I remember watching my mom. A sheep was giving birth to a lamb and I lowered myself into a pile of straw to watch. I became captivated by her; I watched the way her hands moved through the thick wool to comfort the mother sheep. I watched the way she carefully tugged at the lamb, coercing it out of the womb, so demanding in her patience. I had watched this routine hundreds of times. The lamb would slide out, and it would be handed to me; it would begin to wail, to walk, to nurse, to grow. And yet, this day was different. The lamb that was handed to me was tiny. It was flawed. It was horribly premature. Features had only just begun to form, and its body fit neatly between my two hands. But it smiled at me. And I knew then that I was going to save it. I quickly began to clear its nose and mouth of the mucus that encased it. It was breathing, but its breaths were slow and shallow, unsteady and fleeting. It watched me with huge eyes, as I turned to my mother for help. I saw pity in her eyes, she knew that there was nothing we could do, and yet she humored me in saving it. She showed me how to turn the lamb upside down, to shake the mucus out of its nose and mouth as I watched the breathing slow. So I shook him. I took his tiny body into my hands and shook him. Mucus poured out of his nostrils, drowning the straw. And so it became a pattern- I shook him until my arms grew sore, only stopping to check the tongue- for if it was cold, he was dead. And it did and my arms grew heavy, I'd lost all track of time. I knew that he was dead but I continued shaking him. I shook with fury, with grief, and with guilt. I shook because I had held a life in my hands and had failed him so badly. I shook because I'd never realized that you could love something so much that had never been yours to love.
March 8, 2009