We posted yesterday's 50K entry around noon, already resigned to the fact that Minnie was likely to go another day without delivering her kittens, thereby squandering the entire 10-day stretch of blizzard + long-weekend when both Martha and I were home and available to help. I became convinced that we'd be getting up some weeknight at 2am, or that I'd be flying solo during the day.
Instead Martha dashed upstairs at 4:15 yesterday afternoon while I was running on the treadmill to tell me Minnie had begun contractions. Minnie was nice enough to let me finish my run (while watching the men's Olympic 15K cross-country ski race) before she launched into a marathon of her own. And unlike the Olympic men, she didn't collapse in a heap when she crossed the finish line even though that was four hours later!
Here's the play by play:
4:54 after intermittent contractions led to a contiguous series, the first kitten pops out, tail first. He's black and still encased in his sac, which Minnie immediately begins to lick away. We think she's cut the umbilical cord, but realize 15 minutes later that it's still intact, connected to the placenta that remains inside her.
5:10 Martha cuts K1's cord with clean cuticle scissors. K1 tries to motor around, but his paws are like flippers on the slippery cardboard. Every time we layered towels in her nest, Minnie pawed them away to reach cardboard. We finally decided that she must have known what she was doing.
5:20 still no sign of K1's placenta (aka afterbirth) or new contractions. K1 tries to nurse. After a thorough licking, he now looks gray, not black. Is that all there is? Nah, Minnie still looks gi-normous.
5:26 contractions resume.
5:28 K2! Head-first. Also black. Minnie licks to break the sac, but K1 proves to be a distraction to her. It takes longer to get K2 up and squirming.
5:32 K2's cord is still connected to his placenta, which is still inside Minnie along with K1's placenta. We start to worry about complications, so Martha cuts K2's cord. Lots of bright red blood gushes out! Yikes! We'd meant to tie off the cord with dental floss before cutting it (per our manual) but it had proven too slippery and floppy. The blood-flow diminishes and stops, but now we're worried about K2. We notice he has white (i.e. pink and hairless) feet and a cute white stripe on his nose. Easy to distinguish from K1, to our relief. He's breathing and mobile another relief.
5:41 contractions and a placenta emerges. It looks like the inside of a detached baseball cover, dipped in blood and goo. Minnie eats it right up. Good job.
6:07 contractions resume.
6:20 more contractions, but no second placenta or third kitten. Is something stuck?
6:24 K3! Pure black, as far as we can tell, and noticeably smaller than his sibs. Mom quickly licks away his sac.
6:40 Martha cuts K3's cord, after we realize Minnie had neglected to. While she's been great on other birthing tasks, clearly she considers cord-cutting to be someone else's job. K3 almost seems more like a newborn bird than a kitten. His head seems smaller and neck floppier than those of his older sibs, who now look clean, dry and robust. We immediately dub K3 the one to worry about.
6:53 contractions resume, then stop. Is this it?
7:08 Minnie expels placenta 2, then eats it up over the next several minutes. One less thing to worry about.
7:24 Contractions come and go. If we see one more placenta, we'll be happy to call it a night after three kittens and almost three hours.
7:39 K4! Black with lots of white on his legs and chest. Moving after Minnie licks his sac away, but very small and less vigorous! We've watched K3 find a nipple over the last hour, so we feel better about him, but now K4 looks very frail.
7:59 Is it all over? We've called the vet for a phone consultation, and they told us not to worry about one or two missing placentas. I step out to call for pizza.
8:05 Placenta 3 pops out and Minnie eats it. Yay! We quickly transfer the kittens to a clean adjacent nest while Minnie complains. Before we can tip her out of the soiled nest, she's already grabbed K2 and moved him back! We grab him again and move her to the new nest.
8:30 Placenta 4 arrives, beating the pizza guy by two minutes. It looks like a hunk of raw liver on the clean towel. We should have waited to swap in the clean nest bummer. Minnie eats placenta 4 and lies back, looking relaxed, as her four kits search for nipples. Still worried about K4, who seems unable to nurse, we prepare a bottle of formula, then bring it in for him. He gets suction and drinks a few swallows, which makes us feel better. We put him back in nipple country and hope he'll keep feeding.
8:35 Minnie and her kits look copacetic. It's a wrap. We depart the villa to eat pizza and watch the Olympics in the back room.
9:15 We return to the villa. Strangely, little K4 has his foot tangled in some residual umbilical cord attached to an uneaten piece of placenta. We try to unwrap him and can't, so Martha cuts the cord and we toss the placenta in trash. Then we swap in another clean cardboard nest luckily we began the night with four of them!
9:30 With Mom and her four kits looking comfy in the new nest, we leave again to watch figure-skating.
10:05 After turning out the lights in the villa, we head upstairs to read in bed.
10:15 Martha and I have been debating about the optimal placement and settings for the space heaters in the villa. I still worry that they're set too low and the temp will drop overnight, so I head down to tinker with them and check the temperature at floor level.
10:17 Satisfied with the temp and heaters, I say goodnight to Minnie, who looks content on her side, nursing her one, two, three, four, FIVE little kittens. WTF!!
I count again. Five. I run upstairs to get Martha out of bed and she comes down. We quickly identify K5, who looks like a more robust version of K4 with a bit less white on his feet. He's clean, dry, mobile, and debonair. We eventually realize that it was his cord we cut after finishing our pizza.
Because he'd been born and cursorily cleaned while we were eating, he looked slick and a bit floppy, so we’d thought he was K4. But an hour of nursing and TLC from Minnie had left him looking great. We shook our heads in amazement and headed back up to bed.
No overnight news from the villa's baby monitor was good news, but I got up anyway at 1am and 4am to check on the kittens and tinker with the heater settings.
As for today, so far, so good. We applied iodine to the kitten umbilicuses and hope to avoid the sepsis that killed two of the four Nanos. But the Nanos lost their mom and landed with us when they were only two days old. With Minnie on our team, we think this pack has a good shot at going five for five.
Much more to follow. (And don't forget to click the thumbnail images in the entry for larger shots and additional info!)
filed by: TS