Momma and Baby

I woke with a start with the reminiscent memories of my Mom, Mike, and Miya, still fresh on my mind. I realized I had drifted off to sleep at about 2:00 a.m. It had been a long night.

I felt like I needed to go out to the barn to see if the little bay colt had all his first milk or colostrum and was standing up strong. I jumped into some old dirty sweats. I prepared a batch of hot bran mash for the mare, it would be great, I thought, after that long ordeal of foaling that big leggy colt. I grabbed a cup of hot chocolate.  Just out the back door, my dog Jake met me, and we hurried to the barn. Jake began wagging his tail as we got to the stall. That seemed to be a good sign. I peered over the stall wall. There was this big gangly colt standing there looking up at me wagging his tail with milk all over his face. Momma mare was busy eating some hay. All looked well, and I quietly went into the stall and gave her the bran mash. Now to find two things. One was the afterbirth I had set aside. I knew how important it was.

Being a veterinarian, I could take care of any problems. Retaining anything inside of her was big trouble for the mare. Just one piece of the afterbirth retained inside would cause an infection that could be very detrimental to the new mother, I unraveled it and laid it out on the straw. The afterbirth is really two things. It’s the placenta, which was attached to the inside of the uterus, and the amnion, which encapsulates the foal. The foal is attached to the umbilical cord which is the source of nutrients provided by the mare through the placenta. When he emerges from the mare, he breaks the sack of the amnion with his front hooves making it possible for him to take his first breath of life. He literally goes out of the sack of the amnion with the umbilical cord still attached. As the mare and new foal rest, the placenta pumps the remaining blood through the umbilical cord into the foal. It isn’t long until either Momma mare or new foal moves or stands, separating the umbilical cord from the foal at the navel. What’s left hanging out of the mare is the amnion and umbilical cord with the placenta still attached to the uterus of the mare. If all goes well, the placenta will detach itself from the uterus.

The afterbirth, which is the combination of the amnion, umbilical cord, and placenta, will gradually fall to the ground, from the birth canal of the mare, turning the placenta inside out. So far, so good. No holes or pieces were missing out of it. It looked like all the afterbirth was complete. As I looked under her tail, I didn’t see any swelling or tearing of the vulva. Now I needed to see if I could find the meconium that would pass as a first bowel movement from the foal. Last night, before I went to bed, I gave the baby an enema to encourage the passing of that meconium, the last remnants of what’s left inside the baby’s tummy before it ingests any milk from its mother. It’s an almost molasses like, sticky blob with three or four clumps. Usually the babies are a little constipated. It looked like Momma’s also had a bowel movement. That’s good. There’s the meconium. There was one more thing I needed to do.

“Momma, may I touch your baby?”

Momma looked around at me and nuzzled the colt, reassuring all of us that it was okay. Crouching down to one knee, gently reaching out, touching the new foal so as not to startle him, I wrapped my arms around his little chest and hips, calming the foal as I gently looked in his mouth for a possible cleft palate, noting that it was perfect. I then looked at his navel stump.

“Let me apply a little tincture of iodine on your navel to protect you against infection.”

The navel is a temporary passageway for pathogens that could lead to deadly consequences for the newborn foal.

“Wow, I bet that stung. Momma, your teats look good. The baby has been nursing.”

This morning in February certainly had a chill in the air. I sat there looking at this special broodmare and new colt with so much gratitude and emotion in my heart. What an adventure had brought this mare into our lives. This foal, a co-creation with God, represented a new chapter in everybody’s life. I shed a tear and thanked God for the gifts of life in front of me.


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