Circle of Life

"Truffles is having her baby!  I can see the head!" My sister Julia calls, darting back and forth.

Karly and I exchange glances. We sprint to the pen.  Anthony is pointing with exciting and saying the word he thinks means goats but sounds nothing like it.  Before the sun peered over the California foothills, Cookie had her baby and kept her in the corner of the pallet stanchion.  The baby is beautiful and the red-brown of beautiful rust.  We call her Crumb, a small piece of Cookie.

Overeager, Karly weaves her way through the brush to see the other side of Truffles.  The laboring goat is laying on her side and moaning through each contraction.  Her belly tightens and she cries out.  I catch her eye, kindred spirits in motherhood.  But Karly is shaking her head and I send Lexie away with Anthony so I can go into the pen.  The kid is half birthed and dead, black fur encrusted in dirt and bloody tongue dripping from her lips.  I look to Karly in terror. If this baby is not delivered, we will lose the mother, too.

In the age of cell phones, I feel lucky that my father answers his on the first ring.  He is coming and not fast enough as Truffles brays, unable to move the baby on her own. My father is no stranger to this circle of life.  He has midwifed countless animals and even humans. We need him here and fast.  Karly and I pace and in the corner of our eyes we see a corpse.  White and hairless, we find the half formed kid of Cookie.

"She had twins," Karly says sadly.  The billy who sired both pregnancies has fathered only twins.  She puts the body in a black bag and offers an unsaid whisper that Truffle will have twins too, and that the second babe is safe in her body.

My father arrives and assesses the situation with his careful eye.

"I did it for your sister," he says with a shrug.  It's one of my earliest memories, seeing him assist at the birth of my sister when the midwife was slower than Sierra.  He calls himself Jim-Can-Do and he has never failed.  He moves down behind Truffles and starts to ease the stillborn out of her.  The baby is stuck squarely at its shoulder and as he pulls her free Truffles screams.  It hurts my heart to see the little thing, black as death, unmoving and chanceless.  Truffles tries to stand and her legs give out beneath her. We're not sure how long she was in labor, but judging by the tremble of her legs and the weakness in her bray it has been hours.  We make our way out of the pen carrying the bodies.  Truffles is near collapsing when her body shakes with contraction and a second baby is born.

He is born in caul, gasping for breath and unable to break through.  My dad gives him a moment and when the baby can't seem to move fast enough he breaks through the wet clearness.  He takes his first breath as his mother slopes beside him, exhausted as she tries to clean him.

I smile at my father and Karly.  The pain of seeing something die is overshadowed by the joy of new life, of sweet air breathed into tiny lungs.  We call him Lucky as he tries to stand.  He wobbles and wobbles and makes his way to his mother, nursing and testing out his new legs.  Cookie makes her way to greet the little life, her own kid trailing behind her.  Crumb is soft and sweet and noses her mother with eagerness.  Four born in the length of a day and two stand beside their mothers.

I don't know if I will ever grow accustomed to the suddenness of life and death up here.  It takes less than a moment for it all to change, for the wheel to churn and churn, picking and choosing who will see the next sunrise and who will rest eternally.

I find myself holding Anthony extra tight that evening as I point to the baby goats.  He wants nothing more than to wrap his arms around them and offer him the soft kisses he has recently learned how to give.  I want nothing more than to be here, with these people in this corner of the earth.  It may not be perfect, but it's mine.


  1. Hi Megan, you had me gripped throughout your post. It is so true what you say about life and death. Joy and sadness. I suppose it is time to worry when you do not feel those things. Great post
    God bless

  2. Kirsten OliphantMay 29, 2013 at 1:37 PM

    I agree with Tracy--gripping! This makes me long for a country life. Or, at least, a life with goats. And goat cheese. Mmm....goat cheese. Oh, sorry--got distracted. Love the details and the tenderness with which you write about the goats and your own children. Love it!

    Also, is this how we connected on Twitter? Yeah Write? I can't remember. We seem like old Twitter friends. :)

  3. I loved your father's shrug. Great pictures and story.

  4. Oh my goodness I was taken through this whole thing. I am a bit anxious right now after reading it. I was so afraid for the second kid. Your father is so comforting in his presense. I love that he assisted in your sister's birth.

  5. Such a great read. I love that Cookie's baby is named crumb.

  6. treadingwaterinthekiddiepoolMay 29, 2013 at 7:43 PM

    What a wonderful story. I'm so glad the second baby lived. Loved your descriptions and seeing all the photos.

  7. wow! i feel like i was witness to the whole dramatic births. amazing