Under The Moonlight

☆ July 21, 2014

leila at midnight

On Wednesday, Daisy looked like she was getting very close to calving.  I checked on her a dozen times throughout the day; each time, all she wanted was more hay and she didn’t show any of the telltale calving signs – the cocked tail, the mama moo, licking her belly. Mike and I went out to dinner and when we got home, I was ready to crash – I had been getting up at 3 and 4 am all week to catch up on office work – but first I went to check on Daisy one more time. And lo and behold, her tail was cocked, she was licking her belly, and mooing the mama moo. No sleep for me!

It was obviously still very early in the process, so I laid down on Baby who was chewing his cud in the adjoining corral and let her be for about an hour. Towards the end of that time, she lay down and really began to push, but then she stood up again. I went over to check things out, and saw a hoof sticking out (this is normal). But I was looking at the heart-shaped bottom of the hoof rather than the shiny smooth top. It was a backwards calf, again. And my vet was out of town.

I cried. I did. I was just so frustrated and sad and tired of everything being so hard and heartbreaking. The last calf Daisy had was backwards and though it was born alive, it died five days later. And the whole thing was extremely hard on Daisy, physically – it took her over a year to recover and get pregnant again.

I called Mike and by the time he got to the corral, the hoof had receded back into Daisy (this is also normal), so we gave her time alone to walk around and get further into labor while we figured out a plan.  Mike has pulled dozens of calves over the years – sometimes a heifer needs assistance with a normal birth or a calf is too large for a cow to do it on her own. But he has always taken backwards calves to the vet because they are potentially fatal for the calf. And my vet happened to be in Colorado.

The danger with a backwards calf is that the head comes out after the umbilical cord breaks – and when that happens, the baby is compelled to take a breath. If it takes a breath while its head is still inside, it will suffocate. When pulling a normal calf, you can take your time throughout the pull (within reason) because the head and front legs come out first. With a backwards calf, you have to power through an already awkward maneuver to get the chest and head out as fast as possible.

Mike did not want to pull this calf. He was so concerned that he would fail and the calf would die, so he started brainstorming this person or that person to call to come do it, until finally I said, “Mike, you know the mechanics by heart. You’re physically in better shape than any of those people. I trust you more than I trust any of them. And I’d rather have something go wrong with you than go wrong with one of them. We’ll do it together, and I believe we can do it.”

And so we went up to Mike’s house to get the calf pulling equipment, which consists of a small chain that loops around the two presenting feet and a large grooved bar that hooks to the chain and braces against the cows hindquarters. Once the chain is attached to the calf’s feet and the bar, you ratchet out the calf. It sounds barbaric, but I think it’s less gnarly than forceps (which happens to be how I was delivered).

While Mike was gathering the gear, I saw the top of the moon peeking up over the mountain. Since Frisco died, I’ve been able to feel him when I see the moon (and only then). As the moon rose into sight, I asked Frisco to please help us. To help the calf, to help Daisy, to help Mike and me.

Back at the barn, we did a dry run with my wrists in the chain to make sure the calf puller was working perfectly. I gave Mike one last pep talk. We put Daisy in the head catch to stabilize her, and got the chains around the calf’s hind legs which were now both visible. Mike started ratcheting, slowly at first and then quickly after the hips, and when the calf’s torso emerged, I grabbed it in a bear hug and pulled hard with Mike and the calf slid out – alive!

We laid her head-down on a slight decline and I immediately suctioned out her nose and mouth. Mike brought over the oxygen tank we keep on hand for emergencies and while I held the oxygen mask over the calf’s nose, Mike let Daisy out of the head catch and she rushed over to lick and lick and moo to her new baby. After a few minutes on oxygen, the calf moved her head away from the mask, clearly done with it and ready to sit up as Daisy licked her dry. Soon, the calf was trying to stand, and licked her lips and the air, ready for a teat. Wobbly, as newborns are, and with extraordinarily long legs, it was a bit tricky for her to grab a teat – she was so tall, and Daisy’s full udder hung so low! With a bit of assistance from Mike and me to guide and stabilize her, she had her first meal at 2am. We all were feeling very happy and ready to rest.

