Every year in late winter, our goats kid, sometimes delivering a single baby, while other times four kids have emerged. Like a good midwife, I order certain supplements that provide different vitamins and pack up a kit, including thread, scissors, iodine, and a little cape to help keep the kid warm. John and I haul out the “kid box” he built and check to see that the heat lamp works. Then we wait. And wait until our does show signs that they will soon give birth.
According to my records, our goat, Meg missed her supposed delivery date by a couple of days. Her swollen udder made me wonder, if something was not right? On Valentine’s Day morning, John walked into the barn and found one stillborn, undeveloped baby and a weak male kid splayed out on the straw. Meg was busy licking him, cleaning of the blood and membranes. But the little guy couldn’t raise his head, or stand and walk to his mom and search for milk. When I checked back about thirty minutes later, Meg had abandoned her baby. I scooped him up, placed him in the cozy kid box, and smeared a special paste upon his tongue. The substance was concentrated colostrum and gave the kid needed energy.
“It’ll take a miracle for him to survive,” I told John, in the voice of Miracle Max from Princess Bride.
“Perfect name for the little boy, Miracle Max,” John said.
Every ninety minutes to two hours, I fed Max more paste and tried to get him to suck from a bottle. Mostly, he sneezed as milk went up his nose. But Max was alive and not shivering, so we kept up the routine until bedtime.
In the morning, Max was hungry, but his tongue couldn’t manage to suck. Still he needed to eat his mother’s colostrum. I checked out a YouTube video on “How to Tube Feed a Kid” that showed a docile kid accepting a tube down his throat and then the goatherder fed him an ounce of milk. No way was I going to attempt that stunt without some personal instructions. Our kindhearted vet squeezed us in between afternoon appointments. We wrapped Max up in two beach towels and drove over to the clinic.
People cooed over seeing a baby goat peeking out from his swaddling.
“But Mommy, I want to look at the baby goat!” a little girl said as she and her mother trotted their dog into a room.
“Is that a lamb?” Another lady asked as she picked up her cat carrier.
Our vet ushered us into a receiving room, checked Max over, and brought out a thin tube. After measuring the distance down his throat and to his stomach, she made a mark and inserted the tube. She made it look so easy.
“First check for air.” She sucked on the end of the tube like a straw. “See how my cheeks puckered? Now to feed him.”
Using a plastic syringe as a funnel, she poured an ounce of the warm milk I had brought into it and slowly let is drip into Max’s tummy.
“Pinch the tube closed before you pull it out.”
Max shook his ears and bleated once as I wrapped him back up and proceeded to the car.
“Don’t ask me to do that,” John said as he slid into his seat.
When the next feeding time arrived, John brought Max into our kitchen so we would have strong lighting for the tactic. First, I offered Max a bottle, but he couldn’t keep the nipple in his mouth.
Out came the tube and other supplies. After a quick prayer, I started to slide the tube down Max’s throat. He bleated and wiggled. I cried. The small portion of tube that I had managed to insert popped out.
“Wouldn’t you rather use a bottle instead, Max?” I asked and stuck the nipple into his mouth. His lips squashed the nipple and he nursed. Not for long as some milk still went up his nose, making his sneeze. But Max worked on the bottle on and off for several minutes and drank a decent amount of milk for a newborn goat.
A day later, Max wobbled, standing as he drank his bottle. Usually a baby goat can stand within thirty minutes of birth, still, Max was gaining strength. Every four hours during the day, I warmed up his mother’s milk and hustled out to the barn. His little tongue flirted with the nipple, trying to keep it between his lips. The better he could suck, the more milk Max drank.
A week has passed since we found Max, cold and shivering, needing love and attention in order to create a miracle. Now his tail wags when he see the bottle full of milk and he starts to nurse. Soon, he will be ready to romp with the other goats in the spring sunshine.