My daughter and I had the immense pleasure of being invited over to witness the birth of a litter of puppies recently. I’ve seen human babies being born, but never canine babies. I must say that I was as awed watching those puppies enter this world as I was in the labor and delivery rooms of my nursing training. That sweet momma dog is only about 2 years old and it was her first litter, but she knew exactly what to do!
My friend said she started carrying a little plush toy a day or so before her babies were born! She also started nesting behind my friend’s drapes! Luckily, the human momma of the house had other plans for Sadie’s delivery suite. A baby pool had been purchased and was lined with old towels and blankets. Once Sadie felt the first pains, she was coaxed easily enough into the prepared spot. Since I grew up in the rural South, you’d think that I would have seen puppies or kittens being born. You’d be wrong. I guess such things were not felt worthy of much pomp and circumstance. When we arrived at our friends’ house, the little baby pool/birthing center was surrounded by my friend, her daughter, son, and a few friends. Sadie had quite a gallery of spectators as she labored effortlessly. She had given birth to 5 beautiful blonde babies by the time we arrived. We had the pleasure of witnessing 4 more before we had to leave. I might have been even more amazed at Sadie’s instincts of knowing exactly what to do with these little ones than my daughter was!
She greeted each one by licking them furiously as the left her body. She removed what I presume was some sort of sac and the umbilical cord by gently biting and chewing until the puppy was clean and free. She then nudged them close her nipples until they were close enough to follow the scent of her milk. She would rest between births allowing the human helpers to offer her a sip of water from time to time. She surely didn’t need our help. We just wanted to feel useful!
I’m told that momma dogs provide for their baby puppies until they are weaned. After that, they are able to go live with human families. I wonder if they miss their babies? Do they want them to stay? How is it that dogs know how to care for their babies, and yet humans need nurturing and instruction?
When I brought my babies home, the feeling of responsibility was almost too much and my husband was completely lost with regard to infant care. I had at least a working knowledge of how to physically care and feed them after working as a nurse for several years. What do other women do? Rely on what they learn in the few minutes with nurses and doctors ? In the old days, new mothers learned from and were nurtured by mothers, sisters, and aunts. In our culture of having babies in the hospital, I’m afraid we’ve sterilized the human birthing experience. Part of me was a little jealous of Sadie as she gave birth to all those puppies surrounded by her loving family doting on her. How could we make birthing human babies less stressful for new mommas?