Sometimes I just need to go in and help. There is likely a statistical probability that some of the times I have gone in have not been needed. I have had times where it just felt like labor was taking too long, and I needed to help. I haven't always been wrong. Most of the time, the ewe is so far into labor and struggling that she doesn't fit when my hand goes places hands aren't supposed to go.
I sympathize. I happened to me during Shannon's labor and I wanted to kick my OB in the face. It was not comfortable. But they usually don't fight back. The relief comes when the baby is born!
But usually when I do toss on the gloves to go in, I have found things that likely needed help. A lamb should come out with both front hooves and their little nose together. I have on occasion helped with a lamb that had one front leg back, their head arched back and even a baby that was breech.
I had been on high alert as we thought this sheep went into labor last Wednesday. On the barn camera, I kept seeing her laying down to push like she was in labor. I even gloved up and went out, as it appeared she had been in labor for over an hour, and it was time to pull. But when I got out there, gloves at the ready, she was just standing there. I decided to go in, and could only get 2 fingers into her cervix. This was not a ewe in labor, she was not properly dilated yet.
It took a few iterations for me to determine that though she was very very very pregnant - she was not in labor. She was having vaginal prolapses that were recovering on their own. The prolapse was what was making her feel like she had to push. Due to the cameras in my barn, we were able to keep an eye on her. We even rushed home from Thanksgiving dinner because I was so concerned about her, and saw the prolapse again. By the time we got home, she was fine again.
Fast forward to last night, as I was packing the sheep up for bed time, I saw that she had a large amount of mucus discharge. Yes, labor and delivery is gross. But I was able to get her into a separate stall with my other mama, Elektra. Knowing a snow storm was coming (which means babies were inevitable) I wanted to make sure her and the other babies were in a clean, warm stall, away from the rest of the crowd.
And so I watched on camera. I saw a few iterations of her laying down to push, and no real progress. Now with the night vision on the camera, I can't really see color, so I wasn't sure if the swelling I was seeing was baby or prolapse again. So I decided to go out.
This was not a ewe that was trying to lie down for labor. She was up and down, and pacing around and clearly uncomfortable. So I decided to get a halter on her to try and help hold her still. And I went in. I did find one hoof presenting, and the other was back, and the head was not aligned. So I got baby's head in the right position and pulled the legs forward. There was NOT a lot of room in there. For a big big mama who has given me triplets in the past, she's a rock star. But this baby was not progressing.
Usually if I can get the hooves and the head out, the rest of the baby comes easy. This baby got stuck with her rib cage in mama's birth canal. I really took a LOT of effort on my part to make progress with her. She was not moving and I did not want to hurt her. But I eventually got her out and mama started doing what mamas do. I had to remove the halter so she could lick her baby clean. It's really important that they bond with their littles.
I could see while she was cleaning baby, that the next one was coming. The water bag was slowly pushing out while she was talking to her babe. She didn't want to stop cleaning number one, but eventually the desire to push took over and she laid down a few times to push.
Her labor, though, was really weird. Usually, they brace against the ground and really push through their contractions. She was pushing in an abbreviated pattern, instead of good solid pushes, she was just bouncing through it. She also didn't like me getting too close. I would see the hooves present and then she would get up and go back to baby 1. Eventually she laid down, and I saw the hooves and the nose, but she seemed to be struggling. So I jumped in, I didn't even have to put my hand into the birth canal, I grabbed the front legs and encouraged the baby out. Once the head popped through, I kept gentle pressure on until the little boy was out! Then I let mama do her thing to clean them off.
As you can see in the video - this is a mama that has given me triplets. She was also HUGE and prolapsing prior to delivery. So I did one last invasive manuever and I went in while she was busy cleaning her babies to check for a third. She was empty! No third. Firmly bonded to both babies and both up and trying to nurse, I decided to leave and watch from the cameras and let her be done with the extra stress of me.
So in the end, I don't feel bad that I decided to go in. Two healthy babies and I figured out why she may have struggled with them. My average lamb birth weight is 9.5 lbs. And I usually don't get weights until the next morning when they have tummies full of milk. These two were 10.25 lbs for the ewe lamb and a whopping 14.5 lbs for the ram lamb! OUCHIE! As a data point, our biggest lamb ever was a ewe lamb born at 16 pounds, but she was a single. And mama got her out on her own! WOW!
Here are the newest tinies on the farm! Paprika and Tumeric!