Kidding War Stories
Lessons Learned from Hardship
Reading Time: 4 minutes
By Carissa Larsen
We considered ourselves kidding veterans when our herd queen Equinox went into her third kidding. When we noticed she was in active labor, we sat with her and waited to greet her newest additions.
Equinox pushed. An amniotic sac ruptured, and we started the clock — we give our does 20-30 minutes of pushing once we know a sac has broken before we check to see if assistance is needed. She continued to push and make no progress, and my anxiety started to rise.
Because I have the smallest hands, I’m always the one to go into a doe to check for kid position. After scrubbing up with Betadine and coating my hand in lube, I put my fingers into Equinox’s vulva … and was immediately confused. There was a kid stuck in the birth canal but, as my fingers kept probing, I just couldn’t figure out what I was feeling. Not knowing what else to do, I told my husband he needed to go in and check — I needed another pair of hands to try to sort out what I was feeling.
We went back and forth a few times before we agreed we could feel the spine, and after following that, we realized we were dealing with a kid with its head twisted back, folding the kid almost in half in the birth canal. My heart sunk into my stomach. A head back presentation is one of the worst presentations you can deal with at kidding, and I’d always dreaded it.
In my head, I knew what to do: push the kid back and try to pull the head forward. I was worried about the strain on Equinox, but I pushed the kid back with as much pressure as I could. It didn’t budge. I pushed harder. Equinox screamed. The kid still wouldn’t move. I tried to reposition the kid as Equinox strained and screamed, feeling more hopeless by the minute. Finally, I had to pull out and admit defeat.
My husband, Wes, was reluctant but went in and tried his luck at getting the kid to move. Nothing. Eventually, we both had to agree that we had to give up on the idea of getting the kid out alive and just worry about getting it out without causing too much damage to Equinox.
After over an hour of working back and forth, we were exhausted. In a last-ditch effort, I used my hands to hold Equinox’s vulva open as wide as I could, and Wes used a small towel to get a grip on the kid and pull as hard as he could.
The kid came free. He was lifeless with no hope of resuscitation. We mourned for a moment — my tears overflowed — but within minutes, Equinox began to push again. Before we knew what was happening, we had two kids in the birth canal fighting to come out at the same time.
The last thing I wanted to do was go back into Equinox, but I did, frantic to see the two remaining kids into the world. One kid was able to be pushed back, and a doeling, followed quickly by buckling, were delivered. Alive.
The kids needed a bit of TLC, but they were soon up and eating. Equinox was hurting but cared for her kids like the excellent mother she always was. We worried about her recovery, but as days turned into weeks, she healed up with no infection and was a doting mother. We were lucky, and we knew it.
* * * * * * *
Two kidding seasons later, Equinox’s daughter Solstice was in labor with her second kidding. As she settled in and began to push, we saw a rush of amniotic fluid and began our countdown. After 20 minutes passed with no progress, I scrubbed up, lubed up, and went in to check the position of the kid. As my fingers felt the lines of the kids’ body, I felt a growing dread. Where was the head? But I knew. The head was twisted around to its back. When I told Wes, I could see the same dread in his face.
“We have to get it out. Now.”
Yeah, I knew. But I didn’t want to. I went back into Solstice, pushing on the kid, looking for a way to reposition it. I got a leg out. Not helpful. I was at a loss. I couldn’t do it. Not again. Wes gave it a try, but he couldn’t get anywhere either. In desperation, I gave one of my goat breeder friends a call to see if she had any words of wisdom or maybe some secret trick she knew.
“Go back in there and get that kid out. Just do it. I know you can do it.”
“But, I can’t.”
“Yes, you can. Now go do it.”
With those words, I sucked it up and went back to it. I wrapped a small towel around the protruding leg and worked my other fingers around the kid’s head. And I pulled. I hauled on the leg while working the head around with my other hand. I tried not to think about what I was doing to the kid — I already assumed it was dead. I held back tears and worked and pulled. And suddenly, the kid was free.
“It’s alive!” I screamed as I saw the kid move. And I was horrified. What had I done to this poor kid? Before I could think about it, my daughter scooped up the limp kid and rushed it into the house. I thought it was a lost cause, but there was nothing I could do, as two other kids, a giant buckling and a lively little doeling, followed their sibling out quickly. Once those kids were dry and eating, I knew I had to go into the house and face the music.
The kid was warm but limp. We got it to eat, but I was worried about the damage I had done. When we tried to get him to stand, it was clear the leg I had pulled on wouldn’t hold him. But otherwise, he seemed ok. I was stunned.
The next day our vet came out, and after examining him, she determined his muscle was separated at the shoulder, but he would otherwise be fine. We named him Miracle Max, and after a few weeks of careful rehab in the house, he was a happy, healthy boy.
Being a farmer isn’t about winning every day. It’s about celebrating the wins we do get and learning lessons when they’re offered.
Originally published in the March/April 2021 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.