From the journal of Scientist Ralph, PhD in sleep scientology, an in-depth study of sleep deprivation syndrome during kidding season.
Day 1: Noticing the high cost of renting labs and hiring suckers, er... participants in my sleep deprivation project, I decided to go straight to the source and actually live with those going through kidding season. I found a goat farm and asked if I could observe them during kidding season. The over the hill age group was what I was interested in and found a couple willing to participate if I promised to use their names, Connie and Lee, in my published papers. I thought at first goat farming does not provide enough recognition for most people for them to ask for their names to be used but then realized the couple had high hopes of selling goats to my colleagues.
Day 2: I have moved into the house to observe the couple and have been provided a chair to sleep in. They already had dibs on the couch and the Lazy Boy. Baby monitors are set up in different locations in the living room and dining room. These are connected to the barn to hear any unusual noises meaning that a doe was going into labor.
Alarm clocks are set for different times to get up in the middle of the night to check on the pregnant does. They informed me that northern January kiddings are extremely difficult and you must be there unless you want a frozen kidsicle. We each went to our respective "beds", fully clothed, to sleep and wait for the first alarm to go off. Throughout the night we are up and down, running out in the cold to check on the does in the barn.
The couple seem to have a determination I lack to check on these does, but are willing to kick my chair as they go by so I can awake and go with whoeverís turn it is to check on the does. This type of a few minutes dozing before being kicked awake is very tiring.
Day 4: The first 9 p.m. check provides a doe going into labor. Connie and Lee hurry and get their kidding supplies, get buckets to sit on and just wait. I doze on my bucket off and on, but notice how even tired the couple determinedly stay awake and alert. Good for them, I feel I must get my sleep, but my love of science comes first, so I too determinedly decide to stay awake.
I awake to the sounds of a kid crying. Connie towels the kid off while the doe is licking it and Lee hands her the iodine, scissors, and Kid Kare. She quickly cares for the kid. The mother is so entranced with the new comer she keeps checking it and talking. Lee says another kid will probably be born and they have to wait. An hour later the doe decides it is time to have the second kid. I feel myself wanting to slump off the bucket and take a quick nap, but must stay alert to see how sleep deprivation affects this older couple.
The doe had a second and a third kid and I thought we could leave now and go back to our "beds". That chair was looking better and better. But they insist on staying to make sure each kid nurses and to set up heat lamps. Connie then carries one of the triplets up to the house to put in a Rubber maid tub to bottle feed, explaining that three were too many for this young mother. While doing all this, another doe lets out a holler and begins labor. Lee grabs up a kidding bucket and heads for her stall and as she starts kidding, another doe started showing signs of labor. It's gone on like this all night. I despaired of every seeing my chair again.
A couple more kids had to be taken for various reasons to the house and put in Rubbermaid tubs and bottle fed colostrum. Five a.m. comes way too early and another doe starts kidding. Connie has been bringing low carb high protein bars down to the barn for us to snack on and keep our energy up, also sugar free colas with caffeine to keep us more alert. If I had known this goat farming couple was on the Atkins diet, Iíd never have come to this accursed farm. Donít they know donuts are the only way to start a day?
Day 5: Noon time and we are still kidding. Surely this will end soon and we can all take a nap. What? Another doe has started kidding? Will it never end? We are taking turns going to the house to warm up by the wood stove and drink hot tea in an effort thaw out and stay awake. Connie is still feeding us those wretched low carb bars. Doesnít she know how to cook? Shoot, Iíd even cook if I didnít have to stay close to their side to observe how they handle lack of sleep, the bleeping goat farmers. She insists on staying close to the barn, except for the feedings of the kids in a couple of Rubber maid tubs now.
It is now 11 p.m. and another doe has started kidding. Iíve noted that both Connie and Lee will take buckets into the kidding stalls of these does and prop themselves up against the wall and actually snooze a bit until the kid starts coming out. I start following their example but find it very unsatisfying. Iím sure I am going to have a permanent ring mashed into my posterior from sitting on this dratted bucket. Iím also sure my feet will never thaw out from the unrelenting cold of winter kidding. I envy those kids and their heat lamps.
Day 6: Itís just past midnight. The doe has kidded and no other has acted like she is going to. We can go to the house and sleep!! I long for my chair as we trudge up the hill on this cold and starry night, er, morning. Instead of us all falling asleep, Connie insists on feeding the kids in the tub. I stay up and watch while Lee nods off in the Lazy Boy recliner. An hour later Connie washes the last of the bottles and an alarm sounds off. Will it never end? Lee wakes up with blood shot eyes and puts on his coat and heads back down to the barn to check on the does. I just canít do it and collapse in my chair. Connie has her walkie talkie on in case Lee needs her. All is quiet and I comfortably slouch in my chair for some blessed sleep.
The 5 a.m. doe check has us all tottering back down to the barn. While there they start the morning feeding and also checking on the newborn kids to make sure all have been nursing. Who cares? I want to sob. These crazy over the hill goat farmers have been doing this for a week already and they say there is another week to go. Oh, wretched scientist that I am. How will I endure?
The feeding takes longer then I ever expected, the cold is bitter and unrelenting. They make sure all outside goats with run-in sheds have fresh water to drink and plenty of hay to eat to keep them warm. Finally, we head back up to the house. What is this I see? Cars coming up the drive way? My scientist colleagues coming to see how this type of experiment is going on in my sleep deprivation study on goat farmers. Are they insane?! Canít they see we need to take a nap for this continuous on-going kidding?
But, Connie and Lee greet them cordially, make them wipe their shoes off on a Clorox mat and back down we go to the barn for my "friends" to see the new kids. They oooh and aaaah over the babies and immediately point out the ones they want to buy at weaning time. Ever prepared, Connie whips out a receipt book, takes deposits, and gives them a date when to pick the kids up. Now, they are talking about breeding these creatures that can keep you up all hours of the night. I think all my "friends" educations have made them insane.
I hurry the proceeding along and tell them they shouldnít stay too long because they will interfere with my studies on this sleep deprived couple. One smart alec said they were doing great in comparison to me, the idiot. Finally, my "friends" leave and we go back to the house only to have to feed those bottle kids and then we can take a nap, Connie and Lee promise. I long for my chair. But, alas, I never see my chair, more does started kidding (dratted baby monitors) and back to the barn we went.
This goes on for a couple more days, I have lost count of the days and fear I am in the Twilight Zone and will never see my beloved office again. Who cares if my office is so small I have to put my chair in the hallway and canít shut the door, it still is warm and wonderful.
So, in conclusion on my Sleep Deprivation Kidding Syndrome study (I know I am cutting it off a week short, so shut-up), sleep deprivation does not seem to apply to goat farmers as it does to regular people without goats. Goat breeders have an intensity and a drive that carries them above the sleep deprivation. They do more things, stay more alert than regular people because little kids' lives and does giving birth depend on them.
Sure, after days of a couple of hours sleep a day (if that much) they tend to stand and stare off in space for several minutes before realizing they are sleeping with their eyes open. Sure, while walking to the barn to check on the does and kids they tend to drift off the path and have a hard time finding the path again. I experienced this myself and realized I just had both gloves in one pocket, thus making me unbalanced, so itís no biggie. And, just because they find it difficult at times to find the words in their tired brain to make a sentence, grunts and one worded conversations go a long way. I know this for a fact and had several fascinating conversations with them using only a grunt or two and then staring off into space.
So, I find there really is no sleep deprivation in goat farmers. They donít feel deprived and I will tell the scientific world that this particular syndrome is null and void when applied to goat farmers. Now, may I please go home and sleep?