I was still nervous, since Daisy’s last calf was born alive but didn’t make it, but I’m not nervous anymore. Leila (which means night in Arabic) is so full of life! She bucks and hops and races in circles around the corral and runs up to me for for kisses and pets. She’s gorgeous – proper pictures coming soon – and though she appeared pure black when she was wet and slippery, she is actually every color. Her hair is black, gray, silver, brown, and red. She looks like obsidian, like oxidized silver, like moonlight.


96 Responses to “Under The Moonlight”

  1. Marg
    July 21st, 2014 @ 7:42 am

    I’m glad that hurdle is past and you can relax until the next crisis lol. Your karma seems to be dealing with a series of tests and so far so good. Congrats on the new babe and hugs for Daisy,the most beautiful cow ever!

  2. Steph
    July 21st, 2014 @ 7:46 am

    Beautiful! Congratulations!

  3. lenje
    July 21st, 2014 @ 7:51 am

    Congrats, so happy to read this. And Laila is a beautiful name :)

  4. Susie B.
    July 21st, 2014 @ 8:15 am

    Life is a wonderment. Give her a middle name — Francesca — for her guardian angel. Welcome Laila. Your life will be blessed.

  5. Phyllis
    July 21st, 2014 @ 8:19 am

    Thanx for sharing. Soooo pleased with the happy ending. Keep pics coming!

  6. Kristan
    July 21st, 2014 @ 8:23 am

    I’m in tears, so nervous and excited and happy for your farmily. All the best. <3

  7. Scotty
    July 21st, 2014 @ 8:25 am

    nods to happy ending. moonlight.

  8. Amy
    July 21st, 2014 @ 8:36 am

    Sweet girl, sweet Daisy! So happy you’ve got a feisty babe on your hands! You all deserve a little fun and levity.

  9. Janey
    July 21st, 2014 @ 8:46 am

    Sounds like a White Buffalo Calf exhibiting it’s color progression all in one fell swoop.

  10. Elaine ~ TX
    July 21st, 2014 @ 8:53 am

    CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL!!! I have happy tears in my eyes reading the story and just knowing that Frisco is watching over the farmily too!!
    Love and hugs to all!!

  11. Julie F.
    July 21st, 2014 @ 9:03 am

    Brava dear lady….beautifully written, words grab my heart and tears are there…

  12. Mere
    July 21st, 2014 @ 9:08 am

    That made me tear up! Mostly that you and Mike are such a great team.

  13. Liza
    July 21st, 2014 @ 9:09 am

    Congratulations on the new addition! So happy everything worked out.

  14. bekka
    July 21st, 2014 @ 9:16 am

    This is why I read your post, the highs as well as the lows. You reflect life and the miracles that happen with this life. Add some faith and you will pull threw. You and Mike are amazing people.

  15. Catherine Deshayes
    July 21st, 2014 @ 9:24 am

    Farm life is no picnic !!!!!!

  16. hello haha harf
    July 21st, 2014 @ 9:34 am

    crying tears at my desk: tears for gentle frisco, tears for the beautiful daisy and leila.
    so much love to you and mike. congratulations on a job well done.
    welcome to the world, sweet leila!

  17. Hrtsmom
    July 21st, 2014 @ 9:40 am

    Congratulations on the new farmily member! She is a beauty.

  18. Alyxx
    July 21st, 2014 @ 9:50 am

    Congratulations to the family. Such beauty, like so many things – born through trial. I’m glad you went with your instinct on this – you and Mike are quite a team!!!

  19. Janet M
    July 21st, 2014 @ 9:56 am

    Congratulations to Daisy on her beautiful newborn and to you and Mike for helping her.

  20. Jenny C
    July 21st, 2014 @ 10:05 am

    Whew… just WHEW! Great job, all four of you!

    This picture is amazing – Daisy and Leila so beautiful.

    Welcome, Leila, welcome.

