When Baby Animals Die—I Cry!
My tired, new mama self crumpled into bed next to my hubby one night when our baby daughter was about a month old. He was resting—iPad on belly—with the History Channel on. “Do you want to watch this?” he chimed up. “What’s it about?” I wondered.
It was a documentary on a great migration that occurs each year on the African plains. It chronicled one mama zebra’s mission to steer her baby through his first crossing of brutal plains and treacherous rivers. That alone should have been enough for me to think, “nah, I might ugly cry if this goes south.” Instead, I shimmied under the covers next to him, pushed the iPad a little further down on his belly so I could see, and settled in.
I should have stopped watching as soon as the crocodiles’ jaws bone-snapped baby wildebeests, but I carried on.
When the commentator mentioned the river crossing was a lottery—who knows whose turn it will be to be eaten—I should have rolled over and got some shuteye. Instead, I watched.
Mama zebra was named Zulu-Echo-Five and baby was called Foxtrot-One.
But, What If it Were Ari? It Could Be Her!
During the life-threatening muddy river crossing, mama and baby are separated. Shaggy-coat wildebeests AND crocodiles nearly crush them—I know!
The commentator’s voice comes on with that dun, dun, dun feel as he says, “If Foxtrot-One doesn’t get mama’s milk in the next few hours, he doesn’t have a chance.” I sit up, squeeze Oscar’s arm, “If Foxtrot-One dies, Oscar…” my voice trembles, “I will never watch the History Channel again! Ever again!” As if my boycotting declaration has some GPS-pull that will reunite them.
Risking Your Life for Your Baby
The camera shows mama as she plunges herself back—YES BACK— into croc-infested waters to search the opposite side of the river bank for baby. “If Zulu-Echo-Five dies, Oscar…” my voice trembles, “I will never watch this again. She can’t. She just can’t. “What if that were Ari, Oscar?” “It could be her.” “It could be.” “I would plunge myself into croc-infested waters.” “Who will nurse Foxtrot-One? He needs milk.”
My new mama heart nearly bursts. I’m serious, you guys. All I can think about is Foxtrot-One getting weaker and weaker as he clumsily and painstakingly calls for mama, “Oot-eee-oot. Oot-eee-oot.”
The commentator comes back on, “It’s been thirty-two hours since Foxtrot-One has seen his mother.”
Oh.my.gosh, I think. I can’t watch. “Oscar! Thirty-two hours!” “Oh, nooooo!” “Ari can’t go two.” I can’t contain myself. I’m certain hubby is thinking bad idea—bad idea with this movie choice.
The camera shows a shot of a dead zebra on the plains, it moves in for a closer look and confirms she is dead. The commentator pauses.
Nooooo, nooooo, the tears start to well.
“That is not Zulu-Echo-Five,” he exclaims. I exhale—cheeks puffed and air huffing—like I’ve just come to the end of a contraction.
“Come on, God,” I say. “Get them through this.” “They have to sense that the other is alive.” “I would sense it, Oscar; I know the Holy Spirit would guide me,” I look over at my hubby. He shakes his head.
It’s Only the Beginning
Foxtrot-One is jolted awake by a stampede and listens in vain for his mama’s call.
Mama searches the opposite side of the river bank to no avail and is left with no other alternative than to cross the croc-infested river again—YES AGAIN—with the thousands of wildebeest and other zebra. It’s bumper-to-bumper in the bloody river and crocodiles snap their jaws as she swims, hooves trample her as she lie—barely moving—on the muddy river bank, unable to climb up the steep cliff to the plains above. Her legs are dangling dangerously close to the water’s edge. “Move, mama!” “Move,” I encourage. “Get up before the crocs get you!” She lie there, and I squeeze my eyes shut.
Time stands still.
The camera switches views, comes back, and finds her on her back atop dead wildebeest, struggling to get up.
“Foxtrot-One catches a glimpse of his mama on the bank,” the commentator says, “If she dies, his death will soon follow.” “Something inside of her refuses to give up,” he goes on.
“That’s me, too, Osc!” I say. “I wouldn’t give up. I know something inside of me would tell me to keep going. I’m so glad we have the Holy Spirit.”
Zulu-Echo-Five stammers up the bank and onto the plains, calling for her foe. The recording slows as mama and son gallop towards one other. I am certain that my milk lets down as mama Zebra neck-hugs baby.
The commentator ends the documentary, “For Zulu-Echo-Five and Foxtrot-One, this is only the beginning.” Only the beginning, my uncertain heart sinks. I look at baby Ari as she sleeps peacefully, and I am certain my heart will give way under the weight of this new role—if not for the grace of God.