We Americans celebrate most everything all the time. Visiting cousins, feasting on steamed crab and champagne at the kitchen table on a Thursday night. A black-eyed Susan pre-Preakness party to benefit Breast Cancer, and a rockin' country breakfast complete with mimosas to celebrate the birth of a fille.
Yesterday, with two cousins and their 19 year old daughter, Svetlana, who we call Sveta, I helped bring a baby horse, a fille, into this world. Neatest thing I've done since being 5th row at The Rolling Stones!
The early morning began with the muffled voice of my cousin Mary: "Sveta, get up. Ken called and said it's time." Mary's voice was nearing our room, and I could hear in her voice her nerves and an urgency, yet she has such a warm, calm tone in her words. "We need to go now. Right now." Kathy, it's time."
Anticipating this birth, I had taken my wedding rings off the night before and had laid my girl jeans and L.L. Bean "Rain Skimmer" shoes out, just in case. I rumbled down the stairs, ran out the door and down to the running shed. Apparently, I went the long way as I did not hear Mary and Sveta behind me. I jumped the fence as I did not have time to figure out where the gate was located. One slip on skimmer shoe got stuck in the mud and I had to circle around briefly to get it back on my size 11 foot.
There she was, a beautiful black mare laying on her side fully "in foal" on the soft hay. Mary ran to her head to keep her calm, and got on her cell phone to call two friends who also happened to be obstetrics nurses anxious to see the birth.
Looking down, I saw that the sac was sticking out. This birth had begun.
Above the bubble at the base of the opaque sac, were what looked like her hooves. At this point I could hear Ken saying: "O.K., Sveta and Kathy, I need you guys to take hold of the legs and pull. Pull down." Petite and pretty, silent Sveta was standing in the middle between Ken and myself. I gently found room and placed my hands around baby's legs and began to pull. Ken quickly and kindly said: " Not there with your left hand, Kathy, that's the nose." I quietly gasped and immediately placed my hand at the top of the cannon bone where there was room. I could now see the faint outline of the foal, her hooves and nose positioned to pounce out into the world, then heard a pop. The sac was broken. Ken asked: "Was that a pop?" "Yes, I answered, still pulling. I hoped baby had oxygen, but I did not know for sure. One thing I did know for sure was that this foal needed to come out, as any baby cannot be in the birth canal for too long and survive.
The three of us were now pulling with every pound of energy we possessed. Ken kept instructing us in his firm but focused voice to: "Pull Down" (due to the curved shape of baby and how it exits the birth canal). I could hear the strain of Ken's voice and sighs. Suddenly, the mare lifted her head up and made motions with her body and feet. She was fixing to stand up. Mary gasped: "She's standing up!" And so she was.
We scurried to stand up and re-positioned ourselves then started pulling down, again. More straining and stressing with all our collective strength. It seemed to happen in slow motion but went on forever. All sounds seemed muted to my ears as I was so concentrated on the task at hand. Pulling down using every muscle and all of our body weight, gasping for breath, grunting with frustration. The vibe of urgency was rising in the air. I could hear it in Ken's rapidly repeated instruction: "Keep pulling down."
Thinking something had to change, perhaps another direction, I raised my right hand and slowly, very gently pressed my palm flat against the mare's labia majora and pushed it up. My intention was to try to widen and loosen the muscle so baby had more room to slip through. Maybe baby moved a bit, I could not tell, so I tried it again. Maybe the mare felt the pressure and pushed back with her vulva muscle. Maybe the mare had a contraction. Maybe all the pulling finally worked. All I know is, in that mere moment, the foal came out with a plunk onto the soft hay. Miraculously, the running shed reminded me of a manger.
One moment to relax our arms, relief and a sigh, then suddenly, the Mare started stomping her right hind leg. I grabbed it under the carpus to keep her from stomping on the baby. Ken put his arms around the baby and scooted her out of the way. Mary calmed the mare.
We all stood silent, agape and in awe of the newness of this new life and series of firsts for this fille. We witnessed the opening of her dark black eyes seeing also her long eyelashes for the first time. How her sleek wet ears popped up and she lifted her head looking at all of us. Mary crept slowly over to examine the baby. She's a girl! Mary showed me her dermal papillae or "fingers" at the base of her hooves that all baby horses are born with, but that go away soon after birth once they stand up and start running around. We were, all of us, smitten with this little fille. She was beautiful and perfect, like a rare, black diamond. What a jewel! On Preakness race day, none-the-less!
Life is filled with celebrations and blessings. We should appreciate good days, new experiences, our energy, and having our health. Of course, all horses cannot be Preakness winners, but this new fille has instantly, unconditionally, and forever championed our hearts.