"Is it breathing?"
It felt like one of the longest nights for LB and I, as it does for so many breeders in the world.
With three hours of sleep, for the first time on our very own, and without the physical help of my experienced mother. It was the first time for all of us: Yara, LB, and I.
The night before Mother's Day, Yara went into labor, on her 65th day.
She started with contractions in her birthing box that we had put on our bed (mattress directly on the floor to be lower). When the first baby was starting to emerge, Yara was freaking out; not understanding anything and just begging for us to allow her to come out of the box.
What should we have done - lock her in it, and let her deal with it? Unimaginable. I remember looking at LB with freaked out eyes myself, and we both agreed to let her decide where it would be more relaxing for her.
The place she chose, was unlike anything we've ever experienced in this cattery - my lap.
So it began with my one leg hanging off the bed, my arm supporting her back so she doesn't fall, all while LB was holding her feet helping her to press. She was laying on her side/back and wasn't sure about all this, constantly looking up at me and chirping.
Finally the baby came out, still attached to the placenta inside. LB immediately started sucking the fluids out of the baby's mouth and nose, and honestly doing everything exactly as he was supposed to do even if his hands were trembling. I was holding Yara, who was desperately trying to escape because she didn't like the fact a baby was out. (She didn't want to clean it or take care of it at this point whatsoever.)
She was growling at it, and of course the first worry is, will she accept it? Will she attack it? Should we separate her after all this? Should we go ahead and prepare bottles?
She came back to my lap preparing for the next one. LB in the meantime was still rubbing the baby with a towel and trying to introduce it to her. She was more acceptant of it this time, and gave it a lick or two on it's head - still cautious and unsure though.
She stretched out her paw and put it around my arm, holding me tight while she was pushing again.
It wasn't the ideal place to give birth for the babies, but it was important to us that Yara was happy and relaxed. Prior the labor, she was all over LB; cuddling and hugging his neck, connecting and bonding with him in a much deeper level than usual - which I found quite interesting. Just an hour after all that is when she first began her contractions.
After the second baby, the third was starting to come out. We had everything organized for days in the room, but at that moment we totally forgot (or didn't have enough hands) to write down or weigh them immediately. It was an extremely fast delivery and the most important thought we had, was making sure to count the placentas.
We weren’t trembling anymore after the first one of course, but with all the things we have experienced prior (stillborns, deformities, etc.) the worry is always still there.
So the third came out and again still attached inside her, we tended to the baby and were
waiting for the placenta to come out with it. Instead of that though, simultaneously while the baby was still attached, another baby came out! Yara got startled and jerked suddenly, and it's umbilical cord ripped. Thankfully LB was holding the cord in the middle in case of this, so it ripped there instead of at the baby's belly - so he was tending to the fluids etc. of this baby, while still holding the other one still attached as well - but the two placentas weren't coming out anytime soon apparently. Cut the cord or not? We decided to cut it and hope that both placentas will come out after that - and so they did, thankfully.
By that time, this whole Queen sized bed was covered with blood, utilities and some of the placentas she didn't want to eat. So we quickly placed a fresh sheet on top of all the mess, so they have a dry and warm spot to lay on. Yara was exhausted, so I started feeding her some yoghurt, raw liver and kidney. She was happy to be done, and all the babies were nursing on her. That was the moment we exhaled our longest breath after all those hours. It really felt like we weren't breathing until then.
I looked at LB, and he looked back at me smiling. I was so proud of him - I couldn't believe that my husband helped me so much, or did most of it honestly. But he was happy and proud to be part of it.
This is our very first litter in the USA. As cattery it's not of course, but even if I was next to my mom when labor was taking place, she did it all and I just helped her weighing the babies and taking notes. That was a totally different experience. I cannot express enough how stressful it was; how exhausting but yet so rewarding. I also cannot say it too many times, breeders go through a lot. We don't do it for the fun of it, or for the money. When they get born, we don't see dollar signs, but hope and pray that they will make it. Pray that all fluids are out of their lungs, and that we did enough to get them out. Pray that all the babies are going to nurse. Pray that we won't have any losses, because once they're born, they are indeed your children.
To watch them being born, and take their first breath - it is magical. It is a living being, not an object.
I don't wish to give details on this, but we experienced a great loss of one of the newborn kittens the next day. We fought for hours - it didn't survive, and this was different as well. Never have I, or my mom, seen a kitten pass away like this. This is the worst part of breeding.
We placed our babies back in the birthing box, and moved Yara in it as well. She was okay for a while, but she was acting different. Panting, restless, in pain. Was there still more? No. What was going on?
Babies were trying to nurse, but she was constantly going out of the box, and would not stay inside.
Well, she was starting to have mastitis and so we put her immediately on antibiotics. That cleared soon enough and she started behaving herself again, and taking wonderful care of her new mini fluffs.
Yara also did something that we’ve never had happen before. She took each baby one by one, jumped up on our bed, and placed them on top of LB’s chest. Each one of them! Kind of saying “Here, take them please! Help me!“. The kittens weren’t gaining weight (that was within a 24 hour period and we wanted them to drink from Yara so they get the colostrum. But when we weighed them after she moved them to LB, we realized they weren’t gaining - so thats when we started them on antibiotics and KMR milk.
Unfortunately, she had no milk yet, and even though babies were nursing, they were starting to lose weight. So we were on a strict bottle feeding program. That was a crazy exhausting week of no sleep, starting to hallucinate by the end of the week, stress, anxiety, constant worry, if they will make it or not. It was all worth it though.
They sure were (and still are) little fighters. They started gaining and gaining every day and becoming stronger. By that time, they already knew us, more than any other kitten we’ve ever had. Not only because we were bottle feeding them (we’ve done that before), but because these three angels remained on our bed - till this day, they’re still living on our bed. Sleeping with us. We have gone to great measures to make it as safe as possible, and so far it is working great!
Yara was moving them all the time which was truly exasperating, so we were so relieved that she finally settled down - even if that meant we would share the bed and just be extra careful about it.
So, this is our story of our very first USA litter!
I know some breeders will be giving the eye roll to this, because they have probably gone through worse - and you know, that's understandable. I'm really not trying to make a small thing bigger than it is, but I am a photojournalist, and that means I write about pictures and experiences. And I will keep this ritual from now on, even if it is a great easy labor, or a bad one. I hope writing down such happenings might help others know what to expect.
So please, do not ruin this by pointing out mistakes we might have done or things that we could have done better. No matter how much you plan and prepare, not everything will go exactly as it should according to the books. Thank you in advance.
It is also one of the best and most moving experiences we’ve ever had, so I’m not just gonna say “New Litter! Here they are!“, end of story.
Here they are! Our very first and most welcomed, USA* MetatronEyes Litter O!
I would like to thank first of all my husband Lee for supporting my hobby (now, our hobby haha), and for really being by my side no matter what happens. This was such an experience, and I'm so happy that you were there for it.
I would like to thank my mom Eva for being on Skype the whole time, and guiding us and advising us on what to do. She is one person that I trust 100% on this matter. Thank you, and I so wished you were there for that.
I would also like to thank two breeders that helped us a lot as well. Dear Cindi McPherson Buettner and dear Mistelle Stevenson , thank you so much for answering all my questions even if it was very late. You gave me a huge relief, and I'm so proud to call you my friends.
And of course dear Suzette Buck for offering your help like always.
Really appreciate you guys.
- Christina (MetatronEyes breeder in USA)