As I remember it, last July 21 was dang hot.
We’re in the middle of a heat wave now, but it seems to me this week last year was even hotter. Or maybe it just seemed that way because we were empathizing with Willowherb, who looked big enough to be containing triplets, and who spent a lot of time lying in the birthing stall, panting and looking mighty wide.
As new goat owners, we spent a lot of time watching Willow, trying to figure out when, exactly, she might give birth. Her due date was July 23, but we had no idea if she’d run early or late. We kept feeling those tail ligaments, but they said nothing to our unschooled hands. We watched her for signs of labor: was she “talking to her belly”? Was she pawing at the bedding to make a nest?
You know what she did to signal that her time was nigh? She binged! She stayed up until midnight of July 20 and ate and ate and ate and ate and ate.
We know this because, after giving up sitting in the hot barn watching her sleep peacefully, we sat on the couch with the baby monitor next to us, and listened to her eat for nearly four hours straight. Somewhere about midnight, she stopped munching and I guess went to sleep — and M and I drifted in and out of sleep for the next six hours, waking at the slightest sound on the monitor.
Somewhere around 7 am, bleary eyed and convinced that we were still at least a few days away from baby goats, I went upstairs to lie down for a bit. M stayed put on the sofa. We both slammed into deep sleep.
And at 9 am, H (who, lucky for us, it turns out, was home sick from camp that day) called out that she heard a “BLEAT!” over the monitor.
We moved quickly. M was out the door first since he was at ground level. I think I remember he called up to me through the open bedroom window to tell me he was checking on her. I don’t remember a lot of those first few moments except that I was supposed to give her an injection when she went into labor and I was evidently a bit late for that. I somehow made it down the stairs and into my boots and out the door, when M came running back from the barn, yelling, “Baby goat!”
Albus was there to greet us as we came into the barn (we called him Primo for the first several days of his life); Willow had licked him clean and he was already struggling to get up onto his spindly legs.
We had about twenty minutes to marvel at Albus, when out came Lars (Secundo). Willow’s attention was still on Albus, so I opened Lars’ sack and we tried to wipe him clean with newspapers and rags. We snipped their umbilical cords, tied the cords off with dental floss, and dipped the cord ends and their perfect little hooves in iodine.
We put the babies in a cardboard box with bedding. We’d read that the kids would be tired and would likely sleep for awhile, even a couple hours, before trying to explore.
Nope. Not these babies. They were crawling out of the box within minutes.
I remember many disparate details about that day: The heat. The little baby bleats. Frustration when the kids struggled to nurse and then failed (Willow’s udder was so big and so low to the ground, the kids couldn’t figure it out for a couple of weeks, so we had to help them). Fresh, soft fur. The way two little goats could fit on one adult lap. The little, happy grunting sound Albus made as he fell asleep.
A whole year has passed. It’s a hot night, and all the goats are out, browsing the lush leaves or chewing cud in the cool run-in beneath the barn, dreaming their goaty dreams of broccoli stems and watermelon rinds.
Tonight we’ll sleep without a baby monitor on, and tomorrow their fresh little faces will greet me in the bright morning light of July. Lucky me.