Monday, December 27, 2010

Birthing a Lamb

While my mom and Joe were here, we spent a day horseback riding in the beautiful Sierra Norte community of Benito Juarez. On the way back, we decided to give our taxi driver some extra cash and have him stop for a half hour in Teotitlán del Valle, so we could pay a brief visit to my surrogate family there and buy a weaving or two from Leonor.

It just so happened that Joe had to go to the bathroom, and the bathroom in Leonor's house is right next to the sheep pen. While pausing to look at the sheep, my mom noticed that one of them was lying on the ground in labor.
I ran to tell Leonor. "Otra vez?!" she said, and ran over to see for herself. "Sí, va a tener un bebé!" She ran into a shed and came out with a hypodermic needle and solution in hand, and we watched as this tiny 4-foot woman jumped the fence into the sheep pen with the agility of a 15-year-old, and began chasing after the mother sheep, who had now gotten up and run away in fear.

After recovering from my initial state of awe, I asked if she needed any help. She said yes, she would need someone to help catch the mother sheep and hold her down while she injected her with the solution that would relax her and help her to give birth to the lamb. So Joe and I both jumped the fence and began pursuing the sheep. After a minute or two we cornered her and held her still while Leonor gave her the injection. My mom became the photographer.
After receiving the injection, the mother sheep became a bit more sedate and Leonor began pulling out the lamb with her bare hands. I was holding the mother near her head and could actually hear her sighing in pain and relief like a human being.
When the lamb was born it was still covered in the placenta, and Leonor told us to get her some toilet paper so she could clean it off. It was a huge, healthy baby lamb, about the same size as another lamb that had been born a full week before! It was a boy, and within a few minutes he was already wobbling on his legs and trying to walk! It was lucky we spotted the mother when she had just started going into labor, because it was her first time giving birth and the lamb probably would not have survived without human assistance. The only mishap was that Leonor burned the peanuts she had been cooking. I had the honor of naming the newborn: "Guerito" after his accidental guero saviors, and his white color.

All this happened in about 15 minutes, and miraculously we still had time to look at weavings afterwards! Also, Joe made a new friend of his own.
Sheep are cherished by this family because they are an important part of their livelihood. The sheep are sheered, the wool is carded, spun and dyed with natural dyes, and the yarn is woven on a loom into beautiful rugs and other items, which are then sold to tourists. It all starts here.

If you are interested in buying a woven rug from Leonor, contact me and I will get you in touch, she can package and ship things to the states!


  1. What does 'guero' mean? Don't think I ever learned that one. =;)

  2. guero = gringo = americano. Basically, someone with light skin, hair, and or eyes. Guero is used most commonly in Mexico as opposed to those other ones.

  3. haha I was delighted to read the account of the story I heard from my mom :-)