  21. Sheri Nugent
    July 21st, 2014 @ 10:05 am

    Well done, Shreve! Way to be there for Daisy and Leila.

  22. Katbalu
    July 21st, 2014 @ 10:07 am

    What a lovely story!!! It brought tears to my eyes. I am s glad the ending was happy! Bravo to you and Mike:)

  23. Robin
    July 21st, 2014 @ 10:22 am

    What a great narrative. I am right there with you, in the barn, under the moonlight, feeling the spirts watch over us all…..

  24. Linda Watson
    July 21st, 2014 @ 10:27 am

    Crying. Crying because of all of the love and good there is in the world, appearing through people like you and Mike and the farmily. Bless you!

  25. Amy
    July 21st, 2014 @ 10:32 am

    Have you ever seen the Nat Geo show The Incredible Dr. Pol? (Not that I imagine you have a ton of free time for TV.) Maybe this is standard practice, but it’s the only time I’ve seen it, being a cityslicker. If he’s pulled a calf and it’s not breathing even after suctioning, he picks it up by its hind legs and swings it back and forth, then pretty forcibly lands it on the ground to compress its lungs. If that still doesn’t work, he tosses a bucket of water right in the poor, stunned baby’s face, which always works. It definitely accomplishes the goal, but it’s hard to watch that seconds-old calf get put through what looks like a fraternity hazing!

  26. Janine
    July 21st, 2014 @ 10:35 am

    Wonderful!!! You and Mike are truly soul mates.

  27. kls2686
    July 21st, 2014 @ 10:41 am

    So glad this story had a happy ending! Shreve, major props to you for having the balls to take such a risk on getting this baby out, after everything you’ve gone through this year! I’m sure Frisco was looking down on this new little baby! I hope she brings all of you lots of joy and love :)

  28. wright1
    July 21st, 2014 @ 10:43 am

    So the Farmily grows. So glad things worked out as they did; you and Mike are a fine team.

  29. Barbara
    July 21st, 2014 @ 11:14 am

    The look on that little calf is precious: “I’m helpless. You WILL take care of me, won’t you?”

  30. Rose Marie B
    July 21st, 2014 @ 11:23 am

    On a grouchy Monday with my office door closed to keep all my needy co-workers at bay…through teary eyes all I can think after I read this lovely post is…thank you Frisco and Hallelujah!

  31. bonnie
    July 21st, 2014 @ 11:26 am

    i’m so glad for you all that your courage, love, and determination has been so beautifully rewarded!

  32. ClaireB
    July 21st, 2014 @ 11:35 am

    Congrats to all on the new arrival. I love these stories and give you all kiddos for your strength and kindness to your farmily.

  33. mj
    July 21st, 2014 @ 11:54 am

    Welcome Leila! You couldn’t have a better “farmily” to live with. You will be surrounded by loving, caring, nurturing animals and people who will just about move earth and sky for you! Congratulations to all involved! Beautiful and moving description of it all. Glad Frisco was there to lend his support too.

  34. Lorrian
    July 21st, 2014 @ 12:05 pm

    Congratulations!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh so happy for you and the farmily. Thank you for sharing the joy and the sorrow with us, Shreve.

  35. TB
    July 21st, 2014 @ 12:14 pm

    Congratulations to the whole farmily on the new addition!!! Leila is beautiful!

  36. Patricia Long
    July 21st, 2014 @ 12:28 pm

    Shreve, I love the story of Leila’s birth especially when you bring in the help of Frisco in the moonlight! I believe he was there in spirit and helped you and Mike bring about this successful delivery. I am happy for Daisy who came thru so well and immediately mothered her baby. I love the name Leila which in its meaning is perfect for this little calf that you describe so beautifully as being obsidian and silver like the moonlight. I love that Leila is so happy and active and full of love. This is one crisis that you and Mike overcame with real magnificent intent!

  37. Jeff
    July 21st, 2014 @ 12:40 pm

    Congratulations on the new arrival! Another beautifully written account of life with the farmily. Thanks for sharing it with us.
    Can’t wait to see more photos of the baby.

