Thursday, March 13, 2008

From Depths of Woe

From Depths of Woe I Cry To You, Lord Hear my Supplication!

I've seen this limpness, this weakness, this poor edematic condition, the weak, gasping breaths and 'ma s' once before and the memory cuts my heart like a knife - ten minutes after that, I held a lifeless kid in my arms.

That death was the result of both genetic defect and sheer carelessness. The kid had been born deformed and weak, folded pasterns and an overshot jaw set in an enlarged skull. We had named him P. J - 'Prince Jumbo' - because of his 'gi-normous' size and mentally retarded movements. Unfortunately, in the scramble to feed all the other kids my youngest siblings overlooked the fact that P. J wasn't actually drinking his milk. Because of his overshot jaw, the milk flowed out of the bottle and trickled down his neck, not down his throat. By the time the caprine oversight noticed his problem , four days of dehydration had taken its toll and he was a limp, emanciated, recumbent mass gasping for air and almost comatose. Immediately Dad produced the tube and we trickled the vital milk down his dry, starving throat. But even as I watched Dad feed the weak languid young creature, I suddenly realized in my heart that he was dying before my eyes. No amount of food would ever restore him. His vacant eyes plainly spoke to the fact that he had despairingly relinquished the will to live. He wasn't fighting death. I wept over that black soft mass of skin and bones; though siblings and I think even a parent assured me that he would be all right, my heart spoke differently. Checking his box before the wood stove ten minutes later, I found to my torment that my heart had not played me false.

Furiously, I berated myself for his death. I had not watched the kid feeding. True, I was milking three - four does during feeding time, but I ought to have questioned, checked up on the amount each kid received instead of trusting to my siblings, since I was barn manager after all. I promised myself that as far as in me lay, I would never again be the cause of needless, pointless death to one of the creatures God had entrusted to my care. When you are responsible for the death of a little creature whom you ought to have cared for, your heart is twisted in such agony, such remorse, such a thirst for a second chance. I longed to scream, to plead for a second chance, a new opportunity: my Lord told me I was forgiven but my heart taunted, mocked, tortured and condemned me, saying that there was no forgiveness for refusing the instruction of my conscience to the point that a baby died. Eventually, I pushed this memory aside, archived it for future reference in a nice dark skeleton closet along with two box turtles I had also killed by my neglect and a giant rabbit whom I ought to have cared for better.

Now I helplessly see the same scene replayed - with a different twist.

I'm exhausted. I came home hoping to be able to relax, to enjoy the Seder with my Grandparents, cousin and Stuckwisches before plunging into the 8 plus essays that I have to complete over the course of the next three weeks. But God arranged things differently. I don't know why. I'm almost glad that I don't. Trust is painful, yet bittersweet.
As soon as I dumped my school work in my room, Anna yelled that Raspberrie, not Violet was in active labor - already pushing in fact.
Throwing on some older clothes, I incredulously headed down only to find that my sister was correct. But Raspberrie never delivers early and this was a whole week before her due date! Another odd thing was that her udder hadn't yet filled enough for the twins I was expecting from her. Never-the-less, there was no denying that at least one birth was imminent. I envisioned showing delighted young Stuckwisches a model delivery, complete with wild, "ma-ing", rambunctious kids struggling to their feet and walking with in a few minutes of delivery, a perky, motherly mother mothering her kids, and lots of soft fluffy fun.

We dutifully gave Raspberrie sugar water to ward of Ketosis, then I settled down to wait for the appearance of head, hoof, or membrane. I should have known that something was not right. Raspberrie labored at least 2 hours. Down, push, up again, walk some, lie down, push a few minutes, walk again, squat. Clearly she was having trouble positioning the kids for delivery. Though bright eyed when standing, after each hard push she would curl her neck, close her eyes and rest her head against her shoulder to shut out the world for a few moments before rising and beginning again.

She finally presented a bag, then a hoof, then a head. (you can tell it's a head if you can feel teeth!) The wee one arrived at the same time as Stuckwisches. But he (later we realized it was a she) felt extremely limp. No maaa's no struggling. No forceful coughs. Nothing. Just an extremely small blinking little doeling.
We dried her off, suctioned her nose and mouth and introduced her to Monica, Frederick and the rest of the onlookers. At Monica's suggestion, we tentatively christened her "Cherry".
We waited for another. I again should have known something was terribly wrong by looking at the dark color and thick consistency of the fluid that followed. I found myself pulling the head and leg of another kid - but something felt just totally wrong with this kid. I didn't have time too think about it, but in that split second, I remember realizing that the tiny tongue was cold and the muscles were flabby. The next second, I had a large, wet dishrag of a buckling wrapped in a thick sac in my hands. I tried to to dry him, but realized he didn't seem to be breathing. Frantically, I poked the suction in his nose: it filled with fluid. Looking up for another split second, I took in the sight of a third tiny still-born twin. It shook me. Things like that happen if you've raised goats long enough but this cast sudden shadow of fear across my heart for the kid I was attempting to dry. I'm not sure what I said then, but my senses froze. Numbly, yet frantically I called to Mom that he wasn't breathing. She denied it then took the kid.
I knew. She didn't have to try to fool me. No heartbeat either.
Sobs choked me. I don't know why. Maybe it has something to do with getting to bed at 2:30 that morning and almost missing class. I'm ashamed of myself. Not ashamed of crying - No! there is a time for that. I'm ashamed of putting the burden of my own grief on the young children observing. I should have been the helper for them, not the first pipe to spring a leak. I dimly remember Michael gingerly patting me on the back, Mom ordering me to go take a shower, me imploring her not to throw the kid away, then running trembling up the muddy hill to the house. Nikolai standing on the porch innocently inquired whether it was done. "Yes, it's done," I told him.
Mom's shower remedy worked. The Seder was great as usual. The Feast was superb, but I felt like my fingers were lead. My brain kind of froze. The news that I've been accepted into Hope College stunned and excited me for a bit, but then I remembered with fear the way the milk had dribbled into Cherry's limp mouth while Snap fed her just before we joined the Seder gathering.

That same dribble, dribble had been the death of P.J. "Tube feeding" was in my mind as soon as the last guests had left. Karen stayed and helped Mom with the dishes, though she didn't have to do that - God bless her!

Mom jumped to the possibility of Clamydia: I tend to agree with her. Chery received a shot of Bo-Se and Oxytetracycline.
I ran over to our neighbors and got a feeding tube. After Elle finally abandoned attempts to put milk into the tiny doe with a bottle, Dad gave two syringes full of milk through the feeding tube.

But now Chery is limply coughing. She's in a plastic box in the goat kitchen so we can repeat feeding at 2am. I pray that she makes it through the night.

Even though I know she'll be eaten when she grows up anyway, my heart refuses to accept her death as a baby.

I know Karen and Elle both said "No Blogging tonight", but something tells me that I need to write this down, to record it before I forget. Something tells me that I'll need it later. That it's important - even though I'm exhausted.

O Lord forgive my sins. In your mercy, as it is your will, curb sin's effect on creation. Please, please renew the life of this tiny creature because you made and care for it.

1 comment:

Snap said...

To see the sweet Cherry, look at my user photo.