It’s hard to believe four years ago today I sat in the wee hours of the morning with my beloved Izzy as she gave birth to her puppies. They were born in the dim half-light of dawn, a chilly, auspicious day.
I tracked her pregnancy from conception to birth. She had very good prenatal care; vet visits, an ultrasound, regular slow walks, a cush whelping box (that I built!), plenty of yogurt to aid against calcium deficiency and extra healthful treats – carrots, eggs, chicken. I had been on high alert for several days, knowing the time was nigh. Her temperature spiked the evening before she went into labor, a sign that she was really ready. I had been sleeping on the couch downstairs to be with her because it was hard for her to get up the steps to my bedroom with her giant belly. She looked a bit like an eggplant. I vowed to stay up through the night because I knew she would go into labor imminently. It was a long night – I could tell she was retreating within herself, prepping, nervous. I must have dozed off, because the next thing I knew, Iz literally jumped up onto me, waking me – I could hear the pitiful shrill cries of a puppy in the whelping room (now W’s office) and she was quivering. I was immediately up and in action. I led Iz, clearly scared, back to the whelping box, picked up the frightened puppy and rubbed him dry and warm as the vet had shown me, placing him back with Iz. She got into a rhythm and knowingly, gracefully became strong and purposeful. I sat with her, silent, until she needed me. Soon, there were 4 puppies. They reminded me of premature hippopotami – squinched wrinkled features, extremely short hair and pink pads and noses. Then there were 5. 6. 7. Then 8. She had fallen behind chewing through each sac and severing the umbilical cords, so at that point, with her understanding, I took each puppy, removed it from the sac, made sure its airway was open, tied off the cord with a bit of dental floss, and put it back with her. We (ok, I) were expecting 5 – the vet had said only 5!!! She took a bathroom break outside and I gave her some water and a little yogurt. Then there were 9. At 10 puppies, I was flipping my gourd wondering if there was an endless fount of puppies welling from within her, and Iz was exhausted. Then there were 11. Finally, she was finished. 11 puppies – 4 yellow (like their baby daddy, Murphy) and 7 black, like their amazing Mama. Six girls, 5 boys. They would be named Imogen (my crazy, pure-of-heart IMA!!!), Lucy, Luna, Baby, Titus, Storm, Turk, Seeger, Lila, Porter and Maxx. What an incredible morning. Izzy rotated through them all, licking, cleaning, checking each one. She nursed them and warmed them. All 13 of us slept.
Three and a half years later, the roles were reversed and Iz returned the favor – laying at my feet as I labored in the kitchen, in the living room, in the bathroom, through each contraction with WV. My doula dog. She never left my side. She knew what to do, how to be there for me. We had our babies together.