My eyes popped open! Is today the day? One set of muscles froze with fear, the other set jumped out of bed. Now standing, firmly locked into panic, I boldly attempted dressing.
I could hear my breathing, fast and shallow, my heart smashing against my chest. Faint memories of dreams becoming even fainter as they slowly evaporated to be replaced by the harsh, tangible reality of bed, green, floor, walls. My senses now focused outward instead of inward, like being expelled from the womb.
"Slow down," a little voice whispered. Breathe. Left foot in left pant leg. Right foot in right pant leg. Things are going well now. This must be a good omen. Yes, everything is fine, just relax!
"Where are you going?" said Dan.
"Out to the barn."
"I'll put on the coffee."
Now ready to brave the stairs, I draw in one more focused, stabilizing breath before I said, "I'll wave fast if you should hurry, slow if everything is okay."
Out I ran into the warm, sunny, June morning. Please, God, let everything be okay. As I got closer to the barn, fear permeated my whole being. I could feel myself contracting. The smaller I got, the more like pain the fear became. Run, run fast before the molasses overtakes me. Please, Pan, let everything be okay.
There's Chilli standing in her stall; she looks good. Thank you. As I now slowly approached the stall, dread releases and is replaced by relief. JOY enfolds my being! I ran back out to where Dan could see me and waved slowly for him to come.
There, lying in the fresh straw, was a big, beautiful, black foal. Chilli nickered, head bowed, facing her new little baby. I slowly eased my way along the inside wall of the stall, checking to make sure I was a welcome intruder. Head up, he was looking right at me. He was lying down with his legs tucked underneath himself. He was at the back of the stall where it sloped down, he appeared to be stuck and couldn't get up. He watched with interest as I approached. He struggled to get up but couldn't. He looked dry and very alert. I suspected he hadn't nursed yet.
I knelt down beside him. As I cradled him in my arms, his head rested on my chest. I touched his beautiful, black head. He was so calm and peaceful. He looked me right in the eyes. His eyelashes were curly. Some of his mane stuck straight up, and his coat was thick and glossy and black.
"Hi," I said. "Look at you. You're ebony and shiny and clean. This is the cleanest you'll ever be!"
I smelled him and kissed him and hugged him. The sun shone in the window,. His thick, inky coat rippled in the light as I ran my fingers through it. I didn't want this magic¾this once in his lifetime moment¾to end. There we were, the three of us transfixed in this special time of wonder, new beginnings, life.
"You're special," I said. "I can tell already. You're going to like it here. There are goats and ducks and cats to meet. You have a big day ahead of you. We better get on with it. Shall I help you up so we can go see Mom? See if she has some milk for you?"
As I got up, he struggled once again. With one arm underneath his rump and the other around his chest, I picked him up. He scrambled to his feet and fell back against my body. Then he stabilized himself while leaning into me. It felt so good to be trusted¾to be needed¾if only in this moment. He wobbled and staggered in the direction of his Mom. Chilli nickered and smelled his head, then licked it. I could feel him gathering his strength, preparing to take another bold step toward Chilli's udder, which was already dripping with milk.
Amazing how instincts told him what he must do, where he must go. With my hand underneath his chin, I guided his little muzzle toward the life-sustaining substance. I could see his tongue flicking back and forth over her bag and across her teat. Chilli nickered encouragement. Then he captured the teat in his mouth and the stall was filled with a slurping, sucking, delicious sound.
My muscles began to quiver and strain with his weight. I was reluctant to set him free and break the spell, but I had to soon. I began to release my grip in tiny increments, waiting to see if he was able to strengthen himself. My muscles screamed at me, but I couldn't let him go, not just yet. Finally, he released the teat, gasping for air, milk dripping down his chin. He rearranged himself, gathered his strength and stood.
He was on his own now.
Mother Nature, Chilli, and I all took our parts in helping this precious new babe begin his life on planet earth.
"I think I'll call you Czar," I said.
Dan arrived with the coffee.