"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Monday, February 15, 2016

A Rough Day for Iris (and Me)

I got up early this morning to go to a work appointment, only to find when I got there that the client had cancelled only minutes before. Barely awake, I executed a  U-turn and headed for the nearest coffee shop.

On the way home, as I was drinking my coffee, a crown popped off of one of my molars. Although it didn't hurt, it seriously freaked me out. Instead of a tooth, I suddenly had a small squishy gap where a tooth should be, with a small steel spike sticking up. I was so horrified, I almost swallowed the crown. Almost. Luckily, I was able to pop it back on - after I pulled over, of course, and after rotating it through a few revolutions and trying all the possible angles.

I drove straight to the dentist who had placed it, just last year (I broke that tooth cracking Dungeness crab with my teeth. Please don't ever do that. Crab-crackers were invented for a reason). I asked the receptionist at the dentist's office if there was a guarantee on the crown, seeing as I had had it for only a little over a year and further seeing as how I have no dental insurance. She told me that there was, and that if neither the crown nor the remnant of my tooth were damaged, then it could be replaced for free. However, she had no openings that day and the best they could do was tomorrow morning.

Sadly I drove home, trying not to test the strength of the crown by probing it with my tongue. When I got home, about ten thirty, Homero was waiting outside and flagged me down.

"Iris is giving birth, but I don't think it is going too well," he said. "Come and see."

Passing through the house to quickly wash my hands and get some soap and warm water and a towel, I raced out (through the driving rain) to the barn. We got Iris into the mama barn by main force, as she did not want to get up or walk.

Iris is my oldest goat, my first goat. She has had many babies and is now about nine years old. Last year she didn't get pregnant, and I had figured her mothering life might be over, but then she did catch this year. Once in the mama barn, she laid down on her side and started pushing hard, grunting and curling her lip. We tried to get her up on the stanchion, but no go, so I laid down in the straw behind her, soaped up my hand, and went exploring.

There was no sign of any residual "goo" which told me that her water had broken some time ago. She was dry and tight. There were two hooves right inside the vulva, both front hooves, and in normal right-side-up position. Further back, alongside and below the legs, was a head.

I needed to find out if the head and the legs belonged to the same kid. It didn't seem like it, because in a normal presentation the head should be above (dorsal to) the hooves. Feeling for the jaw, I found the mouth and inserted my fingers to feel for teeth. There were sharp little teeth on the upper (dorsal) side. Goats only have front teeth in their lower jaw, not in the upper. So feeling these teeth told me that the head was upside down.

What I needed to do was follow either the head and neck, or the front legs, down to a body and try to figure out where they all came together - or not. If there were two kids, I would need to push the head back into the uterus, and then find the head belonging to the legs and bring it around. Or, of course, the opposite - push the feet back and then find the other feet belonging to the head.

This might sound easy in theory, but in practice it is not. It's not easy even if you have an upright goat and are not laying on your side in the straw without very good light. I went in as far as I could, but I was unable to ascertain for certain whether there were two kids or one. The head did not budge when I pushed on it, nor did the feet come forward with gentle traction. Without having a clear picture of what was going on, I wasn't going to pull any harder than a 2 on a scale of ten.

I though we had twins - one with legs forward and head back, the other with head forward and legs back. Knowing there was nothing more I could do, I called the vet and told them I was coming in.
Getting Iris into the van was a challenge, but Homero and I did it, and then he stayed with the children while I drove as fast as I could (through the driving rain) to the vet. Not very fast at all, as I spent the entire twelve miles behind first a tractor and then behind one kind of semi-truck or another. I am not a patient driver at the best of times, and least off all with a beloved goat in the worst kind of distress in the back.

Once Iris was at the vet's and up on a stanchion (lifted by three people), the doctor gave her an epidural and went in to try to figure it out. It wasn't obvious to him either. It took a good ten minutes to first figure it out and then straighten it out. I was wrong; there were no twins. There was only a single baby, who had her neck wrapped around her own front legs like a corkscrew, so that her head was upside down underneath her own knees. It is an impossible presentation. The baby cannot come out that way, and pushing the head or pulling the legs is not going to help. The doctor had to twist the head and bring it around up over the legs, into a normal presentation, so the baby could be born. That was a pretty violent procedure requiring a lot of force, and Iris was in great pain - epidural or no.

She was dead, of course. It appeared she had been dead for some time, perhaps two or three hours. The vet said that with the poor presentation, Iris had probably been in low-grade labor for several hours. Without the head providing the correct pressure on the cervix, the labor didn't progress, and after the baby died (whenever that happened) the baby couldn't help by wriggling or changing position. If I hadn't taken her in, Iris would most likely have died eventually as well.

Poor Iris. She got a shot of painkillers, a shot of penicillin, and a ride home with a full udder and no baby. She is fairly torn up. I'll give her a full course of penicillin injections, and I have painkillers for three more days. She is also now officially retired - no more babies for Iris. I asked if any of this could be attributed too her age, and the vet said not definitively, but older dams do have a harder time kidding in general. Iris has earned her retirement at least twice over   (How Much is a Good Goat Worth?) - we will have this last season of milk from her, and then she can spend future breeding seasons with the ponies in the horse pasture.

The baby was a doe. A fine, big, brown doeling.

When I came home from the vet, covered in poop and blood and slime, aching for a bath, I found one of my kids already in there, and they had already used up all the hot water.

Also, there's no wine in the house.