Millie has been driving me insane with the anticipation of her labor!
We knew she had multiples because we had an ultrasound done back in December of 2021. Our amazing farm vet saw 3 babies in there but told me that with multiples, there is always a chance that one is hiding.
I have been excitedly waiting for any sign of labor and on March 2nd I was SURE that she was in early labor. She was moaning while laying down, she was losing her mucous plug, she was licking me and pawing at the ground. This was it! I just KNEW it! The only thing that wasn't happening was the filing of her udder. Her udder was still pretty small- especially when I compared it to her udder on her delivery day last year. And she was a first freshener last year, so I expected it to fill even more this year.
.... But, the other things were enough to convince me so I made a post on Facebook, texted my goat people (or goat lovers), and got everything ready. Only for the whole day to go by without anything happening. And this went on day after day after day. For 18 days to be exact. So many false alarms!
I wasn't 100% sure of her due date because she had been bred a few times. Every time I saw a sign of heat, I put her in with Burlap. And then there was that time that Phantom broke the fence while I was at work and screwed up all of my hard work with planning dates and sires. Grrr... bucks are famous for driving you crazy in so many ways! Good thing he is perfect in so many other ways.
So, back to the story. The morning of the 20th (the day before her delivery) Millie's udder was starting to fill. I have to remember that the rear of her udder gets so full that it seems pointed in the back. I've seen this happen with other goats but Millies is more pronounced than most others I have seen. She, once again, looked as if she was losing her mucous plug. I have no idea how that was happening because she had already lost it, or so I thought. I guess there was more. But its coloring was still creamy white, not clear amber colored. So I knew we had some time. I went to lunch with a friend (I had been stuck in this darn house for weeks while the flu made its rounds in my children and then eventually me. I was feeling better and it was safe for me to go out, so Thai food was calling my name.
While we ate lunch, I had Isabelle (my 9-year-old daughter) checking Millie every 30 minutes while I was away. I even had her video chat me a couple of times so I could see with my own eyes because... well... she's 9. Her discharge started to turn from a milky off-white color to more of a yellow. Or as my daughter described, "Its the color that it would be if I mixed lemonade powder into the goo that she had before"....interesting, kid. But super descriptive and helpful at the same time, so I will take it.
While we ate lunch, I had Isabelle (my 9-year-old daughter) checking Millie every 30 minutes while I was away. I even had her video chat me a couple of times so I could see with my own eyes because... well... she's 9. Her discharge started to turn from a milky off-white-colored to more of a yellow. Or as my daughter described, "It's the color that it would be if I mixed lemonade powder into the goo that she had before"....interesting, kid. But super descriptive and helpful at the same time, so I will take it.
I came home from lunch thinking that it was going to be today. Only to find that her goo was gone and she was hungry. Usually, a doe doesn't eat when they are in labor- in the past, it has been pretty safe for me to assume it's not happening soon if they eat their food. I should have known better. Millie was breaking all the stinking rules. So, thinking that it was happening today, I decided to stop letting Millie's false alarms scare me out of living my best life, so I went bowling with friends. A part of me knew that I should probably stay home but I was determined to stop revolving my life around false alarms so I ignored my intuition.
Well, about 2 hours after I left the house, my sister calls to say, "Millie had triplets! What do I do!?" I walked her through what to do, trying to keep my voice as calm as possible in an attempt to keep her calm and not rob her of a beautiful experience. I was telling her, "Just take the babies and bring them up to mamas head. You can help her clean them off. Are they all breathing? Okay, just get them cleaned up and rub them with the towel if any of them are sluggish. It helps to wake them up and get their blood moving." As she was doing this she says, "Crap, Kels, there is another one coming out! I don't know if she can get it out. It seems stuck!" So I walked her through gently pulling the kid with each of Millie's pushes and the kid came out. She said one of them was super small, so I instructed her to focus on getting that one dried off first. I stayed on the phone with her for the 20 minutes it took me to get home. When I got home I was SO shocked!