  38. Steph in Oregon
    July 21st, 2014 @ 12:40 pm

    I’m so happy all went well.
    Thank you Frisco.

  39. Luci
    July 21st, 2014 @ 12:44 pm

    Congratulations! So happy for Daisy…and you!

  40. Liane B
    July 21st, 2014 @ 12:44 pm

    Happy tears. Good job ALL of you. Welcome to the world, Leila.

  41. Rebecca
    July 21st, 2014 @ 12:46 pm

    Beautiful story. Congratulations to the new momma and to you and Mike! I’m so glad you still feel Frisco and I love that you asked him for help. I have an old gray cat who passed several years ago and I’ve often asked for his help looking after the others when there’s been some sort of crisis. It’s very comforting.

  42. Karen
    July 21st, 2014 @ 12:57 pm

    With your hearts in your throats you two did it! I am so happy for all involved… looks like moonlight: sublime.

  43. Regine
    July 21st, 2014 @ 2:03 pm

    You are both so amazing! Very happy for all of you! Enjoy a well deserved rest!

  44. Kelly
    July 21st, 2014 @ 2:08 pm

    Amazing and beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing with us Shreve!

  45. Meg
    July 21st, 2014 @ 3:11 pm

    Be still my heart! Here I sit again with another amazing story, holding back tears at work. So happy to hear this little life was not halted too soon. Beautiful name, thank you for sharing Shreve =)

  46. Anna
    July 21st, 2014 @ 3:24 pm

    So glad for a happy ending … kudos to you and Mike for your strength, courage and belief. Welcome Leila.

  47. sybil
    July 21st, 2014 @ 3:57 pm

    Crying. Love to you ALL. I’ve watched innumerable calf pulls on various vet shows but never knew the mechanics behind it or why it was so dangerous.
    So happy. XO

  48. Ailsa
    July 21st, 2014 @ 4:46 pm

    Hallelujah is all I can say. You managed your fear, Mike’s fear and Daisy’s dilemma. Bravo to you both :c) and welcome to the world Leila.

  49. Ailsa
    July 21st, 2014 @ 4:47 pm

    …oh and thank you Frisco.

  50. Betsy
    July 21st, 2014 @ 5:02 pm

    So very, very glad that it all turned out well. I’ve gone through that twice now, and neither of the calves made it. It’s nice to get that happy ending.

  51. Marianne
    July 21st, 2014 @ 6:19 pm

    Congrats! So glad for the happy ending for all of you.

  52. kay
    July 21st, 2014 @ 8:22 pm

    thanks for this beautiful story, and the reminder of connections

  53. Laura
    July 21st, 2014 @ 9:30 pm

    great name! after your gorgeous ‘star’ Maia, then Jupiter and now Leila….all things beautiful from the heavens….

  54. Robin
    July 21st, 2014 @ 9:49 pm

    You made my day!

  55. Heatherface
    July 21st, 2014 @ 11:09 pm

    I can’t wait for color photos!

  56. Phyllis Schmidt
    July 21st, 2014 @ 11:26 pm

    Oh what a wonderful description of the whole thing and the new baby.

  57. Maggie
    July 22nd, 2014 @ 12:10 am

    Oh Shreve what a story! I am so happy a potentially awful situation turned out so well and Leila is happy and healthy! What an awesome story to read tonight :)

  58. Melissa
    July 22nd, 2014 @ 4:39 am

    What a wonderful story!! Amazing and courageous and…just wonderful!!! Congrats to Daisy for such a beautiful calf. Congrats to you, Shreve and Mike for having the guts to get that baby born! Sweet Frisco’s love was shining down with the moonlight too. Another lucky addition to your Farmly!! Much love to you all!! <3

  59. Deborah
    July 22nd, 2014 @ 7:10 am

    Heartwarming story; I could feel the fear and tension and then the joy of another successful addition to the farmily. Congratulations to you and Mike for doing what needed to be done, as well as for little Leila.

  60. torre
    July 22nd, 2014 @ 7:18 am

    what a wonderful story – you and Mike are fabulous – that sounds like a hard delivery. congratulations to you and Daisy on a beautiful calf – she looks big!

