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  • Writer's pictureReyna Bradford

Missing in Action (Written 5/6/21)

My life didn't exactly flash before my eyes, but it did come close.

I had been both anticipating and dreading this moment for weeks. If I'm honest, mostly dreading it. My time gone. My energy zapped. My focus compressed to a minuscule pinpoint of nonstop effort and intensity. My sleep slashed, and my freedom evaporated. The dogs largely forgotten. My only steady friends those old, familiar companions of stress and exhaustion.

And now, here we were, and there was no avoiding or delaying the inevitable. The roller coaster was about to plunge. The storm was about to break. The tsunami was about to engulf me.

Ashlar was in labor.

The very first doe to begin producing milk back in February, she was now the first to get down to business and start shelling out babies. And for some reason, this year it was hard for me. Maybe it had something to do with the stresses and depressions of last year, some of which were in fact goat-related. Maybe it partially resulted from the extended period of freedom given to me by the late breeding dates of last fall. November and December breedings mean April and May babies. But that's unusual as to how I do things. Usually kids begin arriving by mid-March. Last year they began in mid-February. Never before have the first babies been as tardy as to arrive in early April.

But whatever the reason, I felt a surge of anger choke me as I bundled up an armful of towels and dragged out to the barn. Like it or not, these bratty little babies were coming. And they were about to ruin my life.

There were two of them - a boy and a girl. Both of them beautiful, dappled kids, the boy black with white spots, and the girl brown with white spots. I scooped them up, toweled them off, carted them indoors and situated them under the heat lamp. Fed them, dipped their navels, monitored them. And felt no joy or attachment to them whatsoever. I didn't even name the little girl. Of course, I never name the buck kids, because they just don't stay here long enough to warrant that kind of privilege. But never before have I felt so ambivalent about christening a doe kid.

It went on like that for two days. Feeding, checking, feeding again, and yet again - four times per day at this age. Filling bottles, warming bottles, rinsing bottles. Just mechanically going through the motions.

And then Easter morning dawned, and it was Gypsum's turn. Another mixed set of twins. Sleek and solid brown, just like their mom. But this time, a twist. The boy was regular size, but his sister was tiny. She was literally half his size, something I have never seen before, and the cause of which I don't know.

And all at once, my world righted itself. As I fed that sweet, tiny baby, and listened to her chug down her milk - so eager to live and to grow and to thrive - I felt my numb heart begin to soften. I wanted to live and to grow and to thrive myself. I cuddled her up in my lap, and she bumped my hands and sucked my fingers and wagged her tail, and I felt life seeping back into my own life.

The names came, too. We did the hard-core, alcoholic beverages as the naming theme last year, so this year I had already planned to do soft drinks, teas, and coffees. As little and perky as this girl was, her name had to be Sprite. And the other girl, Ashlar's daughter, was Cider.

So there it was. Cider and Sprite. My first set of named babies for 2021.

Since then, three more does have had their kids, and Fribble, Fresca, Moxie, and Pepsi have joined the herd. The buck kids have all been sold, and I'm now in a lull between due dates, waiting for Sakke to have her babies sometime late next week. We've settled into a comfortable routine. The kids are growing, eating like little ponies, and all five milkers are doing a fabulous job up on the milking stand twice a day.

Yes, I'm stressed, and yes, I'm exhausted. I almost fell asleep sitting here at the computer yesterday. Mornings begin too early, and evenings end way too late, and the running and cleaning and fetching and carrying never stop. But the old joy and resilience have come back to me. I remember why I do this every year, and why I love it. Life is good, and I am so fortunate.

Still, having said that, I have to be honest. As special and fulfilling as this time of year can be, I'm glad I have another ten days or so before Sakke blesses me with even more joy and responsibility.

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