During lambing season, I make my morning trek to the barn to see if we had any additions over the nighttime hours. I look forward to enjoying the sights and sounds of newborn baby lambs.
Then there are those mornings when you crack open the barn door and realize--today will not be that day.
After identifying a ewe having difficulty delivering, I find myself at the backend trying to assess the situation. First, there is the visible sign that there is no water bag, just remnants of the uterine wall. Second, there is a foul smell. And third, there is just one hoof. Realization sets in that I will be helping deliver a dead lamb.
I settle in to begin the pulling process. Then I hear my youngest daughter, who is holding the head, start talking—to the ewe. "It's alright girl," she says. "We are almost done. You are doing great. Just hang in there. I know it hurts. Just a little more. I am so sorry. It will be over soon."
It is quite a humbling experience, given that on more than one occasion this ewe has run her over in the pen, drug her to the show ring and stamped her foot at her when she nears the gate. Needless to say, this was not my daughter's favorite animal in the barn.
I find legs and a head, but the lamb is too large for this first time mom. It's shoulders are stuck. My husband comes and helps pull. Once we finally have the lamb free of the ewe, my daughter gently releases the ewe's head.
I collapse to my knees. Arms shaking. Head hanging. Tears flowing. And then, I feel a nose brush up against my face. I look to see that same ewe just staring at me. All I can say is "I'm so sorry girl." And she nudges me again. I look up only to see my daughter backed up against the fence, fighting back her own tears.
It has been an emotional morning. And while washing my hands over the kitchen sink, I realize that if there is one thing agriculture has taught my daughters it is how to show compassion in life and in death.
I credit their involvement at young age in agriculture organizations like 4-H for teaching them the value of life and the finality of death.