  61. Judy
    July 22nd, 2014 @ 7:41 am

    Tears in my eyes, thanks for the beautiful story, you’ve made my week. Congratulations to all!

  62. carol
    July 22nd, 2014 @ 8:18 am

    Your writing is so clear, flows like a river and is down to the bone with this story. I/we/your readers were there in the telling. You’ve got some very special creatures. Love feeling Frisco in the rising moon.

  63. Joy
    July 22nd, 2014 @ 8:58 am

    Beautiful story! Tears of joy for you all! <3

  64. Marm
    July 22nd, 2014 @ 9:04 am

    How wonderful! Cow-gratulations!

  65. Holly
    July 22nd, 2014 @ 9:26 am

    I was in tears as I read this post..I am so very happy, everything worked out. You and Mike are the best. I had pictures in my mind as I was reading, and praying that the end would be good. And it was. God bless you both, and Daisy and Leila. How wonderful to have another member of the farmily….Happy tears.

  66. Tracy
    July 22nd, 2014 @ 9:58 am

    Nice job Shreve, both in the telling and the actual event. Everyone felt like they were there with you.

  67. Nancy
    July 22nd, 2014 @ 11:14 am

    Yay Daisy, Leila, Mike and Shreve!!!! So glad for
    a happy ending this time. And of course, a special thanks to sweet Frisco, wherever he may be.

  68. Deanna
    July 22nd, 2014 @ 11:26 am

    I was holding it together til I got to the part about Frisco. Then I lost it. I’m SO HAPPY with this wonderful ending. You and Mike and Daisy are the best CowMoms & CowDad.

  69. Theresa Szpila
    July 22nd, 2014 @ 1:06 pm

    Welcome to the world, little Leila!

    Congratulations to Shreve, Mike, and not least, Daisy for bringing this beautiful young life into the world.

    Thanks, Frisco for sending strength and support from above.

    Sending blessings to all, and great big hugs, too.

    (And I agree, a middle name for Leila is called for, both to honor Frisco and to let the world know that he is her “totem” and designated protector. Leila Francesca, here’s to you!

  70. lisa
    July 22nd, 2014 @ 1:33 pm

    mazel tov on the arrival of leila! she is so beautiful. so happy for daisy, you, mike, and the rest of farmily! xo

  71. m.v.
    July 22nd, 2014 @ 1:40 pm

    Leila Francesca Moonbeam.

  72. mlaiuppa
    July 22nd, 2014 @ 2:21 pm

    Frisco was certainly looking down on you all.

    With Leila’s coloring….is Sir Baby the Daddy?

    With Leila, Fiona and Daisy you now have chocolate, strawberry and vanilla.

    Daisy has certainly come a long way embracing motherhood. But she really needs to slow down and not be in such a hurry; give the calf a change to turn around and face forward.

    Thanks to Mike for being a brave para-vet and to you, Shreve, for keeping a level head and making sure everyone was there in place doing what needed to be done to give this calf the best chance possible.

    Sounds like she is a feisty little girl with a big personality.

    Leila Francesca Moonbeam. Yes, such a cow needs three names.

  73. Janet in Cambridge MA
    July 22nd, 2014 @ 3:03 pm

    I’m so glad Frisco in the moonlight was there to help all of you through this.

  74. Felyne
    July 22nd, 2014 @ 3:46 pm

    @mlaiuppa *In chic voice* It’s Neapolitan, Darling!

  75. Eileen Fritz
    July 22nd, 2014 @ 5:42 pm

    So emotional……I’m so happy for all of you…especially Daisy and Leila! Congrats.

  76. Yvonne
    July 22nd, 2014 @ 6:13 pm

    What a great story and a good example of faith. Congratulations!

  77. TomT
    July 22nd, 2014 @ 7:16 pm

    Beautiful story with a happy ending. Yay! Looking forward to pics.

