by Mary Paine
I tend to get carried away during the holidays. Anyone who’s read my last few posts is at this point saying ‘No kidding’. At least this year I didn’t trip the circuit breaker with the Christmas lights, which my husband considers a big plus.
Despite my excitement over the fun and decorating, I do stop and give thanks for all that I have been blessed with in my life, starting with my family. I’ve also been blessed to have been able to spend most of my adulthood as a horse owner. This was a dream during my childhood that I wasn’t sure would ever come true. In the original dream I wanted to own a horse farm and be a veterinarian. As an adult I’m an epidemiologist and a writer and have been able to board my horses in facilities with wonderful, loving professionals. I wouldn’t trade a moment of it.
There’s a young girl named Jennifer in Never Trust A Matchmaking Witch who shares many of the feelings I had at the same age, namely wishing as hard as I could that horses would be part of my life. Magic helps her dreams come true. Faith, luck, and hard work helped mine. Still, I thought I’d share a more serious scene from Never Trust A Matchmaking Witch that focuses on the love horse people have for our equine family members and explores a side of the horse world I haven’t been active in, namely breeding. Of course, there’s a little magic mixed in!
An excerpt from Never Trust A Matchmaking Witch
They turned to look at a white-faced Alicia, who had half risen from her chair.
“Alicia. What’s wrong?” Frances took her friend’s hand.
“It’s Misty. It’s her time. It’s not going well.”
As one, the group clattered to the kitchen door, grabbing raincoats and ponchos from a standing coat rack.
Jen rushed to follow them, heedless of the storm. “Jen, maybe you should wait here,” Susan said
“But, Aunt Susan, I love Misty. Please. I want to see her,” Jen said in a desperate voice.
Susan looked at the earnest appeal in her niece’s teary eyes. Sighing, she reached for two more ponchos. “Put on a pair of those Wellingtons.”
By the time they had staggered through the wind and rain, the barn was glowing with light.
“Don’t tell me they lit candles in here,” Susan murmured, pushing the door open. Surprisingly, the electric lights glowed from overhead. “How in the world?”
“Generator must have kicked in,” Brad said to her in a low voice. “We’ll check the house lights when we go back inside.”
“Brad, come here.” Alicia’s authoritative voice cut across his.
He approached the stall where the mare was down, labored breaths coming fast. Her eyes rolled white with fear. “I don’t know anything about this, Alicia.”
“Dystonia. The colt is turned. Ever deliver a breech baby?” Alicia was on her knees in the stall, hands stroking over the mare’s sweaty neck.
“Just one.” Brad looked dubiously at the scene before him. “But it was a long time ago, and I know next to nothing about horse breeding.”
“She needs help, Bradley, and so do I.”
Susan looked at the stricken mare. She gripped Brad’s hand. “We can do it. We have to.”
“Yes, we can.” Brad’s gaze sought hers and held. “Well, folks,” he continued, giving her hand one last squeeze, “we’ll need some clean towels, soap and water, twine, and a sharp pair of scissors.”
Frances bustled forward with the requested items. “Anything else you need?”
Susan was past worrying about how Frances delivered needed items so quickly. Her only thoughts now were for Misty and the foal.
“Petroleum jelly,” Alicia answered Frances.
Frances retreated to the tack room and emerged a moment later with a large tub, which she handed to Susan.
“Is it going to take her long, Alicia?” Nanette placed an arm around Jen, concern etched in both their faces as they watched Alicia wrap the mare’s tail in a bandage.
“Normally, birth is a fairly quick process for a horse. Often the foal is out in less than twenty minutes from the onset of contractions. I can’t say in this situation, though.” Alicia looked doubtfully at Misty.
“Let’s take a look. Eamonn, you and Alicia will need to hold Misty down as best you can.” Brad knelt in the stall.
“I’ll help, too.” Frances knelt at Misty’s head.
“Brad, see if the muzzle and forefeet are in the birth canal,” Alicia said.
Susan held her breath as Brad proceeded to examine Misty. The mare’s lack of resistance was helpful, but it seemed to Susan it couldn’t be a good sign.
“I don’t see them.” Brad locked gazes with Alicia.
