"Do we have any K-Y jelly?"
It's a question I don't usually ask my husband on a Saturday afternoon, but he was in an awkward position.
He was holding our hen Hillary backwards and I was peering at her back end. She was in a bit of trouble. Actually, I'll rephrase that.
Her insides were coming out of her bottom. I think in midwife terms that is what you call a prolapsed uterus. She was also egg-bound, which I think in midwife terms is what you would call "can't push the bloody thing out".
We were having an animal emergency and my usual source of poultry-keeping wisdom, the internet, advised a delicate rubbing of K-Y jelly.
When we first got our hens we made the decision, rather wisely, that if one of them got into a bit of trouble, we would not call a vet. They cost us only $20 each so why would we pay $1000 (our last vet bill for an animal emergency) to get them fixed up? Better to do like farmers do and have a cull.
I gloved up and tentatively rubbed Hillary's bottom, technically called a vent, with lubricant, thinking rather ridiculously that olive oil might have been a greener option.
"Oh God, this is so disgusting," I managed to screech before my husband yelled: "We're losing her!" in his serious voice - the one doctors use on TV shows such as Grey's Anatomy and Shortland Street.
Hillary's head was hanging low, her eyes were closed. She looked just like a dead chicken you see hanging in Asian markets overseas.
I rang the vet. He wasn't in. I scribbled down the emergency number. I dialled.
"Phlopp," said Hillary's bottom.
An egg sped past my leg and landed triumphantly on the kitchen floor, smashing and spreading all its yolky glory.
The KY had done the trick. Or my husband had squeezed her in his panic. We'll never know.
We placed Hillary back outside and played TV doctors and nurses with high-fives and modest "it was nothing, really" shrugs, letting the adrenalin wash over us in a post-emergency high.
I looked out the back. Hillary's eyes were closing again, she was straining, she was not looking good.
"We're losing her! Again!" I shouted in my television nurse voice.
"Look what's hanging out of her now," said my husband as he reluctantly picked her up and pointed her bottom in my direction.
I gloved up, gathered up what was hanging out and attempted to shove it all back in, closing one eye and squinting through the other, as if somehow that would make the whole nauseating experience more palatable.
Out popped another egg, narrowly missing my ear and landing on the deck this time.
I poked what was hanging out back in where I presume it belonged, then doused it all with warm salt water. "I think I'm going to throw up," I muttered as I collapsed into the deck chair. Wrung out. Feeling like a television surgeon after an all-night operation.
"It wasn't really that bad," ventured my husband, who to this day claims it was his gentle art of squeezing that snatched Hillary back from the jaws of death.
"You've obviously never been in labour," I snapped back. "My uterus is in turmoil."
Meanwhile, Hillary had returned to the garden, where she sat down for a second, had a think and then popped up to resume her normal activities of terrorising the cats and ripping the soil to shreds.
"Isn't she marvellous?" he chuckled like a new father fresh from the delivery room.
I made a cup of tea with a teaspoon of sugar for the shock and kept a close eye on Hillary.
I guess I hoped she might give me a thank-you peck, or I might catch a soft, grateful look in her beady eyes - rather like the lion who had the thorn removed from his paw by Androcles. None was forthcoming.
My husband bustled around cleaning up the eggs and discarded gloves. He held the K-Y between two fingers.
"I told you that would come in useful one day."By Wendyl Nissen Email Wendyl