This "little baby" was TINY! She was the tiniest baby goat I have ever seen! She looked like she was a stuffed animal and belonged in some kid's easter basket! I let her suckle my finger and she was cold. Way too cold. Thankfully I had my warming station ready because I have been without one before and trying to find things while you are trying to keep a baby goat alive is one of the most stressful things on earth. So I've had this thing prepped for weeks. (For the record, if you ever find yourself in this situation and you don't have a warming station ready, the fastest thing to do is to throw some towels (or anything!) into the dryer and run it for a minute or two while you grab a hairdryer and a heating pad. Stop the dryer and bury the baby in the warm towels/clothes/etc. Then get to work on your warming station).
As we were blow-drying the baby, I realized that her belly side was not getting warm fast enough. I feared that we would run out of time before things heated up in the warming station, so I did what any mother would do- I stuck her in my bra. It was the warmest and quickest place I could think of! My sister kept blowdrying her while I vigorously rubbed her body to get her system going. This was working but she was still at 90 degrees, which is way too low. So I had my sister plug the sink and fill it with warm/hot water. I told her that she wanted it hot to our touch but not burning hot. As soon as that was ready, I stuck the tiny baby in a ziplock bag with her head sticking out the top and gently closed it around her neck. I put her in the water with her head sticking out so that she didn't get wet. I continued vigorously rubbing her while she was in the water. I felt like I was trying to activate a hand warmer, just to give you an idea of the motion. While she was in the sink, I put some honey and cayenne pepper on my pinky and stuck it in her mouth. This helps wake their brain up and give them a burst of sugar for energy.
I held her in the sink for about ten minutes and then put her back in the warming station and kept the blow dryer on her. Thank goodness I had an extra set of (adult) hands with this! It's so exhausting to do on your own (or with young kids in the room fighting about who would sit closest to the goat, whose turn it is to help mommy, who is the better helper, who knows more about goats, etc). We finally got her temp above 100 degrees, so it was time to give her some milk. I milked mama into a bottle and set the bottle in a bowl of hot water to get it warmed up nice and hot (you want the milk around mama's body temperature, so I aim for about 103.5 degrees. Once you feel this on your skin enough times you get a feel for it). She gobbled up the milk and I knew things were improving.
I made her a little temporary home in the warming station (a plastic storage tub lined with towels and a towel secured over it to keep in warmth) and gave her 2 hot water bottles tucked in some wool socks. I then went to work cleaning up the kidding pen and putting down dry linens. There are A LOT of fluids involved in birth and I wanted the babies to have warm dry bedding. I choose to use old blankets and towels instead of shavings and/or hay. The idea of all that mess being in my milking room makes my skin crawl. I much prefer linens, broom & dustpan, and the washing machine. It has worked best for us for many years now. Since mamas' want to paw at the ground and "nest" for the babies, I use a staple gun and pop a staple in each corner of the blanket to keep it from getting bunched up, leaving the babies on a cold concrete floor. This has worked so well for us this year. It's new for me to have a real kidding stall in my milking room and this was a game-changer!
I kept the tiny baby in the warming station for 2 days and set an alarm every couple of hours to go put her on mama's teat to nurse, let her socialize with her siblings and mama, and then bottle feed her and put her back into her temporary home.
Since she didn't have anyone to snuggle with (remember, goats run 101.5-103.5 degrees) I kept up with the hot water bottles for her to snuggle. I used them to help keep her sternal, too. You never want your baby goats to lay on their sides. This is harmful to their rumen and they can't digest properly on their sides. The water bottles made the perfect little retaining walls to keep her body from tipping on her side. It was a cold night on the night they were born, so I also put a hand warmer in a sock before I went to bed so she would be plenty warm. You have to be careful that you don't overheat the babies, it's a delicate balance. You don't want them too hot or they will dehydrate and it can be harmful to their little bodies to get too hot. You will want to keep a close eye on their body temperature when they are new, especially before you feed them.
The babies have been alive for 3 days now and everyone is doing great! Mama's udder gets very full sometimes, so I milk her a little and save it for the tiny baby's bottles.