Organized chaos, that is how I refer to life at Baby Goat Central right now. The babies all come bouncing out of the barn in the morning after their bottles and go in 10 different directions. My boys, Nicky and Nitro, go running and jumping out of the barn, caught up in the energy that babies bring to the farm. Only after they have investigated, moved and disassembled everything in the baby stalls once the babies go out for the day. Elliott is standing on the fence of his pasture "mooing" as he does for me to let him out for supplemental grazing. The pygmys he lives with, Dixie and Atlas, decide since Elliot is talking so should they while they bounce around because, well why not, everyone else is. Between working a very full time job and what I have come to refer to as feeling like I'm simultaneously raising toddlers, teenagers and a bunch of newborn babies, I'm in survival mode. Surviving we are, and quite well I might add. But two weeks ago when 4 more newborn dairy cull boys joined me at BGC and among them the adorable Murphy, I was on the verge of tears for 4 days straight. Tears of frustration. Tears of sadness. And finally, tears of joy. All because of Murphy and a bottle.
A fair number of our rescued babies arrive not yet on a bottle. We are no strangers to transitioning babies to the bottle and inevitably, every year, we have some holdouts. Typically the holdouts are a few days old and have spent a number of days nursing from their mom. Typically, the younger ones take to the bottle right away. Such was the case for the members of our most recent rescue. Except for Murphy. Given that Murphy was only a day old, we weren't expecting him to refuse a bottle. Not only did he refuse a bottle, he fought it. We spent hours upon hours trying every trick in the book. We've used them all before. Typically we find one that works but for Murphy, we kept hitting a wall. He was sad, I was sad. He was frustrated, I was frustrated. I felt defeated. It is heartbreaking to watch a baby who is clearly hungry and needing not only the nutrition of a bottle of milk but also the comfort, not make that transition. I became the bad guy coming in to scoop him up and stick a rubber nipple, one that he made it clear he wanted nothing to do with, in his mouth. I tried to counteract that by spending as much time snuggling with him without attempting to feed him as I could. He still knew what was coming every time he saw the bottle and would struggle.
We supplemented him through tube feeding him the first few days because he was so very young but the stress it caused him was by no means an ideal situation. So Barbara had the idea to take him over to the main rescue location and let him nurse off a doe there that was still in milk. Our hope was to be able to slip the bottle in while he was attempting to nurse off of L'Oreal, who by the way, was incredibly patient with the little guy. He wasn't falling for the switch trick but it did get him a tummy full of milk the natural way and much to our surprise, helped the process. We were concerned it might set us back. He now had a tummy full of milk and had gotten exactly what he wanted, to nurse, naturally. However in the bottle feeding attempts that followed, we seemed to make progress. Having him nurse seemed to have re-set him mentally. It calmed and comforted him and reignited his sucking reflex. He started nibbling on my clothes, lips and earlobes, he started watching the other babies take their bottles and looking to me for milk, all signs that he was close. But the following day we seemed to have lost all ground when I tried a bottle in the morning. After an hour of sitting with him, he took a few ounces from the bottle at his mid day feeding with Barbara. When I got home from work that night I prepared his bottle with little hope he would take it. The past few days had been so tough, I couldn't bear to get my hopes up again. I didn't lock the gate after I pulled in fully expecting to have to be going back out to take him to nurse from L'Oreal again. I fed the other 3 babies, including his twin brother Moose who is always by his side and he watched me and them intently. He lined up with them while they were drinking and started nibbling on my jeans. When they were finished I quietly picked him up, held up a bottle and he nibbled. I slipped it in his mouth and he drank. I almost didn't believe it and expected him to stop at any second and squirm away but much to my surprise and relief, he drank the whole bottle. I was so happy I almost cried. The sense of happiness and relief is one I can't even put into words.
Over the next 24 hours I watched him become a happy, bouncy baby who had the energy to keep up with his brother and crazy roommates, Tag and Renegade. He had some ground to make up but that he did. He received a few extra feedings and still, two weeks later, he drinks faster than anyone else. He loves to snuggle which is no surprise given how many hours I spent holding him in my lap those first few days. Holding him just willing him to give in and take the bottle.
Those 4 days were hard. Another piece of the baby season puzzle that we look back on and wonder how we survive it every year. The next time we have a holdout we can remind ourselves and each other, "remember Murphy's epic holdout?" Just like last year when it was "remember Guinness's epic holdout? Oh and Dexter's?" Like I said, we're no strangers to this but for me, this is my first time living rescued baby season 24/7 so much of it feels new again.
Another feather goes into the hat of the first year at BGC and now the adorable, sweet, little love bug Murphy is a constant reminder that we're going to get through this crazy, busy, deliriously exhausting yet wonderful time of year at the rescue. Even if some tears are shed along the way.