Dispatches From A Bovine Midwife

☆ April 3, 2018

birth

Calving season has been intense this year and I’m either out midwifing cows or recovering from midwifing cows (I got rolled down a snowy hillside by a cow with PPD when I rescued her calf from her headbanging; it’s been a week since then, and all three of us are doing fine, and she is now a wonderful mother). So, I haven’t been on the computer much. I sent the following story to the Star Brand Beef newsletter group the day after the Spring Equinox and, since I don’t have a post prepared for this week, I’m sharing it here, too!

.   .   .

Last night, I said to Mike, “I feel like I got nothing accomplished today.” And he replied, “You saved a calf’s life, I’d say you had a pretty successful day.”

I’d spent most of my day squatting in the damp wind with binoculars, watching a heifer (first time mother) in labor. Sometimes, heifers need extra help, and sometimes, they ignore their calves at first. I knew the latter would not be an issue for Ixchel, the cow I was watching. She had been hovering around another cow’s calf while in the early stages of labor, licking it and mooing to it as if it were her own. She was ready to be a mother. But her labor was taking a long time, longer than usual, so I wanted to watch her closely without getting in her way.

Crouching in the dirt, not knowing if what I was facing was going to be beyond my level of expertise, my heart beat ever-more-nervously as Ixchel got closer to delivery. I had my cell phone tucked into the shaft of my muck boot in case I needed to call for backup. When the calf’s hooves emerged, I knew things were leaning in a positive direction because the calf was not breach. And I also realized why Ixchel’s labor had been more prolonged than usual – her water hadn’t broke, and her calf hadn’t burst through the amniotic sac. Her calf was being delivered while still inside the amniotic sac! In humans, this is called an “en caul” birth and is quite rare.

Once the calf’s front hooves were out (though still enclosed in the amniotic sac), Ixchel lay down and began pushing in a slow, steady rhythm. The moment the calf’s head and shoulders emerged, I dropped my binoculars in the dirt and sprinted over to Ixchel and tore open the amniotic sac with my hands. I cleared the membrane and fluid from around the calf’s nose and mouth just as Ixchel pushed again and the calf’s rib cage emerged – when this happens, the baby is compelled to take its first breath. And if this calf had done so while still enclosed in the amniotic sac, she would have suffocated or drowned. But happily, she took a big breath of air and, with one last push from Ixchel, slithered out, wide eyed and perky. Birth is so wild.

Ixchel immediately got up and mooed a lullaby to her new baby and began licking her off, licking and licking and mooing and mooing. I got no paperwork or office work done, but I got to spend the day where it mattered.

.   .   .

PS: For a full-circle experience, you can read the story of Fiona giving birth to Ixchel HERE.
PPS: You can sign up for the Star Brand Beef newsletter HERE.

Comments

15 Responses to “Dispatches From A Bovine Midwife”

  1. Barbara Sanchez
    April 3rd, 2018 @ 8:42 am

    Not only is the photo beautiful but the way you wrote the day’s event as well … it is truly your gift! While you may not have gotten office work done it is a day you will not forget! One of life’s treasured memories! Congratulations on the new calf!

  2. Claire Bock
    April 3rd, 2018 @ 8:55 am

    Loved this story as all your other wonderful adventures on the ranch.

  3. Steph in Oregon
    April 3rd, 2018 @ 8:59 am

    Ahh, what a great story. I agree with Mike. I can’t think of a more meaningful way to spend a day.

  4. Marg
    April 3rd, 2018 @ 8:59 am

    I started a new book……I think you win in the accomplishment category!

  5. Lindsay
    April 3rd, 2018 @ 9:21 am

    Beautiful. What a great way to spend your day. :)

  6. Rose
    April 3rd, 2018 @ 11:25 am

    Isn’t Ixchel one of the calves you wrote about last year? Who is her mom?

    Having been to many baby deliveries, now a retired NICU RN, I feel for you out in the snow. I’ve done a lot of waiting!

  7. mlaiuppa
    April 3rd, 2018 @ 11:30 am

    So Daisy has a great granddaughter now?

    Daisy-Fiona-Ixchel-new baby?

    Can’t wait for pics and naming.

    Given her birth maybe something along the lines of a mermaid?

  8. Rose
    April 3rd, 2018 @ 11:30 am

    My latest delivery is a foster cat who was really friendly before delivery. Now, as a mom of 5 kittens she swears at me whenever I go in the room. I’m now wearing Kevlar gloves and putting a barrier between her and me. I just finished a round of antibiotics from one of her claws that went deep.

    My vet says she’ll get better after they are weaned. Soon!

  9. wright1
    April 3rd, 2018 @ 11:31 am

    Mike had it right: you had a pretty productive day. Love your descriptions of rural life, which are all the more valuable in an increasingly urban culture.

  10. Barbara Parks
    April 3rd, 2018 @ 2:43 pm

    I think your great. I’m been following you for a long time. What happened to Frisco? I cried when I found out him, because I knew how much you loved him.Hang in there and keep living a good life.

  11. Chris
    April 4th, 2018 @ 12:33 pm

    Lovely post, as always. What is PPD?

  12. Holly
    April 5th, 2018 @ 10:49 am

    Wow Shreve..The awe of birth. You were there to step in to save a calves life. You must have felt so grateful yet delirious at the same time, that you were there. Mike was right. You accomplished so much by being there and at the ready. And the farmily grows yet again. You have such magical moments in your days. How blessed you are!!

  13. mj
    April 6th, 2018 @ 1:36 pm

    Making sure a new life is not snuffed out before it has a chance is really a wonderful accomplishment and should make for a fantastic day! Paperwork will always be there, but that little calf’s life wouldn’t have been if not for you.

  14. Vanessa
    April 13th, 2018 @ 6:26 am

    What a difference in life for you from years ago when you first moved to Wyoming. Would you have ever imagined you’d know what to do in such a critical moment?
    Every day I’m in awe of how your choices have enriched your life, of your love and compassion (and Mike’s) for the health and well being of the cows..and your bravery.
    P.S. what is PPD?

  15. Vanessa
    April 13th, 2018 @ 6:28 am

    PPD = postpartum depression?

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