In honor of my 30th Birthday I am sharing a throwback piece I wrote a year ago when life was a little different……
My newest life adventure revolves around a small local farm that has a flock of sheep. The month of March has brought on the Lambing Season. Lambs have been arriving in multiples on a regular basis. I came home from work to find a Lamb in my Living Room. The farmer I rent from has been back at the farm to supervise the lambing. For the most part lambs are brought into this world through the hard labor of their mother and little human intervention is necessary. Unfortunately we have been plagued with cold, wet weather, which does not bode well for lambs arriving into the world. When I came home to find this lamb in the living room and the farmer working to revive it, the tired baby was on the brink of hypothermia. Now, we must remember that I grew up with a mother for a veterinarian and I have been nursing baby animals back to life since I was a child.
Spurred by instinct I quickly began heating pop bottles with warm water to act as an incubator. The lamb was wrapped in towels and placed over a heating register on the floor along with two warm water bottles. Babies of any kind require physical contact, warmth and nutrition to survive. This little one was already lacking all three. Its ears, mouth and tiny hooves were stone cold. What could I do? Do you just wait and hope that with a little bit of heat it will begin to pull out of its hypothermic state? My years of experience and natural extinct said No! I began rubbing its tiny little body and talking to it for the next 2 hours. Providing constant physical contact to a baby trying to survive reminds it that it has not entered the world alone. Essentially, you are saying, no one has abandoned you, we are here to make sure you flourish. This is a task that requires patience, diligence and hard work. People often underestimate the power of touch and verbal reassurance….especially as it relates to animals.
You might be asking, how does this happen? How does a lamb go from being fresh out the oven to in peril? Well, this is part of the risk of being born outside not to mention the natural order of things. If you have ever watched a National Geographic documentary you will learn that nature is not always warm and fuzzy. Nature can be harsh, unfair and a little bit cruel. Lambs that are born when it is cold and wet outside often need a little extra help along the way. That is where, we as people come into play, as the guardians of animals.
Sure enough as time ticked on the lamb began responding ever so slightly. First its body didn’t feel quite so cold, then you could start to see blood flow back to its ears. Upon putting my finger in its mouth to test for a suckling reflex, I noticed more and more the lamb becoming cognizant and searching for a food source. This is where tube feeding comes into play. Armed with a large syringe and a small orange tube attached, I gently opened its mouth and inserted the tube down its throat so its tiny little body could gain the formula it needed to keep going. While doing this, you also have to balance its head and neck upright so the lamb does not choke. It is a bit of a balancing act with a touch of patience.
As the lamb laid there, shivering and contorted into a pretzel, I continued talking to it and rubbing the sides of its face. I must admit I also conducted a little internet and book research since the world of lambs is new to me. I discovered that lambs commonly battle chills and eventually hypothermia if not caught in time. When they are too cold they begin to shiver then lay with their neck twisted up and folded into its body. This is a typical physical reaction to their body being too cold. As I sat with this lamb, talking and rubbing it, I sent out a silent plea to the universe, Do Not Let This Lamb Die, I Refuse! There are times in life where silent pleas are necessary and often help. I have enough animal medical experience to know that this little guy had a long fight ahead.
Sure enough after what seemed like an eternity he slowly began to open his eyes! We achieved the first signs of becoming alert. I was ecstatic, but knew we still had a ways to go. Armed with my experience I didn’t begin to breathe a sign of relief just yet. As he become more alert, I tested his suckling reflex again. It was becoming stronger. It was time for another syringe feeding. This time he fed quite well and downed the whole syringe. Yet another positive sign! I cheered him on. Told him how important it was that he continue to fight for his life. Seems a little silly, but it does make a difference.
After this feeding, I checked his body temperature once again. It was steadily rising, ears becoming warmer, more blood flow, overall body was shivering less and less. He slowly was unraveling himself from his contorted pretzel position. True progress! I made the decision that he was no longer on the brink of life or death. And so he slept and slept.
After a sold hour of sleeping something miraculous happened! I decided it was time to truly test his physical ability. So I unraveled him from his towel cocoon. Once unraveled I set him on all four hooves, standing, and helped him balance in this position. Sure enough after only a few seconds he was standing on his own!
This was cause for a celebration. Only a few hours before he was almost dead….stone cold, poorly beating heart, laying there, struggling to survive.
As he gained confidence he started walking around the living room…..even attempting to Baa. Which I must say is quite adorable. Being on wood floors he was a little like Bambi on ice. But sure enough he was standing and walking. HOORAY!!!! For some silly reason he decided to lay under the small wood stove in the living room which meant cramming himself in between the floor and the bottom of the wood stove. The wood stove was not on mind you. He must have decided that wasn’t very comfortable and after hearing the sound of my voice decided to lay at bottom of my feet, much like my dogs do when I sit on the couch. There he slept happy and content for most of the night. Thinking in his little lamb brain that I was his mother. He stayed inside until the morning to assure he was strong enough to go back to the barn with his sheep mom. I will never forget this emotional adventure. I am glad that nurture triumphed over nature that night.This is my story I am choosing to share. This is my contribution to empowering women. Make a $30 Empowerment Investment in honor of women daring to be different. Women farmers have a special place in my heart and someday I hope to be brave enough to have a farm of my own. As MIFFS would say, Rise Up – Dig In!
Proceeds from the 30 in 30 campaign will benefit the Women’s Center of Greater Lansing and Michigan Food and Farming Systems. Both of these organizations work with women to remove barriers and help them overcome an obstacle just like the little lamb did.