultrasound did not show signs of life, but sometimes can be misleading.

 

The decision was made to try to pull the lambs manually and at least give Roxy the best chance at survival.  The emotionally spent family, tears rolling down their cheeks, gathered what composure they had left to continue as midwives to Roxy.  The veterinarian gently proceeded while the young boy paced nearby looking for distraction and talking to the animals nearby. His Aunt and Gramma continue as midwives with the vet.  Carefully the veterinarian extracts a body and it was ALIVE!  Covered in birthing goo and squirming on the ground was a live lamb!

 

“Quick! Get it inside and get someone working on it!” The veterinarian cried as she began to search for the second lamb.  Gramma, scooping the newborn in her arms and pressing it against her body ran into the clinic hollering for help in a voice she could scarcely recognize, stomping through the halls in her muddy boots begging for fast assistance to save the life in her arms.  A staff member appeared and took the precious life to give it the support it needed to continue.  Knowing the lamb was in good hands, Gramma ran through the now mucked up hallway back outside to help with the second if she could.

Just as she reached Roxy a second, bigger, lamb was pulled, with a large gush of blood.  But this lamb too was alive!  Gramma again scooped up the messy but precious bundle and rushed inside, a little less frantic but still nervous as they helped the lamb.

 

Roxy had lost quite a bit of blood and had a cervical tear, but was doing very well.

 

fullsizerender-2

Roxy at the veterinary clinic after not going into labor on her own.  The veterinarian delivered her babies which despite the odds were alive.  She lost a bit of blood but was doing very well.

 

 

The family stopped to praise God for helping the doctor safely deliver Roxy and her lambs. Before going home the veterinarian explained to the boy that Roxy would need injections to help her recover and taught him how to give them, which he faithfully committed to memory.

 

sue

The Midwives with Roxy and her twins.

 

Once home, they in earnest set the lambs to nursing, they had tried a little at the clinic and on the way home.  The first lamb, a ewe was nursing well, but the second, a ram, had no strength.  The family geared up to help again, supplementing with bottles and milking Roxy for the colostrum.  A neighboring farmer came to teach the family how to tube feed the ram because he did not have the energy to suck.  Placing the lambs under a heat lamp, they again set their alarms for every two hours to check on the new sheep family.

 

img_6284

Encouraging the ewe lamb to nurse at home.  The ram lamb was not strong enough to show interest in nursing and had to be tube fed.

 

Soon the heat lamp wasn’t enough for the ram, so they added a heating pad and they continued to force nourishment into the weakening body.  Now even in their laps, he couldn’t hold his head up.  While they agreed to take shifts, the Aunt stayed the whole night in the garage with the lamb, never setting him down.

 

img_6259

The first few hours of providing supportive care to the newly born ram lamb.

 

Having known more than her fair share of maternal loss, I can only imagine the tender words and pleas of encouragement she whispered to the baby in her arms.  Like so many farmers, they have soft hearts; we pour every spare ray of our souls into these moments begging for the life to keep burning in our arms.  Bargaining with the Lord may be a sin, but I believe God forgives those farmers and parents begging to save a life that is not our own.

 

Gramma checks in around 2:00 A.M. to relieve her of her duties.  “No,” she whispers, “I’m alright.”  You see, she knew the time was almost gone.  Around 4:00 A.M. warm in loving arms, the ram lamb passed into forever sleep.

 

img_6186

Roxy’s little ram lamb.  Rest in peace little boy.

 

Heartbroken, the family continued to rejoice in their healthy ewe lamb and Roxy, who was doing very well.  Had the family never intervened or “let nature take its course”, Roxy would have never survived.  She was diagnosed with a condition known as Ring Womb, where her cervix would never dilate.

 

img_6268

Roxy and Sweet Pea

 

Now, Roxy and her little girl Sweet Pea, continue to do well.  The boy named the lamb Sweet Pea because she is really a sweetie.  Roxy will never have another lamb and after the boy gave her the injections as instructed she is eating hay like crazy.  Roxy will be Gramma’s herd of wool producing sheep, her only job will be to eat and grow wool, not have babies.

 

noah

The young boy and his girls, Roxy and Sweet Pea on Gramma’s farm.  Both are doing well and eating like champions!

 

“The Transcending power of both life and death has given this little farm a beautiful appreciation of what we have and what is within our hearts.” —Gramma of WheelyCoolFiber.

noah2

Enter a caption

Thank you so much for reading this story. I hope you enjoyed it. If you did please take a moment to subscribe to my blog. You will only receive an email when I have a new post! By showing interest in my blog through your subscriptions, likes and shares you allow me to continue to not only write the stories but live the farm life that inspires many of them!

2 thoughts on “Roxy’s First Lamb; A Tale of Sheep Midwifery

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s