Being a Birthing Partner

I didn't know I was going to become a birthing partner, but when given the job unexpectedly I grabbed it with both hands and lungs!

I was visiting the grey seal colony at Horsey to see how they were faring this year during the pupping season. Were they going to be as successful as those up at Blakeney who were already breaking records? Well it seems yes they are, pups are all along the beach so a much larger area is cordoned off to help reduce disturbance. Seals don't understand ropes and I'm pretty sure they don't read signs too well, so they weren't paying too much attention to the designated areas. Seals and pups stretched as far as you could see. Fortunately those mammals that can read were respecting the signs and were even keeping off the beach that wasn't roped off. Excellent!

Walking along the top of the dunes with my long lens trained onto the beach I managed to capture some lovely shots of seals of all ages. Some pups were resting quite high up the beach which resulted in really close views without causing stress. I stopped to watch one seal which had caught my eye as it was behaving in a way I hadn't seen before. Then I saw the big bump, and yes she was having contractions, so I sat in the dunes and waited. Every 5 minutes she seemed to give a bit of a push. She rolled gently on the sand, I guess to make sure the baby was in the right position. It was then, that I caught her eye, unsurprisingly as I was the only one there. She gave me a look which said "Would you be my birthing partner?" so I said no problem, and told her she was doing really well but I wasn't going down there to hold her flipper. 

Gently rolling to get her big bump in position
Will you be my birthing partner?

After about 20mins she started to slowly move around in circles and then she stopped for a bigger push. I could see some blood so I encouraged her to push some more, "Go on gal!" Then it all happened so quickly, the waters broke and flippers appeared, and before you could say Halichoerus grypus the youngster had arrived. Brilliant!

First signs
Breaking waters & flippers out
Here it comes...
...half way there

First breath of Horsey air

Checking her pup over

Twenty minutes later the placenta appeared and after she yelled at an inquisitive young seal to clear off, Mum settled down close to the pup and encouraged it to start suckling by gently pushing it with her flipper towards her teats. Magical!

I'm a little bit tired

Placenta on its way

Bonding - learning the smell of each other

Where's the milk?

This way, that's right!


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