• Liz Fehlman

I birthed a goat once.

One of the best jobs I ever had was working for Randall Oaks Petting Zoo in West Dundee, Illinois. I started there during high school and came back almost every summer through college. Part of my employment there involved running the front desk of the Petting Zoo...which really meant that I stood in a sweaty barn for 8 hours a day and took crumpled up dollar bills from elementary school kids in exchange for paper bags of feed that would inevitably be snatched from their little hands by our vicious goats. Other duties included comforting aforementioned sobbing elementary school kids when they lost their bags of feed, making sure the one snake we exhibited was still there at the end of the day, and chasing down the donkey when he'd randomly let himself out of his pen.


It was easily the weirdest and dirtiest job I've ever had - and that's saying something because at one point I was employed to wash senior citizen's hair at Great Clips and clean up baby vomit during church services.


And one day, things got really weird.


It was a quiet, rainy weekday morning which meant very little traffic through the Zoo and very little motivation for me. I was probably reading Bop behind the counter or playing Snake on my Nokia when I heard the most god-awful "blllleeeeeeeeh-ing" noise coming down the barn. (I don't know how to phonetically spell that out for you - just imagine a really distressed goat) Startled, I dramatically jumped over the counter and ran to where the noise was coming from. There, a Mama Goat stared me straight in the eye and continued to make this wretched noise while I watched her stomach muscles convulse and contract in waves that I felt could be measured on the Richter scale. Mama Goat was having a baby and I just became her midwife.


I ran back to the desk and grabbed the cordless phone to dial my boss. Did I mention I was alone this morning? I was alone. No sooner did I dial his number than did I hear the rusty breaks of a school bus come screeching to a halt outside the zoo doors. I watched as several dozen preschool-aged school kids poured out of the bus and began walking towards me. At this point - I felt I had a choice. I could choose to be this goat's hero doctor and demonstrate the circle of life to a bunch of four year old's - or I could run like hell. It makes for a much better story that I stayed.


I welcomed the children in and probably gave them 4,000 bags of free feed while simultaneously dialing my boss.


Me: Brian - it's Liz. One...one of the goats is giving birth.

Brian: Yep. They do that, Liz.

Me: [frantically] Brian, WHAT DO I DO.

Brian: Get some gloves. Get in there.*


*Let's take a second to recognize that Brian grew up around animals and I'm pretty sure he majored in Animal Raising or Petting Zoo Management. This was no big deal to him. I, on the other hand, spent most of my time at the zoo flirting my way out of Hay Hauling Duty and conning boys into scooping poop for me. So birthing goats wasn't exactly on my resume.


I slapped on some rubber gloves and grabbed a roll of paper towels and jumped over the fence into the pen. Given my dramatic nature and the various leaps I had just performed, I grew quite a crowd towards the goat pen. This is what it must feel like to be a famous surgeon, I thought to myself, where everyone stands around to watch you perform miracles. Except I wasn't a surgeon and I had zero fucking idea what I was doing. I walked over to Mama just in time for her to back her butt right up to me and let out one real good "BLEHHHHHHHH" and I saw a sac appear from her Goat Undercarriage. Ok, there it is. And just like that...it was gone. IT WENT BACK INTO HER BODY. I realized right then and there that perhaps I shouldn't have shut my eyes during those Sex Ed birthing videos because maybe if I had paid attention, I would have understood where the goat went.


Mama laid down on her side and continued making hideous noises while I sat there helplessly, watching her labor. By then, the preschool teachers had caught on to what was happening and were making attempts to distract the children but I had a captive audience. After 10 minutes or so of this baby goat playing Houdini, I made an executive decision. He was about half way out when I gently put my hands around his body and gave soft tug each time Mama pushed. He inched his way out much quicker and after about 5-6 more disgusting noises, Baby fell at my feet still covered in the placenta. Figuring that needed to come off eventually, I ripped it open and a goat spilled out.


A non-breathing goat.


My heart stopped as I tried to think quickly of how I was going to explain this "sleeping goat" to the 40 preschoolers who had become my cheering section. Just as I made worried eye contact with one of the teachers, I felt a kick and a flutter. Mama Goat had inched over and started licking her Baby- clearing what I would like to call...goat goo...from his nose. Goaty McGoaterson was alive! He kicked his little feet and tried to stand up right away. The children cheered and the teachers looked at me with relief. I stood up covered in hay, placenta and sweat and let the tears fall from my eyes because there was no way in hell I was about the touch my face with my Goat Hands.


I picked up the phone and dialed Brian back.


Me: Well, we have a baby goat.

Brian: [eating loudly] That's great! Great work.

Me: Uh - where the fuck are you? ARE YOU AT MCDONALDS? ARE YOU EATING A BIG MAC?

Brian: I knew you'd be fine Liz. I mean, goats in the wild do it all the time. They don't have blonde high-schoolers to help.


Touche, Brian. Just as I was about to hang up, I heard the same wretched "BLEEEHHHH-ing" coming from down the barn. What? What now? God, I really should have paid attention in Sex Ed.


"Oh, Liz...forgot to tell you," Brian said in between bites of Big Mac. "Mama Goat was pregnant with two."

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