One Hand in a Goat, the Other on a Conference Call

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Yesterday at 3pm EST, I was part of a critical stage of labor negotiations between SEED Media and Science Bloggers, and I'm happy to report that through the sole grace of my diplomatic skills, the strike was resolved. There were some other folks there too, but I cannot tell a lie - it was your Blogiste who saved the day, got Science Blogs back on track and came up with a critical strategy for making us better, faster, more relevant and bionic.

Or, I would have, really, if I hadn't had my hand up to my wrist in a goat's vagina. I was totally on the conference call - for the first 15 minutes. I think I may actually have said a word, or even three - I know I said "Yes, I'm here." But I was kind of thinking about Arava, my little doe that went into labor five days early that morning. And just as everyone was discussing strategic communications, my husband came racing over, miming "get your ass off that conference call and into the barn right now." I mimed back "Now? Are you absolutely sure?" He was sure, and the gesture used to indicate that left no doubt.

I had a brief dilemma - is it more polite to announce while your CEO is speaking about corporate strategy "I've got to go deliver a baby goat right now" or is it more polite to simply hang up? I didn't have time to check Miss Manners, so I went with the hang up as faster.

I know, I know, you folks are disappointed in me. A really good apocalyptic prophetess of doom/labor negotiator/farm chick would have taken the phone into the barn, calmly participating in the conference call, offering up excellent ideas, while also quietly delivering the goat. I'm totally sure I could have done it. But we were hamstrung by a critical technology failure - the cordless doesn't have signal in the barn. That was the only consideration, though.

Oh, and maybe I thought a little about the fact that Arava was bellowing pretty much like I did when I was pushing my babies out, my kids were asking "what is that gooey that the baby?" and Eric and Phil were worrying about what to do, and that I'm prone to yelling things like "Holy fuck!" if something goes wrong that might be taken amiss, during a discussion of SEED's finances.

It turns out that Arava, who is small and a little younger than I'd like (we also had a critical technology failure - the fence - when getting the girls knocked up) had a mispresentation - a baby goat is supposed to come out diving, with head and two hoofs forward. Unfortunately, Arava had two difficulties. First of all, her baby was the single largest Nigerian Dwarf baby I've ever seen. The second is that one of her hoofs was folded back under her.

The traditional strategy for dealing with this problem is to push the head and hooves back into the birth canal a little bit and unfold the bent hoof, sending the baby through in the proper position. But since this was actually my first mispresentation, and she was coming fast by then, I screwed up - I didn't realize what the positioning was until the baby's head was out and she was already breathing. At that point, you can no longer shove them back in for obvious reasons. So I had to rearrange her feet while the rest of the baby was hanging out, which can't have been pleasant for my goat - the only consolation being that leaving her in was worse (I really, really remember that stage of birth myself, in which the only thing worse than getting on with it is not getting on with it, and thus had a profound sympathy.)

The end result was this. First, I did shit to do improve the status of the proletariat blogger being ground under the heel of management. Fortunately, my awesome colleagues handled that, and we're totally off strike. I have not fully resolved all my own issues with Science Blogging, and I'm not sure what all my longterm strategies are, but I still think Science Blogs has the ability to help me expose a new audience to the real issues of depletion and energy constraints, and I still like it here in many ways. I think Adam Bly and Seed Media are frankly committed to doing what it takes to make this work. And more importantly, you don't negotiate in bad faith - when you ask management to do something, and they comply, it would be bad faith to then say "I'm blowing this taco stand anyway." So, I'm back.

Oh, and the really important end result, to me at least, was that Arava had a huge and beautiful and healthy little doe, who we named "Meadowsweet" in honor of the flowers blooming in our front yard (every year we have a theme to help us remember what generation a goat comes from - this year's theme is flowers and herbs). She's the most active and energetic baby we've had, already curious about the world and ready to play. Mother and baby are doing great. The season of babies, cuteness and motherhood has begun (and yay, I'm not giving birth to any of them - hallelujah!!!!...ok, sorry, just had to put that in!) with a bang and a conference call.

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Awwww. Baby goats are apparently far cuter than I would've expected.

By Anne Nonymous (not verified) on 23 Jul 2010 #permalink

Beautiful girl! Welcome back.

