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The Shepherds Watch by Night

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Wednesday, April 9

I walk out into the cold of the night, coveralls pulled over my plaid flannel pajama pants, flashlight in hand. My alarm clock has called me to the barn for a 3:30am check on the ewes. Moses and Aaron, our barn cats follow me to the barn. I stop at the door to listen before entering to see if a new lamb can be heard. The door creaks as I open it wide. I direct my light towards the ceiling of the barn, casting a ring of light around me. Ewes lay with noses to the ground, breathing heavy with bellies sprawled wide. No one seems to be in labor, and no new lambs cry out. All that can be heard is the sound of little hooves of the lambs born a week ago. I interrupted their night time nursing and now all three of them bounce around the floor. Moms nicker to them-trying to calm them, and call them back to her side. Lambs bounce and play on the backs of sleeping ewes, now energized from their warm milk. They do not want to settle back down. I take it all in and head back to bed. 
Thursday, April 10

Chloe and her new lambs
My husband has the evening barn check. I hear him as he slips out the door, and I can see the light from his flashlight bobbing up and down in the window as he walks along the driveway. I doze a few minutes, when I wake again, he has not returned from the barn. He must have found something to be lingering so long. I slip out of bed, pull on my coveralls and boots and head to the barn. When I open the barn door, my husband smiles and says we have a new lamb on the ground. Mom had just delivered her lamb moments before he entered. We stood, watching her clean her baby, and encourage her to nurse. The lamb stands strong, searching for the nipple. The ewe nuzzles her tail and pushes her towards her teat so she can latch on. We move mom and lamb into a pen together. Once the lamb has nursed well, we head back to bed. As I leave the barn, I hear the ewe’s nickering and the wee faint baa from the lamb, and I take it all in.

This is our routine throughout our lambing season. Before heading to bed at night, my husband and I coordinate which watch we will take in the night. Each of us taking turns so that we can each get a stretch of sleep in the night. As the days go by, I become used to the schedule-the sheer miracle of birth and mothering sustain me.

We have had no more new lambs since last Thursday. Just one ewe left to bring her babes into the world. With the start of each new day, I think that surely today, she will lamb. I have now decided that the ram must have bred her literally on his way out of the ewe’s pasture this fall, as my calendar shows that today would be our last possible lambing date. So back to the barn I go-hoping that today, today will be the day!