There’s a technique in journaling/self-reflection that asks people to “write a letter to your younger self.” Naturally, that letter carries the wisdom of age and maturity, of fighting, winning, and losing battles, of grace, growth, and humility, and an understanding of the bigger picture that comes with time and experience. To that effect, with gentle (rather than brutal) honesty, I’m writing a post-lambing letter to myself as a novice breeder/shepherdess. Maybe you’ll be able to relate or maybe you’ll simply be able to appreciate in a similar way that every new journey comes with risks, rewards, joys, sorrow, trials, and triumphs. So with that in mind…here goes.
Dear Novice Breeder/Shepherdess,
Admit it. You’re weary. The first blush of producing a bouncy crop of seven new lambs has faded and as you gaze into the pasture, you have some mixed feelings. You didn’t know that the experience would reveal so many things about yourself as a person, and in some respects, the aftermath has left you with more questions than answers.
Looking back, the process of getting the ewes pregnant was, surprisingly, the easy part. It was purely academic, a matter of researching, implementing the protocols, then hoping and waiting for the desired results. As a creative person, science typically bores you but you were fascinated by the AI process and looked forward to learning what that entailed. Remember how elated you and Ed were when you discovered all four of your maiden ewes were mommas—some with twins? It was a high-five moment. On it’s heels came planning for and building lambing jugs, gathering supplies, gleaning knowledge from experienced breeders, and so many more preparations. I think that’s when things got real. You reminded yourself that you’d seen that sassy mare, Indy, through a successful foaling; how sweet Isadora was born without a hitch. Maybe that kind of smooth sailing was possible with the ewes too. But the fact was, this lambing process would also be a maiden voyage for you and Ed. In addition to your skills and knowledge, your partnership would tested in strange, new ways. You were typically the Yin to his Yang, but suddenly you were butting heads like battering rams and there was blood on the barn aisle floor—over the silliest differences of opinions! Since when are you so headstrong? Since when are you so fierce?
Maybe the responsibility you felt in your heart and soul toward the welfare of these creatures in your care, and the lambs they carried, got to you. Maybe the nervous anticipation of what you’d discover you forgot or simply didn’t know or expect on “labor day” burned like fire under your skin. Maybe your perfectionism and tendency to want to control outcomes wasn’t a strength in the lambing pen. Because the hard truth you learned is: there’s nothing perfect about this process. It’s messy. Unpredictable. Nature-driven, God-ordained, and beyond your control. No matter how much head-knowledge you acquired, there was naturally going to be trial, error, and a testing of your ability to pivot or yield in the moment. Accept that you will make mistakes, rookie or not. You will need to keep your cool. You will learn how important it is to ask for help, call the vet, consult another breeder, trust your instincts, or simply give things a little more time. Worry and nervous chatter and pacing is useless. A calm momma is a happy momma, even in the thralls of her labor, so sit down, zip your lips, watch, pray, and let her do her thing. Patience, child. Patience. Some things simply can’t be rushed.
You will continue to experience seminal moments when you have to choose between hope and despair. The momma who’s struggling to give birth. The malpresentations. The rejected lamb. The lamb or ewe who doesn’t thrive. The lamb who suddenly gets sick. The lamb who might die. Someday there may be one who does and you will cry and grieve the loss. But there are and will be other lambs clamoring for your time and attention. The one you'll mourn will be safe and well in the Lord’s pasture. Honor him by giving your whole heart to the others who remain, nibble on your shoe laces, and breathe their warm breath of life on your cheeks. There is no glory in despair.
Therefore, choose hope. You’re doing your best. Keep learning. Stay the course. Fellowship with your vet, your mentors, and other breeders, is your lifeline. Once upon a time, they were novices themselves! Give grace to your husband. He said “yes” to taking this journey with you and is doing his best too. And while you’re at it, give yourself some grace as well. You’re not perfect. No breeder is. Your ability to control outcomes has its limits. Scripture assures you that if you “commit to the Lord whatever you do, your plans will succeed.”
Remember, above all, this is God’s “breeding program.” This is God’s plan and it will unfold according to His divine will. That weariness you feel? It’s from taking on a burden He never asked you to carry. Commit to the Lord….
Lambing season is in the rear-view mirror. What lies before your very eyes, resting under the pines, is a beautiful flock of sheep that God has created for your delight. So, give to the glory of the present moment. It is enough. You are enough.
Expect good things. They really do come to those who wait. The proof is in the pasture!
Your Inner Shepherdess