Duckling Diary: Lessons from Our Rural Life


duckling diary

Conventional wisdom says you should never try to aid a critter as it is trying to hatch from a cocoon or an egg. There is the often-used story about the man who tried to help a monarch butterfly out of the cocoon. As a result, the wings of the butterfly weren’t strong and it could never fly. Using that analogy, experts say that children must go through trials and make mistakes in order to become who they are meant to be.

All this was going through my mind as my daughter, age 10, slept in front of her tiny incubator.  On Monday a tiny pyramid had appeared on the duckling egg to indicate that the hatching process had begun. We knew the process could take up to 24 hours. It was 9:00 at night and we agreed that Brigit would sleep in the living room awaiting the new arrival.  The duckling would use a special “egg tooth” to break out of its shell.

God is so good to create such detailed ways for all creatures to come into the world!

Well, Brigit slept intermittently which meant that Mom did too. Occasionally we heard a small peep.  But, morning came and went and still the egg pyramid remained the same.

Brigit was determined not to miss the big moment so she stayed glued to the incubator. At the 24 hour mark, she and a friend stared at the egg trying to will the duckling into birth! They were excited.

The duckling slowly cracked the top of the egg! Wet down feathers began to wave out from the thin opening. But the sight was a bit foreboding. The feathers looked like spider legs.

The girls watched and listened during that hot, sticky evening. Nothing more happened. By morning, it had been 36 hours. I thought about when I had given birth…36 hours of labor would have been a nightmare and doctors would surely intervene.

The duckling was calling out in a pathetically small voice. Consulting hatching experts, though, we were again told to leave it alone. “If it can’t get out on its own, there is something wrong with it and it will die.”

That’s hard news for any mother. Brigit couldn’t stand it. She had prayed for days over the egg. She coaxed it along for two full nights. Could it be doomed? When the process was 42 hours long, I gave in….Brigit should offer assistance.

What is the philosophical implication here? Well, we are a community of life. If we can help a struggling creature, we should, of course. Brigit took tweezers to the egg.

It was at 45 hours after it began its birth process when the duckling was finally free. Its neck seemed too long. One foot was shriveled. It couldn’t keep its head up and it twitched constantly. The poor thing looked like it was a deformed and slimy tarantula. Its bony wings and one good leg moved spastically.

We were mortified to watch it. I felt guilty. “Could the books and conventional wisdom be right?” I kept asking. “You are too impatient. It is arrogant to try to intervene in God’s process.”

We prayed. Others prayed too. It was just a duckling. But it was a life that Brigit had tried to help. For her sake, we hoped against hope that something would change.

The duckling was so busy twitching it didn’t seem to notice it was all alone in a big cage. In the middle of the night I got up to check on it. It was dry now and had a pretty brown coat. But the webbed foot was still curled into a ball. It still used its beak as a third leg. I prayed again.

It’s hard to trust in God and truly surrender to Him. It is really hard not to have the answers.

But God is in charge after all. We can only do our best and turn over the outcome to Him. That’s the lesson….compassion and then humility.

In the morning, the world seemed brighter and Brigit felt encouraged. She cupped the  duckling by her face, calling it M&M for Milagro’s Miracle. Milagro is the Spanish word for miracle.

Brigit had a sudden inspiration. Ducks need water. She put the twisted creature in the sink and instantly the curled foot spread out; the neck straightened. She put Milagro on her lap and the duckling waddled up to her face as if she were in a race. It had changed from a tarantula into a charming duckling!

M&M now lives in the barnyard with our other critters. You would never know she had such a difficult birth. But she does distinguish herself in calling out, “Beep, beep” as if to say, “Get out of my way, world.”

Brigit wrote this little poem after the M&M birthing process:

Lord, help us to trust in You, 

and look to the future without being blue. 

The past is past, and our problems won’t last. 

But today is a gift, and to You our concerns we lift.

Copyright 2013 Judith Costello

photo credit: grendelkhan via photopin cc


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