When Birth is Death

One of the things that is the most fun part of being a farmer is birth. What could be more cute and more precious than a brand new baby? Or many babies? But sometimes with the joy of life comes sadness. Sometimes that new baby does not do okay. And sometimes he or she dies.

There is nothing that teaches us how precious life is than the death of someone or something that has not gotten to really live life yet. That struggle for life—birth—only to end up in pain, or suffering somehow.   It is a blessing if a newborn animal that has a defect dies right away. Then there are those who fight to live, only to lose the battle. Today that was Spyder.

Our Nigerian Dwarf herd queen gave birth today to twins. A beautiful boy and girl. Only the boy did not act normally. Usually when kids are born they stay close to mom, get their legs under them, try to nurse, lay down and rest. They walk some, but they are wobbly and they like to try it out for a bit.

Not Spyder. Spyder seemed to have immediately fled his mother’s stall and ended up running into the pasture. Still wet from birth. He ran and he cried and cried, and I found him scared, confused, lost, and seemingly desperate to find his mom. I took him to his mom, dried him off, and she licked him and I helped him to nurse. He was almost hyper with energy and ran around and tried to escape again. He cried a few times, but I got him settled down and everything seemed fine than.

Until I went to check later, and he was crying and crying—a cry of terrible pain. And he lay cold and lifeless in the hay. I carried him quickly inside to treat him for cold and for shock, and to try to help him—try to save this dying boy. What happened? What was wrong?

Though I cannot know for sure, I seemed to have a congenital defect—his abdomen was in pain, and I have seen this in several newborns of different species a few times. His cries of pain and fear were horrible. And this is when one has to decide: do I euthanize? Do I try to help? Because I am a farmer. I am a guardian. And their life—all of them, is in my hands.

What I have come to understand is that like life—death is a process. And sometimes animals (and people) need to go through that process. How can a newborn’s only experiences in life end up being the process of death? How can this be fair? I don’t know the answer to that. I only know that sometimes that is what life is. Before I had a farm I assumed if something was dying and in pain I would always euthanize. And if an animal is in constant pain and suffering I do. But Spyder stopped crying and I got him more comfortable. And then he became unconscious. And I held him and I loved him, and I let him have his death. I let him ride whatever ride he had. I let him know at least by my holding him and stroking him and talking softly to him, encouraging him, that life was not just pain. That there was love, too. Even if just for a little while.

And his little body failed. And he was gone. Not even 24 hours here with us. We say a prayer for all of our family when they pass, no matter how big, or how small. We pray that their body becomes one with our land, as one day mine will. My body will feed the soil, that feeds the plants that feeds the animals. And that is an honor I will be proud to have. And I pray that their soul stays with us as our friend and our guardian, forever running free of pain and sorrow. And I pray that their spirit is born anew. To live again, but maybe for some like Spyder a little better. I say that prayer for everyone who dies, whether it be an animal I butcher, or an animal I lose for any reason at all. Even our wild animal members of our family.

For Spyder
For Spyder

When the kids were born I was inspired to write a piece about why they get named the way that they do. But then this happened. So tomorrow we will talk about names. Tonight I just want to remember my Spyder.



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