the harder stuff

I’m trying to sort out my feelings about the last couple of days. We’ve had a confusing time. Fake Mom seemed to be in labor on Friday morning– she was having discharge and Anna witnessed her pushing, and then she ate hay for a bunch of hours. Eventually what we think was her vagina prolapsed, and Carmen pushed it back in and attempted to pull the lambs. However, everything was confusing– none of it was right in there, and our hypotheses about what was blocking the lambs were everything from a tumor to a tear in the vagina and Carmen actually having reached into the body cavity– outside the uterus. There were no clean answers, except for the fact that Carmen couldn’t reach the lambs. We called Jim to come over and put her down, because we felt there was no way she would survive whatever was to come. However, by the time he got there, she had kind of perked up again, and when we tried to walk her out of the barn, she had a ton of spunk and was surging around in our grips. So none of us felt comfortable with giving up on her. Now, a day and a half later, she is still doing alright. She is eating and nothing has prolapsed again, she isn’t bleeding. It’s super weird. And it is weird to continue in this limbo space.

When we were working with her, it was eerily reminiscent of that first lamb we pulled last year– me and Anna had her pinned up against a bale, we had Susan on speakerphone again, in many ways it felt the same. But it was also more complicated and worse– we don’t know what’s going on with her, and there was no lamb (alive or dead) at the end of it. Having briefly talked with the vet, there are a lot of outcomes that could happen yet. She could die of infection or sepsis (although we think if she were to get sepsis she would have already). She could go into labor later and prolapse again and die. She could give birth to healthy lambs. The lambs could mummify inside her. They could rot and fall into gross pieces that she will pass later. All of these are incredibly possible options.

Jim, our neighbor, hadn’t encountered anything like her, and he has been farming for I don’t even know, upwards of 50 years. Probably more. I’m not actually sure how old he is, but I think he’s been a farmer his entire life. He had an incredibly good attitude about it– and mentioned one of the best things about farming is you just keep learning. Something about “I thought i was done with school,” i don’t know.

I feel like I’m constantly getting glimpses of our farming future– of knowing that everything just keeps getting more complex. Developing more layers. Going deeper. Right now it feels like it is more confusing than anything, but we gotta keep the perspective that this too will just add layers of knowledge in our development in farming. Right now we are so young, so inexperienced, we can’t know what this will mean. Last year lambing made me feel revelations about life and farming, I felt like I started to get it, my resolve deepened. This year, starting the lambing season with a hard and confusing experience, we’re knocked back a bit. We don’t know much, but we’re doing our best.

I feel like I was ready to write an essay last February. I was fired up and fiesty about farming. I knew what I was doing and why. And this year, I feel like I am constantly being checked. I am so young, and it’s going to take a long time to get through that label, through that barrier of inexperience and self-doubt. I still feel fired up about what I am doing, but I don’t feel cocky. It’s all a struggle, but it’s worth it. We don’t know what we don’t know, and there are one million things that could go wrong at any given time.

But also life is pretty goddamn resilient. This ewe may die. She’s had a lot of infection risk and has got something real wrong inside. But the fact that she didn’t immediately just up and die– that she’s up and eating and chewing her cud– I think sometimes we forget that for a healthy animal, it’s harder to die than you think. Life wants life. A body wants to live. Hearts beat, lungs breathe. In and out. We eat and poop and sleep, all without trying too hard. It’s a goddamn miracle.

I have a feeling this is going to be a tough season. It’s already a hard winter, and we have a lot of old ewes that we should have gotten rid of last year. All these ole girls without ear tags, and there are some wide loads out there. We knew going in that it might be tough, and this weird beginning is just confirming that. But we’re gonna do it. Team midwife, the lambing collective. Whatever. We’ve got each other’s backs and we’re doing our best. That’s all.

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