This is the post I've been afraid I'd have to write. I hate it. I absolutely hate it.
Fred, born Friday evening, had been steadily improving and getting stronger. By Monday, I was singing him Taylor Swift lyrics, "Are we out of the woods yet?", and I really assumed that the answer was "yes." But, beginning yesterday afternoon, I could hear the rattle in his lungs, and he was uninterested in eating. By last night, he was once again listless. We continued to get up with him during the night to feed him by tube and warm him, but when our kids woke up this morning, they found his plastic tub empty.
I, of course, have been beating myself up. What did we do wrong? Did we do everything we could have to save this little life? I keep going over it all.
The reality is that I AM a bad farmer. But, probably not for the reasons I worry about. My reading suggests that kids born up to 10 days premature can often be saved, but that any earlier than that, you're most likely fighting a losing battle. At 12 days premature, we knew that Foxy and Fred has only a slim chance. Several of my sources advised against taking extreme measures to save kids in his circumstances. First of all, he's male, which is a big strike against him in a dairy herd. And, because he's so closely related to others in the herd, he couldn't later serve as a breeding buck for us. He's also the son of a first freshener, so it's hard for us to vouch for his mother's quality as a milker. I kept coming across the term "euthanize." And, I just kept ignoring it. And, we kept pouring our time and love and care into this poor little guy. That may make us bad farmers. But the little guy continued to have fight in him. How could we give up on that?
Foxy survived a little over a day, but Fred seemed stronger -- at least he had more "want to." He was gaining strength, holding up his head and staying propped up when we'd set him up. He enjoyed his "floor time" in the middle of the action on the living room floor and would kick and squirm and scoot. His little teeth which would help him latch onto Momma were coming in, and he loved time with Momma in the barn when we would tote him down there for milking time get-togethers.
We've been very blessed that in the years we've had goats we've never before dealt with premature, weak babies. With the exception of Izzy's aborted babies last year, our babies have always been born strong and healthy, standing within minutes and ready to nurse momma. So, this has been a learning experience for us. We've definitely spent a lot of time on the phone and internet seeking counsel. This was our first time using a feeding tube, for example. And, we were pretty terrified our first time, fearing that we'd make the most common mistake with those and accidentally get the tube down the trachea rather than the esophagus, drowning him with milk deposited directly into the lungs. But, we faced our fears and learned this new skill which we may need again in the future.
Our four and a half days with Fred have been full of fun memories. The kids loved having him inside to cuddle with and love on and laugh at as he kicked his little legs around. And, I've found myself in strangely familiar territory. Since Girl 2 was 9 months old when she came home and The Boy was turning two, it's been over a decade since I've been woken by the cries of an infant and been up repeatedly each night for feedings. We've got baby wipes in the living room, the kitchen counters are covered in baby bottles, and my shirts have spots on them that smell of milk. It's been a long time since we've experienced all of this.
The kids are understandably upset this morning, but they know that we did everything we could to save Fred and feel blessed to have had the chance to make a few memories with him. This farm is a constant teacher. Some lessons are harder than others, but we learn from every one.