  78. Ellen
    July 22nd, 2014 @ 9:48 pm

    Wow! I am so happy for you. The two of you are truly remarkable1

  79. Sandy G.
    July 22nd, 2014 @ 10:44 pm

    Wow! Wonderful. Kudos to all! Loved hearing about this beautiful birth and renewal of life!

  80. Rose
    July 23rd, 2014 @ 12:07 am

    Congratulations, Daisy, Shreve, and Mike. I’m so glad you got a live one. I’m a retired NICU nurse, I’ve been to many deliveries, for high risk babies,. Most of them came out good, but I was always praying, please let it be a live one. And most of them were!

    Shreve, forceps work well in the right hands. Just like you did with this calf, you used the tools you needed.

  81. Kris
    July 23rd, 2014 @ 5:19 am

    Congratulations!!! And well done, too. I know (from lambing) how hard and heart-wrenching the awkward presentations can be. Mike and you did an amazing job and your description made me feel like I was there, and rejoicing along with you.

  82. Rosemarie Mendes
    July 23rd, 2014 @ 6:59 am

    WOW!!! Congratulations. The hard work and caring touch paid off. I almost felt I was there watching the whole process. You and Mike are very dear.

  83. shreve
    July 23rd, 2014 @ 7:51 am

    R ~ To be sure! I didn’t mean that as a dig – they got me out :)

  84. Bev
    July 23rd, 2014 @ 9:24 am

    Welcome Laila! So glad mom and baby are fine.

  85. debbie lee
    July 23rd, 2014 @ 10:09 am

    Congratulations Daisy and Shreve. Fantastic news, look forward to pictures x

  86. Molly
    July 23rd, 2014 @ 11:53 am

    Congratulations! Who’s the daddy?

  87. Ana
    July 23rd, 2014 @ 12:21 pm

    Congratulations!! What wonderful news! I am so overcome with joy and relief for you and your beautiful farmily.
    Thank you for sharing yourself and your life so generously with us.

  88. Janet in Cambridge MA
    July 23rd, 2014 @ 5:51 pm

    For those of you who want to see what the equipment looks like and works (that Shreve refers to), here is a youtube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oxjj1Ue-aXE.

    Be forewarned that the cow is in some discomfort, but according to the information, she and the calf are now fine.

  89. mlaiuppa
    July 23rd, 2014 @ 6:17 pm

    Feylene. Yes, I know. I just wanted to make it clear.

    The Neapolitan Cows. (Not to be confused with the cows of Naples who I am sure are also very lovely.)

  90. Cristina S
    July 23rd, 2014 @ 8:41 pm

    Congratulations to Daisy and the entire Farmily!!! You and Mike deserve an honorary Vet degree. That is great teamwork from all three of you! So happy to know that Daisy’s calf is doing well. She is such a good momma.

    On another note, this was such a suspenseful post, it has been a while since I read something wanting to know the conclusion but at the same time not wanting it to end!

  91. Karen
    July 24th, 2014 @ 7:32 am

    Congratulations, Shreve! I’m so happy for you and the whole farmily!

  92. Holly
    July 24th, 2014 @ 7:54 am

    Congratulations! She is a beautiful, sweet little thing. :)

  93. Janet in NYC
    July 27th, 2014 @ 7:36 pm

    What a great story! A page-turner, in fact. Beautiful calf and Daisy looks so proud. Congratulations to all of you on the birth of Leila

  94. Nancy
    July 29th, 2014 @ 11:15 am

    Leila is such a beauty! So very glad there is

    such a happy ending!!!!!

  95. montanarose
    August 7th, 2014 @ 11:26 pm

    I’ve been away for awhile so missed the announcement of the blessed event. Congratulations to all, and welcome to the world little Leila Francesca.

    Shreve, can you imagine going back in time — say, ten to fifteen years ago — and reading a story like this and saying “Yep; I can totally see myself doing that”? You’ve come a long way, girl: and just think how many humans and animals are better for your journey from here to there (and that includes me as a reader). Thanks for all you do in the world.

  96. montanarose
    August 7th, 2014 @ 11:27 pm

    Oooops, make that “there to here” in my previous comment.

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