I was off to an early and productive start in preparing for our annual Passover seder. Jordan had helped me with the Charoses and the Carrot "Shit" (aka simmis or souflee) the day before, and the brisket was sliced and marinating. The only hitch was that our extra refrigerator in the garage had quit a few days before, Andrew and Jordan had gone to Home Depot and purchased a new one, but the new one wasn't working! Repair guy was scheduled to come in the afternoon. Anyway, I had to do the potato kugel (those who are my friends on Facebook already know about my efforts to secure potato kugel mix), put the brisket in the Lohrs' oven next door, set the tables, etc. I had asked our guests to arrive by 6:30.
The table got set, the kugel got baked, and the fridge got fixed. Life was good. I was cool as a cucumber and looking forward to dinner. That's when my barn friend Briana texted me -- 3:46 pm: "I think she has milk dripping." (She also said: Her vagina is very large but no pink just looks engorged.) So, what I know about foaling is about enough to make a yarmulke for a flea, but I understood that milk dripping is a sign that the foal's birth is likely in 24 hours. I sent the picture that Briana had sent to my vet Dr. Smith: his response was "Oh boy."
That's when I started freaking out. I texted close friends and dropped just about every curse that can go with the word holy about 50 times. But it was afternoon, and 99% of mares foal late night or the wee hours of the morning. I figured I had time to have Seder with the family, and then go over to the barn at around 10 pm to check on things. The rare Blood Moon was due at around 2 am, and I thought that the birth would probably coincide.
So, I was a bit testy with my family (sorry family) but basically ready to start the Seder at 6:30 pm -- just waiting on father in law Murray and his wife Dee. We called to find out where they were -- they'd just gotten off the Turnpike and would arrive within 10 minutes. I was anxious with anticipation, barely holding it together, when my phone rang (actually it sang: Only the Good Die Young is my ringtone). A strange number. I picked up. It was Emilio, my 13 year old friend who lives with the groom's family at the stables. This is exactly what Emilio said: "Charm is walking around the stall with legs sticking out of her butt."
Emilio repeated himself, annoyed at my stupidity for not getting what he said the first time. Here's where my brain kicked in, and I asked this brilliant question: "Are they front legs or back legs?" Yup, I was asking a 13 year old boy whether two legs sticking out of my horse's V-Jay were front or back. Like he could tell. I am ashamed. But seriously, Emilio answered "Front I think" and he was right. At least the foal wasn't breech. I told Emilio I would call the vet and that I'd be there as soon as I could.
So what I have to explain now is why my lifeline to the birth of my foal was a 13 year old boy. Yes, Emilio lives with two adults (and 3 other kids), but neither of those two adults speaks a word of English. I do not speak a word of Spanish. (OK, maybe a word or two but I didn't think "dos cerveza" was going to help much.) And there you have it. It was 6:30 pm on a Monday night and no one else was there.
I called Dr. Smith and I guess I said something marginally intelligible because he seemed to understand me. He responded: "It's my birthday and I'm on my way to dinner. Hmmm." Yes, the vet who'd been working with me for an entire year on getting my healthy foal safely into this world simply had other plans. I get it. Birthday. But the timing was just unbelievable. Doc said he'd send someone and we ended our 5 second conversation. I turned to my friends and family who were within range and once again managed to communicate that something dramatic was happening and I had to leave.
I love my husband. I really do. But the next three words out of his mouth really could have ended our marriage. He said, "You are leaving?"
"ARE YOU F'ING KIDDING ME??????? THERE ARE TWO LEGS STICKING OUT OF CHARM'S BACKSIDE RIGHT NOW!" A picture paints a thousand words....
And here's where my BFF Paula comes in. She simply said: "Get your purse and a Xanax. I'll drive." Everyone needs a friend like this.
So we were speeding down 441 toward the barn, and Emilio called again. "She's laying down, there's this big white bubble thing coming out." A big white bubble thing. Okay. "I'm on my way. A vet is coming too." We hung up.