"And more importantly, you don't negotiate in bad faith"

While I agree with your statement in principle, as someone who has represented his sister and brother workers in public sector negotiations, I can assure you, empirically speaking, that bad faith bargaining from management is par for the course.

I hope that your experience is better and that your excellent principles remain untarnished.

Solidarity, Sister!

By Mike in Madison (not verified) on 23 Jul 2010 #permalink

Beautiful baby! You are a wonderful Mother: both directly and surrogately (is that a legitimate word?).

Wow! That is a big baby! I've seen my dad deliver plenty of baby-sheep but I have never seen anything close to this in terms of relative size to the Mom. Truly a Herculean feat on the part of Mother Goat! Yes, and a really cute baby too.... Enjoy!

Yii, the cuteness just made my head explode... Have previously seen free-range goat herds and been so gobsmacked by the cuteness of the babies that I wanted my own goat farm. But do not particularly want to put my hand up a goat's vagina. How do wild goats manage without midwifery? Or is it the usual story of wild animals having bigger pelvises, smaller babies, etc. and being generally better adapted to give birth than the overbred domestic (think dish-faced Persian)? Anyway, congrats on little Meadowsweet - what a darling!

The season of babies, cuteness and motherhood has begun (and yay, I'm not giving birth to any of them - hallelujah!!!!...ok, sorry, just had to put that in!)

Nothing says "older, experienced parent" like that sentiment! After two beautiful children, we literally shudder at the thought of doing it again.

By Edward Bryant (not verified) on 23 Jul 2010 #permalink

Glad to hear mom and baby goat are fine, and you were able to help when you needed to. There are more important things than conference calls, sometimes. Although it would have been fine too if the goats hadn't needed you during a conference call. Hope all goes as well with Science Blogs as it did with your goats!

My nannies never had a problem so far as I know. They would have the kid out in the pasture, and not show up at the goat shed for feed and night's lodging. So I would go out in the pasture and find them. I would hold the kid by the front legs behind me and the nannie would (usually) follow the kid to the goat shed. One time, when I was about 10 years old, I had to deal with getting five kids and nannies in at the same time. Another time the nannie dropped the kid into a cholla (jumping cactus) and it took a while to get all the joints loose from the kid, as well as loose from me, in the process. And, yes, your animals come first.

By Jim Thomerson (not verified) on 23 Jul 2010 #permalink

1. Adorable baby goat is ridiculously adorable.
2. I think it would have been wildly amusing to narrate the birthing process during the conference call. Counter-productive, but amusing. And I'm sure everyone would have learned something.

By DerelictHat (not verified) on 23 Jul 2010 #permalink


You will want to keep track of large babies, and birthing issues. Some males throw big babies - that means higher risk of problem births. Some females tend toward problem births, big babies, or both. The safer strategy is to cull those that repeat problems. Just like saving seeds, you want to "tune" your genetic pool to thrive with the least risk and intervention.

In horses, at least, mares that foal early often foal early about the same amount each year - and pass that on. Same with mares that foal "on time", or late. Five days "early" might be Arava's "on time".

I like the inherent pun in this post.

By Susan in NJ (not verified) on 24 Jul 2010 #permalink

This is the only time we've had any difficulties with goat presentations - and the issue is almost certainly our own failure to keep her constrained - Arava was only 5 1/2 months old when she conceived. In the wild, she probably wouldn't have been large enough to conceive quite so early - but that's what happens when you select for milk. That said she might have delivered this one successfully, with greater tearing for her, or the baby might have died - a normal outcome in the wild.

Brad, I agree.



Keep an eye out for infection in the doe. Dystocia by itself is one thing and uterine infection is unlikely, but once you start sticking hands in there (especially if you were ungloved, but really even if you were) and pushing little hooves around, the danger increases. That's why it's best not to intervene in birth if at all possible and important to wear clean gloves if you must.

Thanks for the advice Thisbe - Semmelweiss ain't just for humans. But I did, of course, use clean sterile gloves, an antiseptic lube and have clean hands.


Usually I'm too squeemish for birth stories, but that baby goat is adooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooorable!

By Katherine (not verified) on 25 Jul 2010 #permalink

Sounds like your efforts at labour negotiation were entirely fruitful - at least in one sense.