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Watching Pixie Lamb

Darkness still blanketed my room when a hand began shaking my shoulder.  Blinking, I peered up at Dad and mumbled “What?”  It had to be before 6 am—entirely too early to be waking up.  But as I tried to roll over, he kept shaking my shoulder and said I had to get up.  He’d be waiting downstairs.

Reluctantly, I climbed out of my warm bed, threw on a few clothes, and stumbled down the stairs, trying to figure out what might be the cause of this early morning waking.  Only when I saw Dad in the entry, his shoes and coat on, did a thought penetrate my sleepy brain.  Pixie.

I slipped on my shoes, grabbed my coat, and we were out the door.  I wanted to run, to dash back to Pixie’s shed, but kept my pace to Dad’s steady walk.  As we got out to the sheep pen and through the gate, I saw that he’d moved a panel across the front of Pixie’s shed.  We stopped there, leaning over the panel.  Pixie was skinny, her previously barrel-shaped sides now sunken, and she was busy licking off a tiny, wobbly white lamb.  She barely acknowledged our presence as her tongue zapped in and out, in and out, cleaning the wet and dirt from the lamb who was trying to find her feet and get to some milk.

That was Pixie’s first lamb and as I wait around for my baby, I find my thoughts turning to her sometimes.  We never knew Pixie’s “due dates” and didn’t worry about when she’d lamb (sometime about five months after we introduced her to the ram). We never weighed her or measured her; in fact, it was hard to even tell that she was pregnant until we sheared her three-inch coat of wool off every spring.  With each year that she lambed, I got better at recognizing the little cues she gave before she had her lambs; she usually turned irritable, even towards me, and wanted to be left alone.

She lambed at night for the first two or three lambs.  After that first year, Dad didn’t worry about checking her as much when she was lambing; she’d proven she could do it easily.  In the third or fourth year that she lambed, she did so in the morning and I watched—trying to stay discretely out of the way—as she lay down, got up, turned around, walked back and forth, lay down, panted, got up, moved around until the lamb came.  She just did it.  And it was amazing to watch.

Sometimes, as we talk about heading to the hospital, I wish that my birth experiences could be as simple and easy as Pixie’s.  That, like her, I’d just know what to do and when to do it.  And that, like her, I’d be left alone and given the freedom to just birth this baby.

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