A Surprise for Tiddles

By Marsha Tennant

There was snow on the ground, a chill in the air and Tiddles was snug in her stall on that Christmas Eve. My daughter, Alice, belonged to a Pony Club and they were excited that a new foal would soon be on the way. Just like a similar scenario thousands of years before, the exact moment and conditions could not be planned. New life has its own timeline.

The weeks leading up to Christmas Eve were busy at Meadow Creek Farm where most of the girls’ horses were boarded. This was a tight group of teens. They spent more time mucking stalls and taking riding lessons than thinking about boys – although they did that, too! The commitment for such a large animal could not be taken lightly. Each stall was decorated for the holidays and care was given to make sure that the horses were safe.

Everyone gathered in the warm tack room late Christmas Eve afternoon. The girls exchanged gifts and made sure they had completed what needed to be done before heading home to their own family celebrations. They agreed on a time to meet back at the barn Christmas afternoon. Tiddles was given extra attention to make sure her swelling body was comfortable, and it was ok to leave for the night. Her “due date” was still days away. A foal shower was planned for her in the coming days. It was all perfect timing since the girls were out for winter break. Two weeks to hang out at the barn and welcome the new arrival. Everyone hugged, kissed Tiddles, patted her belly and headed home.

Just before midnight, Holly, Tiddles’ owner, called the girls to say that Tiddles was in labor. The equine vet was there, and he did not think it would be long before she would deliver. We had just settled in for the night after last minute preparations for the next morning. After a few frantic calls back and forth the girls decided they had to be there for Tiddles. Of course that meant parents had to get up, get dressed and drive them out to the rural barn. No one could sleep after the news that Tiddles was going to be a mom.

Within an hour we were all back at the barn. It was cold, and our breath was visible as we emerged from our cars. The owner of the barn had the coffee on in the tack room, and a big thermos of hot chocolate was ready for the girls. We did not know how long we would be out there. We did know that no one would leave.

Tiddles was a first time mom so she was nervous and restless. She was in the double stall to allow her to pace about as her labor intensified. It would also serve as a nursery when the little one arrived. Her low groans reminded the Pony Club moms of our own experiences, and we passed the time sharing a few funny memories. There was an unspoken understanding between animal and human. Some of us even offered Tiddles advice – “just push girl…breathe.” And it did not go unnoticed that our girls were experiencing the miracle of birth in the most natural and organic setting. This was an unexpected gift for all of us. While we were sharing this moment the Pony Club dads were all huddled in the corner, not sure what to do. We didn’t miss that observation either.

The vet was accurate with his ETA for delivery. After only a few hours, Tiddles began to make a bed of hay, piling it up and arranging it as though she had done this before. Her instincts were taking over. She walked around the straw manger she had created and then settled down on her side. We were all so excited and began talking to her with encouraging words. The girls were wide-eyed as we all peered through the stall bars. The vet asked us to be quiet while he began assisting Tiddles in the birth process.

It began to snow harder, and we could see the flakes coming down at a rapid pace. It looked so cold outside, but inside the barn we were radiating a glow of wonder and anticipation. The Pony Club girls and moms were embracing one another and keeping each other warm. And then, almost in the blink of an eye, the new life appeared. Tiddles turned her head as the vet spoke to her with reassuring words.

Then he said, “Well, Tiddles, looks like you have a filly!” The entire barn broke out in cheers. Moms, dads and girls all laughed and congratulated the new mom! It was a happy moment for everyone. A healthy newborn is always a blessing and reason for celebration.

We settled down and realized that it was now early Christmas morning. One of the moms began to hum Away in a Manger. We all joined in. There were tears and smiles with no words necessary for the irony of this moment.

The girls gathered around Holly and were all asking at the same time what the filly’s name was. Holly was standing at the stall door looking at the new arrival. After a few minutes she looked out at all of us and said….

“Her name is Merry Christmas.”

About this writer

  • Marsha Tennant Marsha Tennant is the author of the children’s book, Margaret, Pirate Queen. She was recently published in AARP Bulletin and Mary Jane’s Farm. She and her husband retired and moved to the beach from Calabash in an attempt to downsize and spend time with their new grandson. A second Pirate Queen book is circling while porch sitting these days!

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One Response to “A Surprise for Tiddles”

  1. Rose Ann says:

    Beautiful essay! I felt like I was right there with you. What a wonderful way for your daughter to learn about life and savor special moments. Merry Christmas to you.

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