Birth is big business in the United States today. And while we typically focus on the birthing experience of the human mammal, there are many things we can learn from normal birth of other mammals in the wild. I am especially enamored with elephant birth, and a few colleagues have a heart for giraffe mommas and their birth routines. The wise words Dr. Grantly Dick-Read so eloquently stated decades ago in Birth Without Fear, still hold true today: mammal birth plays out best when it is left alone -- when mother feels safe and secure and is not 'messed with' or monitored by strangers around her.
Unfortunately, death is also a part of life. We can never be fully certain of how things will end up - including our birthing days or those that belong to the animal mothers around us. This little calf may have already had problems inutero before sliding earthside, and Noel's fate may have been the same whether in the zoo (with vets and keepers all around her and drugs pumping through her veins) or in her natural birthing habitat in the wild. However, one thing seems to echo through repeated experiences (among mammals of all kinds - human included): sedatives and labor do not mix well.
In addition, as other birth advocates have pointed out, it may be true that 'caging' mammals - in zoos or in our modern day human lifestyle - has led to a reduction in the natural, normal movement necessary for healthy, uneventful birth. When an elephant, or giraffe (for example), cannot roam and run for miles and miles a day, there are physiological changes that may significantly impact birth form and function. When the human mammal no longer walks and runs and climbs and stretches and squats on a day to day basis, it is possible that our birthing days, too, are impacted.
Just something to think about...
Local ABC Houston (Channel 13) News Report on Noel's Birth and Death:
Houston Zoo employees are mourning the loss of a member of their extended animal family, after a giraffe died while giving birth.
Zoo officials reported the death of Noel, a 15-year-old Masai giraffe and her calf during the delivery of her calf Monday morning. A necropsy, an animal autopsy will be performed to determine the cause of death of Noel and her calf. Results of the necropsy may not be known for several weeks.
Noel began showing signs of labor at approximately 7am.
"Noel had been showing steady progress with the calf's head and one foot extending from the birth canal," said Houston Zoo Director of Veterinary Services Dr. Joe Flanagan. "But when we did not see the other foot emerge, we administered a mild sedative to calm Noel so that veterinarians and keepers could get closer and assist in the birth."
The calf emerged from the birth canal at approximately 9:30am with the assistance of the Houston Zoo's veterinary care team and keepers but was pronounced dead within a few minutes.
Despite the determined efforts of the care team and keepers, Noel passed away at approximately 11:30am.
"We are all grieving and devastated by the loss of Noel and her calf," said Flanagan. "The Houston Zoo has never before lost a giraffe mother and calf during labor."
Noel is survived by two calves, Neema, born in August 2007 and Miles, born in January 2009.