Buy a farm they said, it will be fun they said. Ok, so no one actually said that, it was just something I imagined. Truth be told farming is fun. It is hard, it is dirty and sometimes it is gut wrenching. It is still the number one thing that I want for my future, but let's talk about this year.
2016 was collectively one of the worst years I can remember, just about everyone I know agrees. It was difficult and sometimes down right ruthless. After a 7 year hiatus from babies in 2016 there were 2 really bright spots. First, is that I welcomed a baby girl into my family. Hot dang I got one! My 2 older children, at the time were 8 and 10 and both boys. I finally got my little princess. I had a sweet little baby to dress in excessive pink frilly garments and I was thrilled. My family was complete.
The second was that my amazing friend and sheep mentor decided that it was time for her to start a new chapter, thus ending her journey with sheep. Although to me this was the greatest tragedy the babydoll community has ever seen, I got the chance to purchase her flock and greatly expand my farm. Life was on track and I was on the verge of what I felt was greatness. God laughed.
So why are we talking about 2016 when this post is about 2017? Well like many good stories I feel that to completely grasp the present you must have a little bit of the past. Although I don't normally open up about my personal life, I feel this is a growing process for not only me but anyone in a similar position. So here goes nothin!
I moved my newly acquired sheep right before breeding season. Immediately once settled I went to work on breeding groups for this bumper crop of lambs that we would have this next year. There was lots to be done. Although I had a newborn I felt this was going to be a smooth transition and I would slide gracefully into new motherhood once again and a flock that more than doubled in size. What could go wrong right?
November happened. Although it comes every year, the 2016 November felt like Armageddon around here. Quite unexpectedly I became a single mother. Now at some point I may go into the ins and outs of that but for now, bottom line there were 2 adults and then there was 1. That was quite shock. Remember how I said God laughed? I really sometimes think that he must have a sense of humor to put any comedian to shame. My beautiful daughter was at a ripe old age of 5 months, and I was scrambling adjusting to being a single mother of 3, and sole operator of my farm. Then the bomb dropped. I found out that despite modern medicine and it's amazing advances, I just happen to be in the minority of ladies who's contraceptive method failed. Yep, I was pregnant. OH. MY. GOD! Surely it had to be a joke. Maybe a hormonal imbalance? So off to the doctor I went. No joke. Baby number 4 was in production. Now some women are stunning creatures while pregnant. They glow, their hair grows. Their nails grow, they seem to exude beauty and wonder. Not me. I get sick, very sick. I spent most of my time with head stationed in front of porcelain bathroom fixtures and my energy is at probably a negative 10.
It became a running joke at my obstetrician's office if it had sunk in yet that I really was pregnant. It really hadn't. I was tired and sick and felt like a blob of jello but I was keeping up with the daily chores around the farm and keeping the kiddos alive and well. It wasn't perfect but all in all it was in general a success. Then winter started. Oh mother nature you are a moody woman when you want to be. We got snow. We flooded. We got rain. We flooded. The sun came out. We flooded. Well maybe not quite but that is how it felt. I was constantly ankle deep in mud moving animals to higher less mucky areas and trying not to lose my balance. After all they kept insisting it wasn't a joke and I really was pregnant. Many of my planned tasks for the year did not get done. The website never got updated. Emails didn't get a prompt response or in some cases any response at all. Pens didn't get built. You know all the good stuff to make me feel like I was succeeding at life.
