Like approximately 250,000 other people, I am transfixed by the April the Giraffe live feed on YouTube.
Animal Adventure Park, an animal conservancy in Binghamton, NY has a giraffe on-site who is expecting a calf, and she’s become a bit of an internet sensation. This is the organization’s first giraffe pregnancy, and someone on their team thought it would be fun to run a giraffe cam so that the public could watch the latter part of her pregnancy and cheer her on. She’s captured the hearts and imagination of the nation, and I’m sure she’s made a boatload of money for the well-deserving park and giraffe conservancy projects. Toys ‘R’ Us is sponsoring her internet feed – that’s celebrity status for a giraffe.
I now know way more about giraffes than I ever thought I would. Giraffe babies gestate inside their mothers for approximately 15 months before entering the world. A giraffe delivers her baby standing up, so it means that baby is falling 6 feet to the ground as it’s born. This is a good thing, because it helps the calf to free itself of all of its amniotic trappings. It’s the equivalent of a doctor giving a baby a smack on the bottom to get them breathing. Giraffe babies are born at somewhere from 100 – 150 pounds and they are standing within 30 minutes of being born so they can evade any predators quickly. The first thing the baby does is to start nursing on their mother. Giraffes will live 10 – 15 years in the wild. Giraffes life 20+ years in the care of a park like this. April has a spacious stall – more square footage than the upstairs of my house – and she gets to run around outside when the weather is good.
April is 15 years old and this is her 4th calf. Her boyfriend/partner Oliver is in the stall behind her at the park. Oliver is 5 years old and this is his first calf. April got her groove back, I guess? Bull giraffes have nothing to do with child rearing. In fact, the park needs to keep the two of them separated for the most part, because Oliver’s liable to try to fight with April or to try to get intimate with her. This would not be helpful in the final stages of her pregnancy. As one of the reps from the park said, “A bull is a bull is a bull is a bull.” What’s nice about these two is that they’ll wrap up their necks together like a really long embrace when they’re in the same space, and they’ll frequently sniff and give nudges of affection over their stall walls.
I’m attributing human emotions here, but I imagine Oliver is a comfort for the increasingly uncomfortable April. Attributing human emotions again: young Oliver seems happy but clueless.
I jumped on board this surreal train when the park made an announcement that April was probably going to have her calf this weekend. I thought it would be fun to catch the tail end (pun not intended) of this miraculous process. Now I think about minutiae like why a giraffe’s tongue is grey and why certain types of giraffes are more endangered than others. Location I guess? I learned that those little knobs on top of a giraffe’s head are called ossicones. Ossicones! A new vocabulary word. A sexy, scientific one.
A curious thing has happened over the course of this weekend. I’ve had the live feed of April running in the background on my laptop as I’ve been doing work and I’ve been checking in on her on and off throughout the day. I’ve learned April’s rhythms. There’s a zoologist named Alyssa (in the photo above) who’s her favorite person at the park. She perks up anytime Alyssa comes in to clean her stall or to take a digital picture of April’s udders. They give each other kisses. I know that April loves lettuce and carrots and they knew that she was heading toward labor because her interest in food was gone. I know they turn the lights off in her stall after they give her the final treat of the night. I know what her contractions look like. I can see her abdomen ripple and the struggle that’s forming in her pelvis. She’s ready. She’s more than ready. Her calf is not.
It’s soothing to be with her, in whatever capacity I can be through a computer screen. Her journey towards birthing her calf is reminding me a lot of the creative process. The quiet discipline of it. The mindfulness required to push through. Giraffes hide their labor until they’re in the final stages of the process so that predators won’t be waiting to snatch their babies when they tumble to the ground. Her labor has to be an interior one, an unseen one. The pain is unseen. The miracle is unseen until it’s ready to make its appearance. I have a pregnant giraffe to thank for giving me this new view of my professional and artistic life. I’ll take whatever insight I can get.
As I start to make my way through these essays that I’ve been running behind on writing, I’m going to keep April on in the background as a reminder of the discipline, mindfulness, and care needed to bring a new creation to life.