Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Miracle of Birth

***WARNING! This blog post contains graphic images and may not be suitable for some viewers. ***

                                                   I’m serious.


There is something miraculous about birth. Any birth. There is no other experience quite like it. Maybe it is because I have actually given birth, maybe I personalize this way too much…but, I just love lambing season.

This time of year, our focus centers on the barn and the new life that will soon inhabit it.  I’ve written extensively about the time I spend in the barn and about our lambing experiences.  I thought maybe it would be good if you could share this with me. Come take a little virtual trip to the sheep barn.

As a shepherd, it is my responsibility to make sure that this seeming “natural” occurrence doesn’t go disastrously wrong.  By providing a healthy environment and some fairly capable assistance, our success rate is quite good. 

I had been keeping an eye on “Flo” all day.  She had been looking like a blimp for some time and according to my calculations…this was the day. Physical signs began to indicate that my predictions were right on the mark.  However, the Boss had another project planned for the evening, so we both hoped that she would wait.  The Boss’ project involved moving the hens…but, I’ll get to that story another time.

Upon completion of the hen project, I returned to the barn to find labor in full swing.  After heading to the house for my vet box, I returned to sit in the barn and wait.  It’s always good to take the laidback approach, waiting to see how things progress naturally first.

For those of you who find this interesting, here’s a pictorial of sheep labor and delivery. For those of you who gross out easily...come back tomorrow or some other time.  But, PLEASE do come back.

Amazingly, this process took just slightly over an hour from the time I walked in the barn until I snapped the last frame.  That part of this always (ALWAYS) astounds me.  These little beings are totally dependent upon their mother for every aspect of life one moment and suddenly become separate entities completely able to survive (with some help, of course) on their own.  Lambs are able to stand within minutes of birth and are quite often looking for something to eat as they enter this world.  This is amazing!

7:51…this is the night…for sure.  The first of the water bags are presented. I warned you!  Some people think this is really, really gross.  I think it's a miracle...and for the record, this one was a piece of cake…no muss…no fuss!

Mother starts “nesting”. The ewe will scratch and dig with her forefeet, making a little clear indentation in the bedding.

Much stretching, moaning, yawning and baa-ing follow.

Oh wow!  See the little hooves? In a proper presentation, a lamb is born in a “diving position”.  The little front legs come out first, followed by the nose, the shoulders…the rest of the lamb.  Everything is in the right place. Yippee!

More pushing, nesting, wandering, crying. I must admit…this part can be a little unnerving. (I really think I personalize it a little too much sometimes)

BIG push!

Lookee!  Lookee!  See the little pink nose? Right there above the hooves? The hooves are white and soft as the baby is born so they don’t injure the delicate insides of the mama.  They harden almost immediately after birth.


After pushing long and hard, little progress was being made.  No pictures while I lend a little helping hand.  Sliding my hand gently up the nose, grasping the little legs…gentle tug…

BLOOP!  Out comes baby #1!

Instantly, mama forgets everything else and begins cleaning baby.  She is talking sweet, sheepy baby talk the whole time.  This is the only time ewes ever sound quite like this.  You can always tell when new babies are on the ground by the tone of the ewe’s voices.

Cleaning, talking, cleaning…the lamb begins to “talk” too.  Suddenly, he tries to stand.  Within five minutes he is aggressively looking for his first meal. Success!

Oops!  Baby #2 is becoming evident.  At this point, the ewe becomes distracted and acts worried.  I step in with my towels and rub the first baby while she labors to bring the second one into the world.

#2 comes considerably quicker than the first lamb.  I help a little and then back off to let the new family bond.  Once I have treated their umbilical cords with iodine (this dries the cord so germs don’t enter) and watched to make sure they get a little sip from their mom, I head back to the house, full of wonder at the miracle that I just witnessed.

It’s 9:01pm…a little more than an hour since this adventure began…

…and this is just the beginning…I’ll get to see this again and again this winter…every winter.

Wow!  What an experience!  What a life! 

                                                     Thankful?  You better know it! 


  1. What a great experience!!! Thanks for sharing these amazing photos and story...BTW, not too much personalization at all. Makes the experience very real!!! Mary Kay

  2. I LOVE watching new life being born on our little farm!! God's blessings are truly wonderful!