Over a month ago in early March, we started to anticipate lambs. The ewes had been pregnant since before our semester arrived, and their time to bring new life into the world was drawing near. The anticipation and excitement was practically tangible in the air. Students started signing up to check on the ewes at midnight and three a.m. each night. If they saw a lamb or a water bag during their barn-check, they were to call Farmer Megan on a walkie talkie and tell her to come to the farm.
We made an arrangement that if a lamb was born (or being born) during the day, the bell in the center of campus would be rung loudly and for an extended period of time to announce the new beings on the farm.
One Saturday afternoon, the first warm day of the year, I was working on a poster for a math project in the Art Room with a few other students.
The bell started ringing, loud and continuous.
For a second I was confused. Was there an emergency? Then someone yelled, “LAMBS!” We all, quite literally, dropped what we were doing and bolted towards the stairs. We took the steps two at a time and burst out of the Allen Center’s front doors. Students were flowing out of the doors of buildings all over campus, excitedly running towards the farm. Nearly forty students sprinted in a pack towards the farm, laughing and grinning.
As we entered the barn we became silent, like we had been told to be. Two lambs had already been born to one mother. One was white and one was black, like yin and yang. We crowded around the birthing pen and watched as the innocent, pure, brand-spanking-new lambs stumbled around and tried to find a nipple. The only sound was of quiet whispers and sparrows chirping in the rafters of the barn.
After a half hour of ooh-ing and aah-ing, we gradually trickled out of the barn, and went back to doing homework. I reluctantly went back to the Art Room to work on the poster.
I hadn’t been back in the art room for more than five minutes when the big old bell started reverberating across campus for a second time. I sprinted upstairs again and asked some other students, “Does that mean there’s another one?” They thought this was probably the case, so another (smaller) wave of students ran to the farm, including myself.
A third lamb, this one from a second mother, had been born in front of a few students. We watched as Megan tended to it; weighing it, showing students how to cut off its umbilical cord and dipping it in iodine. Megan gently held the lamb in her arms, with a soft, happy expression on her face; she was in her element.
The second mama was predicted to have another lamb, and about ten of us decided to wait for it. We got in the sheep pen and gathered around the birthing pen, whispering excitedly.
This lamb took much longer than the others. We waited for over an hour in the pen, knowing we should go do homework but not able to tear ourselves away from this profound experience. #chewonkiproblems
Finally, after waiting and waiting and waiting, we witnessed the birth of a black little lamb. The waiting was completely and utterly worth it. It was amazing and powerful and not as gross as I expected. The actual birth excluding contractions was very quick. Lambs are born in a position that makes them look like they are diving out of their mother, front hooves and head first. The gooey little lamb lay still for a moment, and several people gasped, thinking it might be dead. Then Megan stuck her finger in its mouth to pull out some slime and it took its first breath of crisp, Spring air.
Gideon, our young calf, was no longer the center of attention (though he was still well-loved). More lambs were born in the following week, though not with the audience of the first few lambs, and over the next month and a half students came to the barn to visit the lambs, croon over the way they shake their tails when they nurse and squeal when they see the speckled one.
-Rose Edwards, Homeschooled, ME