As the whole world knows by now, April the giraffe calved about 2 hours ago.
The calving was almost identical to watching Frances calve. The only differences that I could see were that baby giraffe legs are much longer and so is April’s neck. Frances cannot lick her hoohah.
When Frances calves, we allow her to labor from the point where we see the sac or hooves for about an hour. We leave her alone, just like they did with April, and let her handle the situation.
Most of the time, she does a fine job all on her own.
However, cattle men the world over have learned by experience, some of it bitter, that once you pass about an hour, and if the cow starts showing signs of fatigue, it’s a good idea to intervene. So that’s our cut-off point.
We have pulled two calves. One was out in the field on a beautiful summer morning. Dave did the pulling. Jason was there, but remained outside the fence, away from Frances, because Frances hates him (he gives her shots). All Dave did was grab the two front feet, watch for a contraction, and in concert with Frances, pulled out and down as she pushed. It just served to give her a little extra help as she delivered the shoulders. Once the shoulders are out, as you can see in the video of April, the rest of the baby comes in a whoosh.
But Nicole, of course, is the resident expert on giving birth and didn’t disappoint.
Since Nicole has not given birth in a hospital setting, ever, she actually has no idea how childbirth is handled in a modern hospital. Somebody has corrected me. It seems that Jacob was born in a hospital setting, so she’s had a hospital birth 18 years ago.
With the exception of eating, which can be dangerous and possibly fatal under uncommon but very sudden situations, they pretty much do all that shit.
The word “complication” is an interesting one. Nicole sets herself up as an expert because she has managed to squirt out about ten babies without help. All this means is that she has easy, uncomplicated births. She’s not superwoman. It doesn’t mean that she’s done it “right” while other women (me, for instance – Nathan was a C-section baby) have done it “wrong.” She’s just genetically lucky in that respect. It’s no different than being born, as I was, with naturally curly hair.
The problem with her whole “unless there are complications” is that as long as everything is “uncomplicated,” it looks easy. Watch April. It’s simple. Push a while, walk around a bit, and out slithers a beautiful healthy baby. Simple.
Until it’s not simple.
And when it’s not simple, it is horrendous and that can happen without notice. Sometimes you know something is going wrong. But sometimes. . .
Back when I was a student nurse, we had a young woman in labor. I will never forget her. I can still close my eyes and see her face. First baby. Everyone excited. She was doing great.
She had to go to the bathroom (to pee – it wasn’t the baby), so since she was still in fairly early labor and there was no danger of the baby being born into the toilet, we helped her walk to the bathroom and gave her some privacy.
And then we heard her hit the floor with a thump.
We ran in to find that she had collapsed.
Several of us picked her up, threw her onto a gurney, did some very rapid, preliminary examinations (she was not breathing, almost no heartbeat) and absolutely ran to the delivery room and threw her on the table.
With no anesthesia, nothing, the OB came in and did a very rapid, emergency C-section and delivered a living child. (In order for this to have happened, that whole scenario took less than about five minutes. I’ve never been part of anything involving such rapid movement before.)
The mother was placed on life support and then everyone tried to figure out what had happened.
It turned out that she had a brain aneurysm that nobody knew existed and the increased circulation and blood pressure of labor caused it to suddenly rupture. She remained on life support for several days.
I’ll never forget her poor husband sitting in that room with her, holding their newborn daughter and crying.
After a reasonable period of time, and lots of testing, they pulled the plug and he took the baby home alone. It was tragic and the outcome inevitable. Being in the hospital didn’t save her. But being in the hospital meant that child lived.
So what can we learn about birth by watching April the giraffe?
We can learn all the stuff that Nicole listed, but she left out something really important.
April the giraffe had the best pre-natal care known to the veterinarian world. The vet, Dr. Tim, was on site, right there, during the entire labor and delivery. He had everything he needed, right there, right with him, in case he had had to intervene.
The people at the Animal Park did not leave it all to “nature.” They didn’t just roll the dice. They’ve had that giraffe on 24/7 video cam for weeks. She’s been examined regularly by the vet. They were ready for an emergency. They were trained to recognize an emergency. They had somebody there with experience dealing with emergencies. Oliver was in the adjoining stall watching, but nobody expected Oliver to help or to know what to do if it all went south.
For expectant women the world over, April represents the very best in childbirth. And Nicole represents the very worst.