From Still into Life
rip open the swollen womb
tear away from the sack
to expose the stiff stillborn
so fragile and perfectly warm
tiny fetus cradled in my hands
the sweet smell of fresh birth
as I taste your wet mouth
quickly trying to breathe life
into your non-beating heart
with gentle breaths
before final death sets in
not giving up
until air fills your chest
and your jaws open wide
and sing to me
that beautiful newborn cry.
Welcome to the world little one
now you can sleep, breathe, and live
such a breathtaking moment
as you come from still into life.
From Still into Life Description (2005)
As the manager of a busy veterinary clinic one of my first tasks of the day was to check the answering machine for updates, cancellations, and emergencies. A message from an upset pet owner described how her feline has been in labor for several hours and seems to becoming very weak from all the straining and pushing. I returned her call and insisted she bring the expecting mom in right away.
Angel, a short-haired calico with a severely swollen belly, arrives minutes later. One glance at her in the carrier tells me this is a very urgent situation. Her eyes show the exhaustion and her deep howl expresses her distress. After being examined by Dr. Lesley Steele DMV, it is recommended that she have an emergency cesarean. Since this is an extremely delicate surgery where each moment is crucial, all hands working in the clinic are required. Angel is taken out back to be prepped for surgery.
The technician lays out the necessary surgical instruments. She is given anesthetic and her hard round belly is shaved then wiped with iodine. Before making an incision the doctor asks sternly if everyone is ready. The next few second are of the essence. The cold scalpel is placed on the big belly and she begins to cut.
I stand alert ready to do my part. Once the incision is made, Dr. Steele clamps off the vessels and severs the fallopian tubes. It, along with the trapped fetuses, are placed in a shiny silver dish then given to the three of us standing by.
With adrenaline flowing and hearts pounding as the seconds tick, we quickly move into action. I tear the sack with my latex gloved hands. The first body in the birth canal is visibly deformed and will not survive. There are three left. I firmly grasp one of the exposed limp fluid soaked bodies. I lay it on its side in the palm of my left hand that is draped in a sterilized white towel. With its head pointing toward my fingertips, I place the towel in my right hand as I carefully clutch the tiny fetus. I raise my cupped hands and swiftly, not too hard, swing my hands in a down motion. I repeat this several times to clear any fluid that may block the chest and nasal passage. With the still body laying in my left hand I quickly rub back and forth for a few seconds to try to stimulate a heartbeat. I pause to check for any signs of movement. Nothing. I raise the stillborn up to my mouth. I smell and taste the fresh birth as I place my lips lightly around the tiny wet nose and mouth. I release a steady calm conscious breath into the lifeless body. Nothing. Cradle and rub. Check. Nothing. Mouth-to-mouth again. Check. Nothing. Repeat. I notice a subtle flinch from the front leg. I rub again. The mouth opens slightly but with no sound. I rub again. The mouth opens again and I hear the song that the newborn cry. It sings and sings while squirming and trembling in my hand. Welcome to the world little one I think privately to myself. I am beyond words as tears fill my eyes.
Each moment in our lives are magnificent and magical, and how extraordinary these moments were for me. The smell and taste of this beautiful experience will forever linger in my mind and senses, and will be cherished as the day three baby kittens came From Still into Life.