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I thought eleven and a half months was a long time to wait for anything, but that was approximately how long Posey would be pregnant. Since we didn’t know the date of the effective breeding, the waiting period could be over a year from that first Mothers’ Day attempt. Lil Bit hadn’t gotten pregnant yet.

I talked with other breeders, and they said that births were generally easy. I asked Parke Duff, a llama breeder who lived near us, about his experiences.

“One morning I came home,” he said, “and noticed a tiny head sticking out the rear of one of my females. I went over to see how she was doing. She came up, knocked me down, circled around me, and presented her rump to me. I figured she was asking for help, so I pulled out the baby.”

Sometimes I called Sally Taylor for advice, and once I asked her if they had lost many babies. “No, we were fortunate. Our first births were easy, and when we did have some hard ones, we had developed more skill and confidence. It’s important to me to be present for the births. I watch my pregnant females very closely and don’t even go to the grocery store if I think a female is about to deliver.”

I asked another llama breeder, Carol Smith, “How many llama babies have been born at your place?”

“Four, so far.”

“Have you had any problems?”

“The only problem has been a problem for me, not for the llamas. I haven’t seen any of the births yet! The last time, I was determined to see the birth. So I stayed home as much as I could, and kept my pregnant female just outside the back door of my house. I checked her at noon, and everything seemed about the same. Then I took a shower, and when I looked out a few minutes later, she had a baby beside her.”

Telling when a pregnant female would give birth was tricky. One clue was the size of the expectant mother’s teats. Normally tiny, like the tip of a little finger, they would bag up before birth. How soon before seemed to vary from one female to another; it could be several weeks, or just a matter of hours.

When I visited Bobra and Ulo Goldsmith in Colorado, there were three females due any day. Bobra and I looked at one together, and she pointed out that the opening of Copper’s vulva was normal in size and shape. When the llama began todilate, the opening would look longer. It might also look flatter around the vulva as the muscles loosened.

Bobra often helped out during a normal birth, wiping away the mucus from the baby’s face and pulling gently downward on its feet when the mother was pushing. The little ones often started grunting and humming when just the head was sticking out.

I had hoped to see a birth at Bobra’s, but as it turned out the first one was forty-five minutes after I left. Months later, when I was spending a couple of days with Lake and Lawrence Hunter in California, I saw a perfect birth. It took only twenty minutes from the time the feet appeared until the baby was on the ground. I had read and re-read the few articles in print about birthing, and I had talked to many breeders.

But as the birth began, I abruptly realized how little I knew. As Lawrence pointed out, sometimes the experts contradicted each other about what to do. He and Lake were only a little more experienced than I; two llamas had been born in their herd the previous year, but they hadn’t seen the actual births. I was grateful to see this birth before any of our own.

The baby llama, or cria, was a female, and therefore worth a lot more money than a male. I was glad for my friends, and I also noticed that the amount of money she was worth brought an increase in tension. It was several hours before the new llama began nursing, and it wasn’t until she did that anyone relaxed.

I had thought seeing a birth would be wonderful fun, and partly it was. But it also brought me face to face with my own uncertainties. Midwifery, llama-style, could be scary.

“If Posey would just have as easy a birth,” I thought, “that would satisfy me. But I wouldn’t mind a girl as well.”

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