Goatie actually was pregnant.
Some sort of goat herdsman’s intuition led Pre-Hubs to totally call it, too. Just last night he asked me if I thought her udder looked “big.” We looked at her, and I thought maybe it did look a little more noticeable than it used to, but I have no experience with breeding livestock so I really couldn’t say. PH was convinced. He even started Googling signs that goats show as they are about to give birth.
“Even her belly is way bigger than it was before!”
“Well yeah, have you seen how much there is to eat around here?”
“I dunno, Em. I’m starting to think she’s about to pop!”
I contacted Goatie’s owner, the one we were “borrowing” her from. He said he thought there was no way she could be pregnant as she had been away from his stud for so long.
We compared pictures of bagged-up udders to Goatie’s, and I definitely started to wonder, but pushed the thought aside. We went outside one last time to wish our little herd goodnight, and went to bed.
Early this morning, PH woke me up in a panic.
“Wake up!! Oh my gosh, I can’t believe this… GOATIE HAD A BABY!”
My heart skipped a beat.
“Goatie had a baby… but she didn’t make it.”
My heart thudded down into my chest. I gasped.
“GOATIE didn’t make it?! Or the baby didn’t make it??” I couldn’t decide which would be worse.
“The baby — the baby died, sweetie.”
My heart… ached.
I raced outside. Goatie was standing under the house with Dorothy, and just outside was a tiny, gray, lifeless little body. So small, you could have held her in one hand. The most delicate, doll-like hooves on itty-bitty legs curled up against her belly. Miniature, floppy ears on her precious head were begging to be caressed by a finger. Her body was cold. She had been delivered at least several hours earlier.
Her pretty, dark gray fur had been lovingly licked clean. Sweet Goatalina had cared for her kid the best she could.
I looked over at her, and burst into tears. “I’m so sorry we weren’t there for you.”
I have no idea if this angelic little baby could have been saved. If we had known more about breeding goats and the birthing process — if we could have known for certain that Goatie was about to kid — we would have done everything to be there for the birth and help her out if any problems were to arise. It would have been difficult considering Goatie’s aversion to human contact, but we sure would have tried. And of course, we’re now learning everything we can to be prepared for Dorothy’s lambing, at least.
I know I have to set aside the what-ifs. I just have to accept that there’s really nothing we could have done. We were not prepared for this, and even if we were, the outcome could have been the same. Maybe the baby was stillborn. Maybe there was something wrong with her. Maybe she was born premature. I’ve never witnessed an animal birth before. And I’d never seen a newborn goat, until meeting this darling little creature who we had to lay to rest.
A blessing in disguise
After sobbing for some time in a heavy cloud of emotional fog, mourning the shocking loss of this dear little baby we had no idea was coming, I began searching for what I could do to help our beloved Goatie. I’d been checking on her consistently, offering her her favorite fruit peels which she did not hesitate to take, and she seemed to be doing fine, thank God. But what about that swollen udder? I had to find out what my Goatie needed from me and if there was anything I could to do make her feel better. Maybe I would start to feel better myself.
My search led me to some online forums where members were advising someone in our same situation to milk their kid-less doe, at least for a while and then slowly allow her to “dry off,” to prevent mastitis.
Well, perhaps we could just continue to milk her then, I thought. These goat experts said it can help alleviate both physical and emotional symptoms for the mourning mama goat, and encourage bonding between goat and handler. Now that’s definitely something that could be good for us!
Only trouble is, I know Goatie isn’t just going to happily stand still and let me start squeezing on her down there. Actually, I just tried shortly before writing this — it’s definitely not a one-girl job with her. She really did not want my hand anywhere near down there. It was a struggle just to sneak one onto her collar to grab her long enough to snap a lead rope to it. She shied away from any attempt of mine to reach out to her, even just to rub her back and neck, despite my coaxing her with copious amounts of sweet feed. I let her eat from the bucket and just gently continued to try petting her.
I will make another attempt with PH, but it’s probably going to require using a stanchion, or milking stand, to get the job done. Thankfully, we’ve found a great tutorial from The Prairie Homestead to show us how to build one, which we’ll be doing as soon as possible.
So, hopefully, some good can come out of this tragic little story — we just might be able to get our fresh, raw milk we’ve been anxiously awaiting. Quite a bit sooner than we had thought. And that, along with a healthy mama Goatie, is something to be thankful for.
Thanks to everyone reading this story — it was therapeutic for me to put it out there. Have you ever had to experience the death of a newborn animal before? How did you handle it?