This messy, hard, impossible, beautiful life.

I woke up last night and listened to it raining. I thought in my half asleep state, "I should get up and check on Belle." 

And I fell back asleep. I could tell you I'd only had 4 hours of sleep the night before. That I'm fighting off a bug. That I'm exhausted. 

But, none of that matters.

This time. I didn't check.

Walt checked her at 1:00. She was fine.

I woke up at 5 am. And went outside. It was still raining. The spurting, cold, 40 degree rain that Oklahoma is famous for in the fall. 

Miserable rain.

Belle had her baby last night.

Belle, who fought through laminitis that would have killed a horse.

Had her baby alone.

And I didn't get up and check.

The stronger half of this team is getting the wheelbarrow. To bury another baby, while I cry in my coffee and wonder how we'll tell the girls. 

Should we bury her beside Mindy? Or beside the baby twins? 

Maybe we should bury her in the clearing where the barn would be. The barn we would have built if I'd let our Veterinarian publish the GoFundMe he wrote for us. The one to build a barn. The barn that would have sheltered Belle tonight. The barn with a camera and a monitor so we would have woken up and seen there was trouble, and gone to help. 

But I wouldn't let him. Because, my pride was too big to swallow. 

So my husband, the strong one, milks in the freezing cold.

And carries away another baby while I sit here with my pride and my coffee and my tears.

"It's just a baby donkey." Some would say.

Yes. And I would still cry if it was "Just a baby donkey."

But this was so much more than just a baby donkey. 

It's the mother of a little girl with PANDAS disease who told me this week that "Two doses (1 tablespoon each dose) pulls her out of a flare."

It's the grandma who told me yesterday, or was it the day before? That her granddaughter with severe Alopecia went to the doctor at Yale and they told them the Alopecia is no longer active. And "They won't say it's the donkey milk, but you and I know it is, praise God."

This baby would have shared her momma's milk with us, because that's what they do. They give. Donkeys aren't like cows. You can't take all their milk and take their baby away. We share. We get a little, baby gets the rest. Everyone is healthy and happy.

Until a baby dies. Then, there is none. 

None for the next little one in a flare.

None for the next little girl with Alopecia.

None.

Because I didn't wake up and check. 

Because I had too much pride to ask for help.

Because, in the words of my dear friend and donkey milking farmer in Portugal...

"You aren't winning much money."

So we'll bury another baby donkey and tell the girls when they wake up. And our Veterinarian. Who wanted to build us a barn for the winter, and I said no.

Funny how easy it is to forget the winter when the sun still shines.

Belle in the sun

Sometimes I wonder why anyone would follow our story. It’s not an easy one to read. It’s certainly not an easy one to live.

I heard a quote the other day from Francis Chan, and he said "At the end of my life, I want everyone to say that my life would have been impossible without God."

I guess that's why you're still here with us. To read the rest of the story.

The best of the story.

The impossible part.

The little girl with Alopecia who now wears a bow on her head full of hair.

The girl no longer in a horrific PANDAS flare after 2 tablespoons of milk.

The Veterinarian who adopts a struggling farm and walks with them through the tough stuff and gets paid in soap and kombucha.

The strong man who misses dinner with his family every night to milk donkeys by the light of a headlamp in the freezing cold.

And maybe, maybe, a wife who will eventually swallow her pride before it gets so big she chokes on it. But she's not there yet. 

"When God, who is the best shepherd of all, comes out in the open with his rule, he’ll see that you’ve done it right and commend you lavishly. And you who are younger must follow your leaders. But all of you, leaders and followers alike, are to be down to earth with each other, for—

God has had it with the proud,
But takes delight in just plain people.

So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you."

1 Peter 5:4-7

Now, for those of you who want to know the rest of the story.

We found the baby still in her sack, she never even took a breath. Her lungs were full of amniotic fluid. She drowned. We think the placenta came out first. If we had been there, we would have had seconds to get her out. Like the twins that didn't make it. Maybe we could have held her upside down, gotten the fluid out of her lungs, done CPR. She was fully formed and perfect. But it really doesn't matter now. I'm telling you because I can't bear the questions.

I shared this with our Veterinarian before I posted it. He said not to. That this wasn’t our fault. These things happen. It’s part of life and we don’t get to vote very often on life and death. And not to blame myself. 

My husband read it. The strong one. He summed it up pretty perfectly. “This sucks.”

And that’s why I’m the writer and he’s the milker. 

So. I'm going to wallow in this a little longer. And tell my girls when they wake up. And cry a little more.

And then I'll remember that the impossible is still possible.

That somehow, we have a farmer on an island in the middle of the Atlantic who is doing this with us, sending us their freeze dried donkey milk, so that little girl with the head full of hair won't go without her milky because we lost another baby.

How on earth did that happen? A partnership with an Oklahoma Donkey Dairy and a Donkey Dairy on a Portuguese Island?

Because "Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.” 

And so we remind ourselves, we may not have milk from our Belle or a new baby to love, but we will still, impossibly, have enough.

Oh, and one more thing. God never promised us this would be easy. Those slick preachers who tell you if you do the right stuff, you'll get all the good stuff? They're lying.

He actually promised us exactly the opposite. This life, it's hard. And beautiful. And Impossible. And good. All wrapped up into a big messy ball of everyday wonder and life and death and the breaths in between.

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” -John 16:33

Because it turns out, Belle didn't have her baby alone. I can see that now.

"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care." Matthew 10:29

If He cares when a sparrow falls. He surely cared for Belle and when her little one fell.

 


5 comments


  • Annette

    Oh Saundra, there are no words for this pain, I know that only too well. Bob and I were talking this morning about how God doesn’t promise us that life will be fair, only that He will be with us through it all. Get some rest, dear one.


  • Bobbie Luce

    My heart aches for you and Walt and your precious, tender hearted girls. I’m so sorry that we don’t get to choose. It hurts when you have so much hope for a new beginning of life and then those feelings are replaced with sadness. Jesus wept and we will weep with you too.

    Prayers and love and hugs for you all. I’m going to wipe my tears and pray for a way to raise a barn.


  • Allison

    Please allow us to help you build a barn. The work you do is SO important and your husband needs shelter while milking those donkeys. Please accept our help.


  • Jillian Kozlowski

    Oh Saundra….Once again I’m heartbroken for you and your family and for Belle. I’ve never met you or set foot on your sweet farm but I am emotionally invested in you all. We are connected by those sweet animals now. Connected because they can provide our children with what we can not. I’d be honored to contribute to a Go Fund Me for your new barn when you’re ready. Hugs.


  • Shannon

    Weep it out, dear friend, grieve the loss, learn the lesson and keep living and loving. We’re lifting you in prayer and we are grieving with you. II Corinthians 1:3,4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in ALL OUR TRIBULATION, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.😭🙏🏻😘💝


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