The first time I ever attempted to pull a lamb or kid during a dystocea was 2 months after I started working for the USDA. It was also Mother’s day, and my mom had [unofficially] tagged along for a tour of my new work place. I was also an freshman in undergrad. I had seen pictures of different presentations and I had seen normal parturition, but in other words was green to the art of “pulling.” It was a Saanen doe who already had one kid on the ground and the other kid’s feet were exposed from the vulva. I felt where the head was supposed to be and it wasn’t there. The power of the imagination is downright creepy sometimes. As I felt around, my mind envisioned what my eye’s couldn’t. Some sort of deformed, poor ghastly kid was in there…maybe blocking another kid from entering the birth canal. Extra legs possibly, maybe the head was on the wrong end…maybe I had the wrong end. All I could see was two legs protruding, offended and drawing back when I touched them. I will admit, the panic was ever present.
As a research project, each animal is very valuable and precious…and in my mind, failure to save this doe and kid was effectively failing the USDA, the university, the researcher, myself and all goat-kind. No pressure.
My mom, on the otherhand, was playing the enthusiastic soccer mom role on the sidelines. She thought this was the most amazing thing ever to happen. And on mother’s day, she emphasized. She even offered tips, advice, instruction and criticism…she herself, as experienced at pulling kids as I was.
Only one thing to do. I dialed the vet school.
The 15 minutes it took for the resident to arrive was time I spent alerting my boss, the researchers and whoever else needed to be alerted. It was time well spent because answering questions did not give me a chance to envision for uterine monsters. When the doctor did show up, she was direct and assertive. She administered an epidural, took two seconds to position the kid and out it came. Four legs, one head (in a normal place) and alive. Not at all what my imagination had painted as a picture.
All in all, seemed like 3 minutes. I was mostly relieved the kid was alive, but I remember a distinct sting of defeat or failure. Whether or not the vet sensed this, she assured me the epidural had been key. The contractions were just too strong for me to really get around to the kid.
Fast forward 7 years and I’m on a sheep ranch moving from one jug to the next, pulling lambs in all sorts of presentations. It reminds me of how far I’ve come, and yet reminds me that the veterinary field is a field of constant learning. Some of that learning is painful, some of the learning is fun…but just stepping back to look at the big picture is important. It serves as a reminder that if you’re focused on your footing, you might miss where you’re going.
My mom tells this story from time-to-time. I haven’t thought of it in years, but was reminded of it when I was freezing cold, covered in mud and fetal membranes pulling lambs on my previous rotation