Although kind of a blur winter did eventually taper off and we were blessed with a wet and wild spring. After dinner one night I got this funny pain really high up in my abdomen. Side note, if you ever get that, get it checked. What started as a mild discomfort quickly escalated into the worst stomach ache I ever had. I was fairly convinced that it wasn't contractions or a heart attack, and after about 4 hrs it subsided enough for me to fall asleep. Couple weeks went by and after a very over the top meal of a burger and shake, there was that pain again. This time it was worse. Much worse. Since I couldn't sit still or even breathe without discomfort I went to the ER. After several hours and tests turns out I had gallstones. Yay! Now normally they can take them out and it's a fairly minor procedure. I however was over 24 weeks pregnant and past what the local doctors were willing to touch due to the hospital here not having a NICU. We then began the referral process. I saw 5 doctors over the 6 weeks. No one was all that keen one deciding to operate on someone as far along as I was and we were quickly running out of the "window" of time to do the operation. There was a chance of preterm labor with surgery. Each doctor kind of vacillated and ultimately referred me to someone else. I drastically changed my diet. Even with the strict diet the gallbladder attacks were getting closer and closer together as well as more severe. Ultimately I ended up back in the ER, I was unable to sit still and almost passed out from the pain.
Did I mention it was birthing season? Luckily by the time I was back in the hospital my lambing/ kidding season had finished. Most of my girls ended up open. I think the stress of moving and combining animals just wasn't conducive to our production this year. We also said goodbye to some of our senior members of the flock and I lost a couple to still birth and bad presentation. My final ewe to lamb had a stuck twin that I was not able to pull. It was devastating. She had hidden to try and deliver and by the time I found her she had been laboring for quite sometime. I couldn't find a vet to come out in the wee hours of a Sunday morning. After several hours of trying to re-position the lamb, I ultimately lost her and the babies. I just cried. Exhausted very pregnant myself and full of all the failure and remorse feelings. I just cried.
With a very small number of lambs and goat kids on the ground by the time I went back into the hospital I had a pretty good system for getting chores done. I figured I would be given something for pain and sent home again. This time the decision was made that I needed to be sent to a bigger hospital. Luckily I truly have some of the best friends and family in the world so the kids and the farm were taken care of. Once at the new hospital it was back to the maybe, maybe not surgery game. Ultimately, when it got to the point I could not hold down clear liquids and had not been able to even tolerate water by mouth for a few days they decided surgery was necessary. It became rather urgent. I have been told on occasion that if I didn't have bad luck I would have none at all. Yep that about sums it up! My surgeon really was a gem. Where others had refused to attempt the procedure she saw how sick I was and how potentially dangerous a situation we were getting into. My iron levels were dropping daily as my liver enzymes were going up. It was a bad situation. She attempted to do the laparoscopic surgery, unfortunately there wasn't enough room. My womb was nicked during the process so they had to repair that, and back out of the operation. Once verified that the baby was stable they went ahead with the larger open incision and removed the troublesome organ. 4 days later I was in labor. I had been released so back up to Tacoma I went via ambulance. Despite their best efforts the could not stop my labor from progressing. At 30 weeks gestation I welcomed my newest baby boy via emergency c-section. I heard the delivery went smoothly, however due to him being breech and how rapidly he was coming I was not awake for the birth. With my multiple incisions, think I could play Frankenstein's body double. My little man is doing amazingly well. He entered into the world at 3 lbs 5oz and could not have made a more profound impact. Due to him being early he spend 6 weeks in the NICU. My life revolved around hospital trips, long days and having to sit back on the sidelines and give instruction for the care of my beloved animals.
My daughter is now 1 year old and only 11 months older than her new brother. I am in love. The struggle is daily but I could not be more blessed. I am pitifully behind on correspondence. Many of my buyers this year, rightly so, have purchased animals elsewhere. I am sad, but so grateful that our animals were considered to be a part of their families. From the bottom of my heart I apologize to everyone that I have kept waiting. I pride myself of good customer service and clearly, this ain't it. I am also grateful everyday that things fell into place and my son and I were exactly where we needed to be for him to be safe. I am still getting caught up. Still healing. Still have a to do list way longer that I will probably accomplish this year. It's almost 1 am and the kids are asleep. The house is quite and I am working online. This has been one heck of a ride but I can't believe how lucky I am to be on it. This is my 2017 so far.
I would like to introduce myself. I am Ashley, I am the owner and operator of Bella Vita Acres. I am a mother, former wife, farmer, optimist and perpetual student. I am not a professional writer by any means. I appreciate you taking to time to read this page and share my journey.