I begged Paula to blow the red light. She did consider it, but in the end decided it was more important to arrive at the barn alive. I had popped the Xanax but of course it was useless. God how I'd wished I'd have grabbed a bottle of vodka instead of my purse.
We were somewhere between Boynton Beach Boulevard and Atlantic Avenue when the phone rang again. Emilio. "It's out. It's on the ground." Me: "Is it breathing?" Emilio: "It's moving. It has white stuff covering it's eyes and face." Me: "Is it's nose and mouth clear?" Emilio: "Yes."
And there you have it. 6:54 p.m. Paula and I arrived about 8 minutes later to find Charm standing and the foal on the ground, seemingly alert, but caught up on it's hind legs in some of the amniotic sac. After quickly changing my shirt in my tack room (hey, good thinking having a change of clothes at the barn), I went into the stall and carefully removed the afterbirth. Within seconds, the foal hoisted itself up on wobbly legs. All I can really remember is Paula saying "She's a rock star!" (At that point we both thought it was a girl -- that's what the vet had said, and there did not seem to be any male parts that we could see.)
Then the vet showed up. I swear he was 15 years old. He may not have actually said "I've never done this before" but he might as well have. He and I helped the foal toward Charm's udders but it didn't seem to be finding the right angle. Charm wasn't helping - she was very interested in the foal, nickering and licking it, but every time it tried to get underneath her belly to nurse she kind of circled around it. So, the prepubescent vet gave her a slight sedative (where was mine?). He then told me I would have to stay all night and proceeded to give me some complicated instructions about what to watch for and what to do but honestly only one thing really stands out -- he said I'd have to give the foal a Fleet Enema and he didn't have one so I'd first have to go to CVS to buy it. "WHAAAAAAAAAAATTTT?"
Now, this was not a surprise event. In fact, it was quite the opposite. And in the entire year it was in the works, not once did my vet or anyone else ever suggest that the culmination of all of this would be that I (me, Amy Beller, lawyer not doctor) would have to give a Fleet Enema to my newborn baby horse. I'm sorry, but don't you think that someone might have mentioned this? So I reacted as anyone would under the circumstances, and politely told Doogie Howser DVM that he was out of his freaking mind. I politely suggested he might stick around himself. He politely declined. A stalemate. He did say, tentatively in my opinion, that the foal was male. Then he left.
In the meantime, Charm seemed calmer and the little foal was making some progress on the nursing thing. Doogie left but visitors arrived: first Mona, then Marcy and Mitch, and Andrew and Jordan plus my mother in law and her husband. Charm and her colt seemed to be doing okay except that Charm still had afterbirth hanging out of her backside. I'd been told by Doogie that if she hadn't passed it in 2 hours, I should call a vet. (You mean one that shaves.)
Well, 2 hours later and that disgusting mass was still hanging out of Charm's back end, so I called Dr. Smith. He said he'd send Doogie back, and I didn't have the wherewithal to protest. However, it was Dr. Smith who actually appeared about 25 minutes later, and man was I happy to see that guy. Charm needed some veterinary assistance finishing the job, and while he was there, Doc Smith gave baby his enema and also a good dose of Charm's colostrum via tube to make sure he'd gotten sufficient antibodies. He then said I could go home and he'd see me there in the morning.
I stayed until about 1 am and was back before sunrise. Both Charm and baby were doing great. What a relief and a thrill! Not quite the same as when Jordan was born but pretty damn good.
So finally, the reason he's called Elijah. As most Jews know, it's a Passover tradition to set an extra place at the Seder table for the prophet Elijah in hope that he will attend. We leave the front door open and even pour a glass of wine for him. Elijah's arrival is said to herald the coming of the Messiah.
Now, I am not religious, but I do like the traditions of my people, especially Passover because it's all about appreciating our freedoms. Just about every Jewish friend and family member, on hearing that the colt had arrived just in time for Seder, suggested the name Elijah. It suits him, almost as if he named himself. Eli is a bright, bold and curious little spitting image of his Momma, and while there is no Messiah, I am truly blessed.
More photos here!