I don’t usually jump on the viral bandwagon, but here I am about to write an absurd blog post about April the Giraffe and what we can learn from the livestream of her birth. [Disclaimer: this is going to mostly be a comical post that is 90% opinion and maybe 10% facts about mammalian birth. Don’t take it all seriously, but do take it a little seriously…]
Once again, several hundred thousand of us found ourselves checking in on a livestream of a pregnant giraffe doing absolutely nothing, hoping that she might suddenly pop out a calf while we were watching (I’m going to leave aside the ethics of putting a webcam on a pregnant animal who can’t consent to it, but don’t shy away from thinking about how that might make you feel near your due date). Luckily for me, I have friends who are much more obsessed with this YouTube channel and whom I could trust to quickly alert me when hooves appeared. I certainly would not get sucked into checking the livestream at 2am and watching for labor signs again(lets imagine this is the equivalent of texting your friend every single day after her due date to ask if she’s had a baby yet). I tried to take my own advice concerning due dates by having patience and trusting that someone would let me know if something important was happening. Let someone else text April the giraffe at 4am to ask if she’s feeling any contractions.
This morning while loosely monitoring a group chat, it happened. I saw the word “HOOVES” and I knew one of the craziest displays of mammalian birth was about to happen live on Youtube. So I put the livestream on our tablet in the living room and subjected my family to the agony of waiting for a baby giraffe to emerge. Giraffes are queens of slow birth. To begin with, they gestate for somewhere between 400 and 460 days ending with a 6ft tall, 150lb infant. Even though the pelvis of a giraffe is quite ample for the task, it can still take hours from when the first hooves emerge until the birth of the entire calf. Earlier today, an absurd amount of us humans watched a giraffe freely roam about her labor room with actual hooves protruding from her vagina for hours. I couldn’t help but think, if we’re fine with a giraffe walking about with a significant portion of her baby sticking out of her, when will we finally all be on the same page regarding the freedom of movement for humans during their labor and delivery? We watched as April walked, paused, licked her infant’s hooves, and continued walking again to help move her baby out. My three year old said things like “wow, her neck is so long that she can lick her own butt” as we assembled a new Harry Potter lego set, occasionally glancing up to examine April’s progress. Though she is somewhat domesticated, I have no doubt that April gave no fucks about our preconceived notions of how her labor was supposed to go. Like most animals she did what came naturally to her and got her baby out just fine by herself. I only lament that she was confined to such a small area and did not have the company of other female giraffes. It’s purely conjecture here but since giraffe groups are mostly segregated by sex and familial ties, I imagine that they naturally give birth supported by a herd of other female giraffes.
The moment of birth for a baby giraffe is something fairly shocking if you’ve never seen it before. Giraffes give birth standing up, and when you consider that they are the world’s tallest land mammal…Well you can certainly imagine that a baby giraffe’s entrance into the world is something of a fall; its a big, wet, ungraceful flop earthside. Yet, we did not see her care-providers jumping in to catch this baby and suction it immediately. In fact her care givers were completely hands off during this whole experience, simply on hand to help out in an emergency. To add to that, there was no panic when it took baby more than an hour to nurse, as it takes many human newborns when given appropriate time to acclimate and self-attach to the nipple. Alright, by now I’m sure your sick of me touting the lessons we should learn from April the giraffe, but I’ve got one more. Her caretakers announced that in light of the birth of a healthy baby, they have left her area to give her privacy and would be performing a newborn examination tomorrow. I’m over here self aware of the satirical nature of my blog post today, and also very serious when I say that in the case of a normal labor and delivery no matter what species #handsoff the #slowbirth and when it comes to examinations of the well newborn #itcanwait. Lets try to give our human parents and babies time to bond with their newborn in the immediate postpartum, and afford them the same courtesy that we are giving to a giraffe in New York today.
If you didn’t see the fantastic birth of April’s new baby, you can check it out at Animal Adventure Park’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.