Misty snorted, gripped with another contraction.
“I’ll have to try to turn the foal.” Brad stroked a gentle hand over the sweat-soaked mare.
“Hurry.” Alicia’s hands were on Misty’s belly, a reflection of Misty’s pain seeming to swirl in her mysterious dark eyes. White-faced, Alicia held her body still above the mare’s heaving efforts. Susan noted the three crystals balanced on Misty’s belly and then did a double take. Were the crystals glowing? Her attention was drawn by a low sound of pain from Misty. When she looked again, the crystals were still balanced on the mare’s belly, but there was no light emanating from them. Must have been a reflection, Susan thought.
“Susan, I need some of that jelly.” Brad scooped a handful of jelly from the jar Susan held and slid his arm inside the mare. He struggled to turn the foal. His face reddened with effort as he fought the mare’s desperate contractions. “I. Think. I. Did. It,” his voice ground out.
Withdrawing his arm, he repeated his exam. “I don’t see— Yes I do. There’s the foreleg. Wait a minute. Susan, give me some more of that jelly.” He reached in again, grunting with exertion. Withdrawing his arm, he looked again. “There’s the muzzle. Come on, girl. Push.”
Alicia’s face seemed to contract with pain as the mare made a final moan of agony that tore at Susan’s heart. Then Brad was shouting, “Here it is. Susan, help me.”
She saw the foreleg sticking out and grabbed hold. Together, she and Brad pulled with their combined strength. A moment later, the head emerged then the body, still encased in a white sac that clogged the nose and mouth. Brad reached over and tore open the sack. The foal took a shuddering breath and lay still.
“Oh, no, no.” Susan crouched over the little foal.
“He’s okay, Susan,” Bradley said, examining the foal. “His breathing is fine.” He reached toward the umbilical cord that still pulsed between mother and son.
“No, Bradley.” Alicia’s color was slowly returning and she leaned back against the wall of the stall. “Let it break on its own. Apply some iodine solution around the foal’s nose.”
Brad applied some iodine to the nose while Susan vigorously rubbed the foal. Misty still lay on her side in exhaustion.
“What do we do now?” Susan asked.
“Wait. And watch.” Alicia rose and together they quietly went outside the stall. Brad’s arms came around Susan, and her last qualms faded. This was real. The birth, the struggle, and the joy she and Brad had shared as they worked together were magic, but it was a magic the two of them made. Susan was through being afraid of it.
It seemed they stood there forever, eyes intent on the scene before them, but in reality it was only about twenty minutes before the foal attempted to stand. The group’s indrawn breaths came as one as they watched a miracle unfold. The foal struggled for a moment then rose on wobbly legs to stand, swaying over its mother.
In response, Misty turned her head, then with a great heave, got to her feet, and the cord between them ruptured. Susan made to enter the stall, but Alicia held her back. “It’s okay, Susan. The cord had stopped pulsing. Everything is happening just as it should.”
Misty turned and nuzzled her baby.
“I’ll need to observe them for at least four hours. Why don’t the rest of you go back up to the house?” Alicia pulled her coat tighter around her.
“Can I stay and help you?” Jen’s eyes shone with excitement.
“Well, there is a job you could do for me.” Alicia forestalled Jen from running into Misty’s stall. “Actually, dear, I was thinking we haven’t selected a name for the foal. I have some books up at the house that may give you some ideas. Care to make a list of choices for us?”
“Sure. Where are the books?”
“I’ll show her.” Eamonn chuckled. “Perhaps we can come up with something suitable for a Spring Equinox baby, eh?”
Brad drew Susan away from the departing crowd into a quiet corner of the barn. “Maybe we should both consider obstetrics.” His laughing face gazed down at her.
“Maybe we should.” She looked up at him and saw a kind, handsome, wonderful man. The remote surgeon was gone, replaced by someone she already felt closer to than any man in her life. “You know, I wondered if your interest in me was real or just part of—well, shall we say a temporary magic.”
“The feelings are there, alright, but there’s nothing temporary about them. I’ve wanted to be with you for a very long time.”
Happy Holidays, Everyone!